Bottom Line: Breathtakingly original with a universal appeal. The music and artwork tell the story better than words ever could.
Smartie award winner and critically acclaimed.
If you would like your kids to experience a fairy tale better than anything Disney has whipped up in the last 50 years, download Lil' Red – An Interctive Story ($3.99 iPad/iPhone) using the smartappsforkids.com link:
Just as the color red is synonymous with the hearts and flowers of Valentine's Day, so too, is it forever associated with the hooded cloak worn by the heroine in the Perrault/Grimm classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Many developers have created versions of this childhood staple, but none of them are as engaging and deserving of Top Ick status as Brian Main's Lil' Red. It was the Smart Apps for Kids Fairy Tale of the Year, but it just as easily could have been Debut, Hidden Gem or even Preschool App of the Year. It is that good.
The very concept of a children's story with no words may seem too highbrow for some or deemed something kids could not possibly understand or enjoy by others, but banish those thoughts! Lil' Red is NOT The Artist, 2012 Oscar winner for Picture of the Year and so obscure and unwatchable it didn't make it into WalMart much less the $5.00 bin. On the contrary, it's bright, fun and does a surprisingly good job of telling the story of the girl, her visit to her grandmother and the unfortunate encounter with a hungry wolf.
The art in Lil' Red is characteristic of Japanese anime. Red has a big head and even bigger eyes with exaggerated lashes. The palette is black, white, and gray with just a touch of red on most pages. Instead of being dull or flat it's actually arresting. The red really pops on the page and draws the eye to important details in the action.
There are a number of animations and interactive elements on each page. I especialy like the musical mushrooms. Since there is no narrator, the child must explore the page in order to move the story forward. Dialogue between characters is deftly handled with thought bubbles. The wolf sees Red as a dinner plate and Red sees the wolf as a kitty cat. The part where the wolf is impersonating grandma and says in pictures, "the better to eat you with," is laugh out loud funny.
With many children's books, youngsters turn the pages as soon as the narration stops. This app is different. There is no rush. Kids as young as two can watch the story unfold and process it at their own pace. The wolf slinks around behind bushes and pops his beady eyes out; apples fall from a tree and plunk the wolf on its head; Red all the while dilly dallies her way through the forest blithely unaware of the danger that awaits her. When everything has been activated, the page turn arrow wiggles so kids know they are ready to turn the page.
Music also plays a central role in telling the story. The developer makes splendid use of leitmotifs. Red and the wolf have distinctive musical signatures that play throughout the tale. Think about how awesome the Darth Vader theme music is and you will begin to understand how effective this can be. Words truly are superfluous when so much artistry has gone into the animations and soundtrack.
Even the violence in this tale is handled with aplomb. When the wolf takes on granny, all kids see are puffs of smoke coming out her door. Rather than being eaten, granny is shoved in a wardrobe which is true to one of the later versions of Little Red Riding Hood. When Red is freed from the wolf's belly by the lumberjack, the graphic scene is camouflaged behind a big cloud of smoke.
Lil' Red is a very modern fairy tale due to its reliance on technology, but it actually stays true to the original tale. The message it imparts, not to talk to strangers, is as timely as ever. Red learns the lesson, not to tell a stranger her address, the hard way. In today's society, with predators on the internet, it's especially important to make this lesson crystal clear. Lil' Red does so in a very bold graphic way that will stick with kids for a long time to come.
The last page of the story may hint at a sequel so stay tuned for more from the talented Brian Main.
Jill Goodman, who looks dazzling in red, would be happy to discuss the Freudian overtones of the story and the significance of the color red with any readers so inclined.
smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.