Bottom Line: A jackal who feels blue is turned blue! Presents multiple perspectives and great comprehension questions. Nice enough features to keep anyone from singing the app blues.
A new ebook from KidsAndBeyond is based on a classic Indian folktale, The Blue Jackal & The Lion. It tells the tale not only from the viewpoint of the Blue Jackal, but also examines the same story from the Lion's perspective, for a great new take on the ebook genre.
The story begins with a lonely and hungry jackal looking for food. He falls into blue laundry dye and is about to become king of the other animals in the jungle (because they revere the strange new blue animal), when the story pauses and the jackal appears on the screen to ask some questions. As he asks, “Why do you think the other animals don’t want to be near me?” two thought bubbles pop up, one at a time. When each bubble is tapped, one possibility is shown. The app pauses, allowing plenty of time for discussion between adult and child.
The story continues with more questions woven into the narration and story, mostly focused on critical thinking. The question “What kind of king could the Jackal be?” provides two thought bubble possibilities. Other questions posed by the narrator focus on making predictions in the story.
Even if it had ended with the jackal’s story, this ebook had me cheering as I read along with my daughter: Comprehension questions! Predictions! How-to-get-along lessons! These are aspects I normally add on my own to a story, but The Blue Jackal makes it easy for me.
But, it didn’t end there—after a screen with some comprehension questions (How did I feel at the beginning of the story? Why did I make myself King?), the story is retold from the perspective of the lion. Because he wasn’t nice to the other animals, he lost his kingship to the blue jackal. More questions follow this side of the story as well, allowing the child to consider both perspectives.
The navigation has a bit of learning curve. Pages are turned with side arrows, but they can actually be turned before all the text has been presented, which might create a problem for younger kids. When all the text has been presented, the arrow in the lower right corner begins flashing and there is a quick flash of white on the screen.
There is a small amount of the story in written form at the top of each screen, but most of the content of the story is audio along with animation, and feels more like a movie than a book. The written text can removed from each page, if desired, and there is also an option to turn off the narrator. There is no option to have the words highlighted when read or read when touched.
Though this ebook is billed as interactive, it is lacking in typical forms of interactive features. There are no games to play and no animals that do tricks when tapped. Some red flowers do fall down when tapped, and towels wave in the wind, but these features are subtle. This is not necessarily a negative feature—the book is quite interactive when shared between a child and adult, in a way that is more natural to how parents and children interact over any book.
Overall, the graphics are excellent and smooth.
A few additions would make this great app even better, especially a pause button. On the initial section of the story, I found myself compelled to ask more basic comprehension questions, but the story keeps going with no way to stop it. In addition, it is not possible to navigate back just one screen from any other screen, as the arrow leads back to the last time the forward arrow was tapped.
There is also no way to repeat each screen once the audio has played, without navigating away from the screen and then navigating back to load it again. This is awkward, and several times when reading with my daughter and when using it in therapy I wished for a replay.
Even though a few tweaks would make it stronger, I found this fantastic story to be a very welcome addition to my book app library. The questions provide an easy way to engage a child in critical thinking and creativity, and the story provides some moral lessons in leadership and honesty without being heavy handed. If you are a parent or teacher of a child in the preschool-elementary age range, this app is definitely worth the $.99.
If you would like to purchase Viewpoints: The Blue Jackal & the Lion, please use the links provided. The cost is the same, but Smart Apps receives a small percentage. Thanks for your support!
This review was completed by Heather Hetler, who works as an elementary school SLP and is a full-time graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology. KidsAndBeyond, the developer of Viewpoints: The Blue Jackal & The Lion, is an advertiser at smartappsforkids.com.