Two new apps for young tablet users offer some terrific art, but may not reward repeated visits.
In Moomin and the Lost Belongings (Spinfy/WSOY, $1.99; PreS-Gr 1), the second app based on the stories by Tove Jansson, Moomin and his friends appear in different outdoor settings, each Moomin having lost a cherished object. The goal is for viewers to reunite the creatures with the sought-after belongings.
Unlike its predecessor, The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My, which strongly related to the picture books, this app is purely activity based. There is scant narrative besides the few lines describing the lost item and an invitation for readers to find it.
A simple introductory page adds a layer of independent usability for new readers. As Moomin ambles across the screen, viewers are offered directions to help the cat find the milk bowl hidden under one of three buckets. When the bowl is revealed, dotted lines and an arrow clearly demonstrate how to drag the bowl over to the cat. More dotted lines appear midway down the screen showing how to swipe the page from right to left. Each successive scene follows the same pattern of dragging and swiping.
Interactive options include choosing to hide the text by tapping a “T” symbol, and whether to “Read It Myself” or “Read to Me.” Numerous hidden animations add to the fun. Touch the rocks and hedgehogs scurry out. Tap the treetops and a cat leaps from tree to tree. The illustrations by Riina and Sami Kaarla are true to the original colors and illustration of the printed books. Lilting background music, animal sounds and the rich tones of Glyn Banks’s voice-over add depth.
This is a straightforward app with few bells and whistles. The repetitive directions for each scene make it a good choice for introducing young children to tablet technology. However, only the most ardent of Moomin fans will discover any lasting appeal.−Deborah Cooper, MLIS student, San Jose State University
On opening Deborah Underwood’s winsome Spatter and Spark (Polk Street Press, Free; PreS-K) viewers are introduced to Spatter, an artistic porcupine sporting a jaunty beret. The critter is attempting to paint a baby crow named Hubert; sadly, the little bird is too frightened to fly out of his nest, let alone pose for a portrait. Spatter decides to seek assistance from Spark, a resourceful (and aptly named) fox. Together they devise and test out several contraptions in the hopes of sneaking a peek at Hubert. Luciana Navarro Powell’s mixed media illustrations are a visual treat and mesh well with Underwood’s whimsical tale. Given her perspicacity, Spark is a particularly empowering character.
Unfortunately, the app’s interactivity is slow, far from imaginative, and at times bogs down the momentum of the story. Confusingly, users must constantly tap the characters for additional dialogue that lacks text for following along.
Spatter and Spark’s shortcomings are slightly balanced by the standout art and professional-quality narration. The “Activities” menu button will definitely pique users’ interest, but it’s ultimately misleading since those are additional in-app purchases.−Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA
For additional app reviews, visit SLJ’s Touch and Go web page.