The King's Ears | Touch and Go

A lively retelling of a Slavic folktale about a king who keeps firing barbers because he’s ashamed of the secret they discover while cutting his hair: he has goat ears.
If you're looking  to discuss different approaches to storytelling, or what various media can add (or perhaps, subtract from a telling), here's a book app to add to your list of titles to consider.  A trailer offers a peek.

Screen from The King's Ears (Rascal Media) illus. by Phillipe Béhà

The King's Ears  (Rascal Media, iOS, $3.99; K-Gr 2), a colorful production based on Katarina Jovanovic's picture book, The King Has Goat Ears, illustrated by Phillipe Béhà (Tradewind, 2008), presents a lively retelling of a Slavic folktale about a king who keeps firing barbers because he’s ashamed of the secret they discover while cutting his hair: he has goat ears. A young boy answers his call for a new barber and tries his best to keep the king’s secret, which proves rather difficult. Ultimately an affirming story about self-acceptance, this app invites children and adults to share and discuss.
Vivid mixed-media illustrations, cheerful background music, and sound effects all add to the richness of the user experience. Like most children’s book apps, this one offers the choice to read independently or listen to a narrator read aloud. In this case, the narration by Welsh actor Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, is a treat for children and adults alike. Unlike most book apps, however, instead of offering that choice one time at the beginning, readers must tap a “sound” icon on each page to hear the narration. Also potentially confusing for frequent book app viewers, the swipe gesture is not used move from page to page; instead, users must press an arrow icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
Despite these slight user interface oddities, children will want to revisit this book app over and over to discover more features and expand their enjoyment. Unobtrusive animated interactions include a parakeet that flaps and hops around the pages, and opportunities for viewers to take part in the story, such as helping a character pick up apples and put them in a basket. VERDICT With great appeal for the early elementary school audience, this app is a solid choice for digital storytime or reading one-on-one.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Screen from The King's Ears (Rascal Media) illus. by Phillipe Béhà

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Cynthia Nugent

Thank you very much for your thoughtful and generous review! I'd like to address your points about the sound and page turn buttons. We tested two versions of the app with three classes of grade twos in a middle-class Canadian neighbourhood of mixed ethnicities. One version of the app had swiping page turns and one had button page turns. About 2/3 to 3/4 of the children preferred the button page turns. One reason may be lack of familiarity with swiping page turns. Even though the press would have us believe that all children are glued to screens all the time, many of the children in my study had never played with a story app. Regarding the sound button, my testing of this feature was not only the three grade two classes, but two other schools as well. I found that fluent readers liked to read aloud to themselves before listening to the narration. Struggling readers tapped the narration button as soon as the screen opened. I liked the idea of giving the children more autonomy and choice over when and if they would listen to the narration. If you would like to read a paper I gave at a conference on my findings from this testing, you can see it here

Posted : Aug 10, 2017 07:10