Bottom line: A sweet interactive book about a stuffed puppy and his adventures at the zoo. Striking illustrations and great narration.
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The Adventures of Puppup: Lost at the Zoo from Graymedia Productions, tells the tale of old Puppup, a puppy toy softie, reminiscing about a big adventure trip to the zoo with his girl Julia and her Dad, where he meets a wonderful bunch of friendly animals who help him out. It brings to mind elements of both Finding Nemo and Toy Story but Fletcher Grayson's story is wholly original.
The most striking thing about this interactive book is the illustrations, and I'm not really sure how to describe them. They are a really visually appealing mélange of real photographic images that have been richly textured and artistically rendered with paint strokes and other Impressionistic effects. It's a really nice contrast to the boldly-coloured cartoon graphic apps that are generally guaranteed to attract young children, and are therefore used with much alacrity by app developers. Rest assured, the visuals here are just as appealing. Especially as there is a puppy softy. Who's not going to love a puppy softy?
Now, I did just say that the illustrations are the most striking thing, but the story doesn't suffer. It is thematically strong and interestingly written, with enough action to keep littlies engaged and eager to find out what happens next in Puppup's adventures. There is animation on each page, and when it is more detailed and active, it is story-related so the focus is truly on the story.
Puppup meets a wide variety of friendly animals to monkey around with, and who help him when he's lost. Each animal is presented with an appropriate sound effect, such as an elephant trumpeting and the shrill call of the peacock. Young readers will unconsciously learn something about each animal in their efforts to aid Puppup to find his Julia and Dad. This is so much better than learning about animals via dull flashcards, and there are sixteen zoo animals presented in this book. Parents might learn something in here too – you are going to need to know what ossicones are, in relation to giraffes, or have Google close at hand, because they are mentioned in the story, and little readers are going to ask! I had to Google it and I've consequently learned something new today.
The narration is very well done and presented with a British accent which is performed quite neutrally – very nice and easy to listen to for all English speakers. And the animals, when they have something to say, get their own accent – I loved the giant tortoise with the American drawl. But I must say that to hear the zebra pronounced z(ee)bra as it is in the US sounded really odd to my ears when spoken with an English accent.
The variations in sizes and colours of the text on each page are visually interesting, but I'd like to see the option to have the words repeated when tapped and flash when they are spoken to aid beginning readers. This is something that is pretty much expected these days in interactive children's books, and its absence is notable.
When each page has finished reading, a page turn is indicated by a little curl over in the page corner. The page turns are also not as easily activated by a long swipe as I'd hoped – I ended up inadvertently going back/forward a page a couple of times as I was tapping the pictures for animation. I was also a little confused when I looked for the 'read for myself' option that is standard for interactive ebooks and I couldn't find it. I realised that when you tap the little speaker icon in the bottom left corner, it not only turns off the music, but activates the read to myself option as well. This is a bit different, and I like different, but it's also baffling. The icon turns off all sound, including the sound effects within the story. I'd like to have the ability to turn on 'read for myself' with the sound effects active too.
There is a very neatly presented table of contents on the menu page so the reader can jump to whichever page he/she chooses. It floats up on a little balloon when the icon is tapped – I'm a sucker for little balloons.
There are no external links whatsoever and the navigation is logical – this app is entirely safe to pass to your child while you chop the carrots for dinner. At $3.99, it's not the cheapest interactive book app out there, but it is classy, polished, sweet but not saccharine, and sure to appeal to your softy-loving tot. And even though Puppup's 'owner' is a girl, the whole feel of this book is going to be really appealing to little boys too – this is adorable, but not cutesified.
Eleanor Holland has got softies from her childhood that she won't share with her children. She's entirely a big meanie. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.