A pourquoi tale from West Africa is the subject of an app from Literary Safari. On the website, the developer notes that 100 percent of the purchase price “will go to the We-Care Foundation’s efforts to keep children reading and learning amidst the Ebola outbreak.”
Dentist Bird (Literary Safari Inc. iOS $1.99; Android $1.99; K–Gr 2) is a Liberian folktale based on Michael Richards’s How Plover Bird Came to Clean Crocodile’s Teeth. In this retelling, a crocodile suffers from an excruciating toothache and receives help from an unexpected ally. While the rainforest animals debate about whether to relieve the poor reptile’s pain, a plover bird volunteers its skills. What results is a mutually beneficial agreement between species, where plover birds will eat the fish stuck between the crocodiles’ teeth in exchange for a promise that they will not be harmed in the process.
In the “Read” option, the app’s interactive sounds, animations, and gameplay, are accessed by tapping or swiping the screen. However, in the narrated mode, users can’t trigger interactive elements until the text on the screen is read. For hints on where to tap or swipe for interactivity or animations, children must touch a help icon in the top left of the screen; no hotspots are visible. Vibrant, lush oil illustrations by David Wolobah largely capture the setting of Dentist Bird, but a couple of the animal illustrations—namely the snail and leopard—are poorly rendered.
Embedded gameplay is slightly clunky; at points readers are forced to unlock “achievements” before progressing to the next screen, which interferes with the story’s momentum. Users may bypass this dilemma by tapping the help icon, a tedious step. In contrast, the Mission of Mercy game in the “Play” section is better designed, fast-paced fun that will certainly keep children coming back for more. Strong suits of this app include a “Learning” page with additional interactive content to engage young readers on facts about Liberia and rainforest animals, as well as a “Grownups” folder with links to detailed lesson plans and printables. A trailer is available.– Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA
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