Love for the writing of Dr. Seuss seems to be universal among kids. As a primary school librarian, I've seen even the rowdiest classes with the toughest customers fall mouth-agape silent under his spell. The same is true of my own son. When he was too young to show much interest in what we were reading, he would actually stop and listen to the lilting, musical rhymes as we read Dr. Seuss's ABC.
Now nearly two and a half, my son will sit and listen to stories read from books, but tends to have a shorter attention span when it comes to the iPad. He wants lights and music and animation. He wants to get his fingers in there and make things happen. For this reason, I didn't have a lot of faith that a new app, Dr. Seuss's The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, would hold his attention.
Boy, was I wrong. The stories in this app are shorter than many Dr. Seuss stories (Green Eggs and Ham may have only 50 unique words, but that book can seem endless), though they have all of the magic of the best of them. The rhythm is there, the rhyme is there, the silliness and word play are there. My little guy was hooked.
These seven stories were written and illustrated for Redbook magazine in the 1950s and show Seuss at his best. They have been lost and mostly forgotten for the better part of 60 years and are finally being published together for the first time as a hardcover book by Random House and in this app by Oceanhouse Media. Overall, the seven stories are funny, silly, and accessible.
The app features the stories of:
"The Bippolo Seed," in which a mischievous cat leads a duck down a path of greediness;
"The Bear, The Rabbit, and the Zinniga-Zanniga," a quick-thinking rabbit's escape from a hungry bear;
"Gustav the Goldfish," where an overfed goldfish takes over the whole house;
"Tadd and Todd," identical twins in search of some individuality;
"Steak for Supper," in which several strange creatures follow a boy home in search of some steak;
"The Strange Shirt Spot," a boy who has more than a little trouble trying to get a spot from his shirt;
"The Great Henry McBride," who daydreams of all of the jobs he might someday do.
My favorite is "The Great Henry McBride," who after dreaming of his many possible futures finally shares the observation that while you're small, "the best job is dreaming with no work at all." My son was partial to "Gustav the Goldfish" and the splishy-splashy silliness that a rapidly growing goldfish caused.
The app was created by Oceanhouse Media and features three ways to read each of the seven stories: Auto Play, Read To Me, and Read It Myself. Auto Play is just as it sounds: select it and the story plays all the way through. You don't even need to swipe to turn the pages. In Read to Me, the story is read to you, but the listener needs to turn each page. Read it Myself allows you and your child to go at your own pace and add your own inflection.
While you are reading the story, if you touch the words or pictures, the app says the words out loud and the word is either highlighted (in the text) or the word appears (over the pictures). Sometimes the words that go along with the pictures can be confusing. For example, in Gustav the Goldfish, if you touch the fish once it says, "Splashed." Touch the same spot again and it says, "Gus." Touch it a third time and it says, "Goldfish." I would have expected "Goldfish" to be first.
This word pronunciation and picture/word association features don't work very well in auto play. If you touch the words or pictures, they are highlighted, but not read aloud. This is nice because it doesn't break into the narration, but there's also only a short pause between pages if your child doesn't know a word or a picture. If you touch a word in the text while in Read to Me, the narration stops and can't be restarted without turning the page then going back.
Overall, my toddler definitely seemed most engaged when it was my voice reading, though he loved touching the words and pictures to make the app speak.
At $6.99, the app costs less than a single hardcover children's book, and for that price you get seven! However, the app store says that $6.99 is an introductory price, so you might not want to wait. Read on!
Disclosure: We were given this app from Oceanhouse Media to review. The opinions above are the writer's own.
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