________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 19. . . .January 18, 2013


Saffy Looks for Rain.

Paola Opal.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2009/2012.
38.3 MB. Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or higher. Available from iTunes AppStore. $2.99.

Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 2-5.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***½ /4


Paola Opal’s Saffy Looks for Rain, originally published in 2009 as a board book in Simply Read Books’ “Simply Small Series”, is now available as an app. Opening the app gives youngsters (and their parents) four choices: “Read”, “I Can Read”, “I Can Draw” and “Game”. As well, a question mark button leads to tips about using the app. For example, tapping a word in the “Read” mode will cause that page to be reread.

     A female voice provides the narration in the “Read” mode although an option is provided to allow you to record yourself reading the book. As a word is read, it “lights up” which assists prereaders in connecting sounds with words’ shapes. As is appropriate for a younger audience, the animation related to the images is quite limited. For example, Saffy’s tail wags, his eye blinks, the blazing sun expands and contracts, birds and butterflies fly, and the grass waves. Simple sound effects, such as that of a page turning or a bird singing, are included. The reader determines when a page is turned. Everything that has been said about the “Read” mode holds true in the “I Can Read” mode, except that now, of course, the child or parent must do the actual reading.

     The “I Can Draw” option provides an outline picture of Saffy, a young giraffe, standing beside a body of water that contains Ollie, the elephant. A bird and two butterflies are in the sky above the new animal friends. Touching/tapping a “Pencil” icon allows the youngster to draw/add details to the picture while touching a “Paint Brush” and the “Artist’s Palette” of nine colours permits the child to colour the creatures and their surroundings. A child unhappy with what s/he has drawn or coloured can touch the “Eraser” icon and then “finger” erase the offending portions. If unhappy with the entire picture or just wanting to draw/colour again, a child can hit the renew icon and get the illustration presented anew.internal art

    The “Game” portion of the app consists of three jigsaw puzzles, with each increasing in its level of difficulty. The “pieces” are not irregular shapes but are, instead, squares. The level one puzzle has six pieces that are to be fitted into a 2x3 rectangle; level two has 12 pieces (3x4 rectangle); and the final level has 24 pieces (4x6 rectangle). The picture which goes with each level is different and contains increasing detail. When “Start” is touched, the picture “breaks” apart, and the pieces “fall” to the bottom of the screen. The child’s task is to then “drag” each piece to where s/he believes it belongs. If the correct spot is selected, the player will be rewarded by the sound of the piece “locking” into place. An incorrectly placed piece will stay in place until another piece is selected, at which point the “wrong” piece will again fall to the bottom of the screen. If a child encounters difficulty, s/he can touch the “Hint” button which will bring up the target picture for a few seconds. When the child is finished, a screen with balloons, accompanied by the sound of applause, announces the amount of time it took the child to complete the game as well as the “Best Time” that has been achieved in putting the puzzle together. If children do get into the competitive aspect of the game levels, a “Pause” button allows them to suspend play while they attend to whatever is taking them away from the game.

     Cara, my two-year-old granddaughter and iPad whiz, gave this app a test drive. She had already met the characters from the “Simply Small Series”, and so Saffy and Ollie were not new to her, but she still enjoyed independently using the “Read” mode, and she also played the first game level. The “I Can Draw” section of the app remains largely unexplored by her as its use does call for a bit of teaching and trial-and-error exploration.

     Overall, the app version of Saffy Looks for Rain is excellent in that it has retained the story’s simplicity which connects so well with its intended young audience. Simply Read Books did not make the mistake of Disney-izing the book’s contents by over-animating it or by adding an intrusive soundtrack.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

Editor’s Note: With this review. CM moves into the area of apps. It is certainly not CM’s intention to review all apps. However, if CM becomes aware of an app that connects to a book that has been reviewed in CM, then we will endeavour to review it.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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