After watching a news report on the Chinese New Year last week, Sophie bombarded me with questions about why the Chinese New Year wasn't at the same time as our New Year and why different animals were used to represent the zodiac. Well, I can assure you that the chance to review a new kids' storybook app called The Year of the Dragon : Tales from the Chinese Zodiac couldn't have come at a better time because I certainly didn't have all the answers !
The lovely story follows the tale of a friendly young dragon called Dominic who is instantly appealing to young readers, especially when you click on him and he makes cute baby-like noises. This was already enough to have 2-year-old Pierre giggling and clicking on all the other animals and characters to make them do things or make noises too. Big sister Juliette soon worked out that there is a coin hidden in each picture that you can click on to release a shower of coins and got very excited looking for it in each picture.
The synopsis for the story is as follows : "2012 is the Year of the Dragon! Dominic’s proud parents rule the sea and sky, advise the Emperor, and have high expectations for their son. Meanwhile Dom befriends the boy Bo and the other zodiac animals, who wish to paddle a boat in the village’s annual river race. But when other people and Dom’s parents disapprove, what will Dom do?" The attention to detail of the illustrations and the complex, lengthy story gave this the feel of a real storybook, rather than just a read-along app, and, sure enough, it is an adaptation of a children's book by Oliver Chin.
It is much longer than most of the other storybook apps that we've reviewed - too long, in fact, to go through in one sitting for younger children, whose attention starts to wander halfway, but the fabulous thing about this app is that - unlike many storybook apps - you can use the pictures along the bottom of the screen to jump in at whichever page you wish. Although Pierre and Juliette had lost interest before the end of the story, they did come back the next day and ask excitedly to finish it off.
You have the choice of "read it to me", with words highlighted to help with word recognition, or "I can read", to read by yourself, with the option of tapping on difficult words to hear them. Pierre had great fun tapping objects on the screen to see what they would do and they both enjoyed the zodiac animals drag and drop puzzle at the end of the story.
The music is very atmospheric and gentle and the narrator reads clearly, although he does have an American accent which may put off some British parents. I've also just noticed that you can activate hints to assist in finding the interactive elements, which could be good for younger readers, and you can also set it to autoplay, so that you can watch it as a film rather than turning individual pages.
It's a lovely app that will last longer than many similar storybook apps because it is longer, so the slightly higher price is well worth it.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £2.99
for more information : http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/the-year-dragon-in-3d-a-peek/id491232347?mt=8
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