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

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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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Parents of toddlers starting school or day care should seek separation-anxiety remedies elsewhere, and fans of the original...

A KISSING HAND FOR CHESTER RACCOON

From the Kissing Hand series

A sweetened, condensed version of the best-selling picture book, The Kissing Hand.

As in the original, Chester Raccoon is nervous about attending Owl’s night school (raccoons are nocturnal). His mom kisses him on the paw and reminds him, “With a Kissing Hand… / We’ll never be apart.” The text boils the story down to its key elements, causing this version to feel rushed. Gone is the list of fun things Chester will get to do at school. Fans of the original may be disappointed that this board edition uses a different illustrator. Gibson’s work is equally sentimental, but her renderings are stiff and flat in comparison to the watercolors of Harper and Leak. Very young readers will probably not understand that Owl’s tree, filled with opossums, a squirrel, a chipmunk and others, is supposed to be a school.

Parents of toddlers starting school or day care should seek separation-anxiety remedies elsewhere, and fans of the original shouldn’t look to this version as replacement for their page-worn copies. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-933718-77-4

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Tanglewood Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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