The premise might be built around kids learning their ABCs, but by the time they get to Z, they may have already graduated...


An alphabet-based story app places its emphasis on games rather than narrative.

Alph and Betty are inventors. The stylishly illustrated “story” begins with their elaborate, A-shaped horn alarm blaring, but initially, Betty is the only one who awakens. Readers must help Betty scale the screen like a mountain goat in order to find edibles that begin with that page’s letter and complete inane tasks (for example, rudimentary matching games that require much less skill than it takes to navigate the overall app). It appears that Betty cannot go on to the next letter until everything (yes, everything) has been found and engaged. But that’s easier said than done, as there’s no pattern, path or story-based logic to guide readers, and sometimes instructions or text boxes obscure the items readers need to find in order to advance the page. The help arrows are only mildly effective, and many readers may find themselves giving up before they’ve completed even half the alphabet. Although readers are guaranteed to spend quite a lot of time on each page, they are more likely to be concentrating on the tasks than absorbing alphabet skills. The “read it myself” option reads aloud anyway. For a much more sensible puzzle-solving storybook-app experience, see Bartleby’s Book of Buttons (2010)

The premise might be built around kids learning their ABCs, but by the time they get to Z, they may have already graduated high school. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad alphabet app. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2013


Page Count: -

Publisher: Electric Circus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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