BENNY THE CAT
Age Range: 2 - 6
Less a fleshed-out story than a virtual cat toy for iPad, this app nevertheless charms on the strength of its oddly proportioned feline star.
Benny, an orange cat who appears to be suffering from an illustrative ailment that causes his blocky head to appear much larger than normal, is a sweet, accommodating kitty. Across about 12 animated pages, Benny's narrator asks readers to help choose what Benny will eat, what toy he should play with and (in one page that might not thrill parents) where "to do peepee." Readers trigger animations by tapping the screen or moving things around, like opening windows to find Benny hiding outside or rolling a ball of yarn his way. The text favors simplicity over style. "Let's make Benny's bed!" one of the last pages invites, suggesting readers move a blanket, pillow and stuffed toy into the cat's sleeping area. The app wouldn't pull any of it off if Benny himself weren't cute. The blue-eyed cat purrs with appreciation, whines slightly with disapproval if you pick a wrong object and meows with delight when the correct one is selected. The sound effects and narration aren't overdone, and the features are minimal. Readers can record their own audio and enter a name at the start to list the app's owner.
It may seem slight compared to more heavily produced ventures, but Benny's bite-sized app (and oversized head) may be just the right fit for some. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)