This app is definitely above average. With a faster response time and a more interesting storyline it could sweep the golds.

MY FRIEND THE SPIDER

Beautiful illustrations carry this so-so app about a bird’s friendship with a spider.

Building a successful storybook app requires a solid three-pronged approach: make it visually interesting; tell a good story; and design it well. It might be said that this offering from Smallbytes Digital earns gold, silver and bronze medals in those categories, which adds up to a good app but not a great one. On the gold platform stands the visual component. Lush, bright colors against a canvas-textured backdrop are virtual eye candy, as the artist eschews traditional primary colors for a warmer, more-eclectic palette. The characters and their surroundings will appeal to young eyes, as they’re simple and easy to place into context. Design and functionality earn a silver medal, as the app is fairly easy to navigate, but transitions between pages are painfully slow. There are several games, including a Simon says–like sequence challenge, and taps summon various animations and endearing sound effects (especially from Rañolo the spider). That leaves bronze for the storyline, which has decent definition and follow-through; it just reads as a bland afterthought to the illustrations and interactions. Text and narration are available in English and Italian, and sound effects remain active even when the narrator is silenced.

This app is definitely above average. With a faster response time and a more interesting storyline it could sweep the golds. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

Pub Date: March 22, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Five5ifty

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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