Far from purr-fect, this app still offers a few redeeming qualities. Are they worth the price of admission? Probably not.

TOBY AND HIS DEAR FRIEND

A kitten observes his caterpillar pal’s transformation into a butterfly.

Toby the kitten notices a caterpillar caught in a spider web. He rescues the green, wormlike creature and names him Plumpy, and they become best friends. Eventually Plumpy spins a cocoon and Toby thinks he’s dead, so he buries him. Later a swallowtail butterfly appears and—of course—is the new and improved Plumpy. The only solid appeal in this app lies in the artistic bonus features. It employs the requisite generic painting tools but also offers “Decalcomanie” (a deficient term to describe the function), which transfers mirror images from one side of the page to another. Creations can be saved and/or emailed. Colorful and sharp retro illustrations are initially visually appealing yet tiringly repetitive, and the lackluster story contains several clues (syntax, spelling) that English is a foreign language, at least to the South Korean development team. Interaction consists of prompting animal sounds, colorizing grayscale images, shuffling cats across the screen (“movement” that’s often reminiscent of a lenticular image) and a few subpar tap/tilt features. The background music, which might be equally effective at a silent movie, can be switched on or off, as can narration and sound effects. Language selections include English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese.

Far from purr-fect, this app still offers a few redeeming qualities. Are they worth the price of admission? Probably not. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Centum Interactive

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

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 WONKY DONKEY

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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