Bottom Line: A short, comic-book style app worth a look if you'd like to start a discussion with kids about recycling.
The Amazing Adventures of Eco Boy is about, you may not be surprised to hear, a boy who becomes an environmental superhero. He goes to the park to play with his friends and is appalled at the amount of rubbish everywhere (otherwise known as garbage to you North American types). The rest of his story covers his quest to learn about ways to deal with this problem and his efforts to persuade his community to recycle.
The thing I enjoyed most about this ebook is the comic-book style of illustration which really does look splendid on the iPad and will appeal to kids without being too "cartoonish." It is entirely in keeping with the superhero genre and is very nicely done. As a transplanted Brit I also appreciated the British narrator who is clear and crisp; however, I would have preferred if Eco-Boy himself were voiced by a child. There are Read to Me or Read by Myself options but there is no highlighting of words as they are read and no interactivity on the screen.
I absolutely loved the themes raised in the first part of the story - a little boy's journey of discovery, his realization that small changes can have a big impact and his mother's insistence that even young children can make a huge difference if they set their minds to it. Sadly, in my view the second half of the book doesn't follow through on the promise shown by the first half.
The concept of Eco Boy is a good one but the idea, like Eco Boy himself, never seems to really take off. The super hero element felt (to me) like an awkward plot device. The boy is never named, presumably so that the children reading the story can more easily identify themselves with the character, a convention common in allegorical stories, but this story isn't an allegory so it struck me as an odd choice. The boy's transformation into Eco Boy isn't explained at all - you just turn the page and he's there, dressed as the Eco Boy character. Eco Boy has no super powers other than being able to run into the mayor's office at will and get him to immediately institute a recycling program. This strikes me as, at most, implausible rather than super. I do think the ecological super-hero idea is a good one, but its execution in this app just doesn't work for me.
The other main concern I have with the book is its emphasis on recycling. Eco Boy learns that to save the planet he needs to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." They are listed in that order for a reason and it's because recycling is the least important of the three in terms of its impact on the environment. All the book actually shows Eco Boy doing is recycling as a way to clean up litter. Personally I would have preferred it if the book has focused on "Reduce" but if the author wanted to tackle "Recycle" first then it would have been great if Eco Boy made clear that this was only the first step in the right direction. Ideally he would have also explained the importance of diverting recyclables away from landfills rather than just showing it as a way to clean up the park.
If you're a parent or teacher trying to create awareness of environmental issues in children then definitely consider purchasing this app as it could be used as a starting point for discussions about what recycling is, its purpose and its utility as environmental protection.
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This review was written by Deanne Shoyer who loved reading about rubbish, Mums, and aluminium (with the extra 'i'). Eco Boy Books, the developer of The Adventures of Eco Boy, is an advertiser at smartappsforkids.com.