Bottom Line: If you have more than one younger child, I recommend it as a lesson on diversity and differences, even within a single family.
I didn't have any brothers or sisters, something my wife often refers to as "one of the many things wrong with you," but I do know from my significant other about the difficulty establishing an identity for yourself in a large family, especially when two siblings are close in age and dressed exactly alike for many special events and holidays. (emphasis hers)
So although I don't know personally about siblingness, I do have some idea of what Sam and Ben is about and my knowledge is increasing as I watch my three kids develop their own independence and uniqueness.
Sam and Ben are fraternal twins who look and see the world very differently:
My Sam and Ben?
Like two peas in a pod?
Oh no, not at all!
They are as
different as a black
bean from Abuela's
congri rice and a
from Oma's special
That's good stuff and it hits a terrific chord of diversity, even within the context of a single family. The appearance of the two boys, especially the description of their hair, reminds me of my two sons which was especially nice for me.
The illustrations are engaging watercolors and look like they were done with those kids' paint sets you have to drip water in to use (and I mean that in a good way because it fits the story.)
There are LOTS of items that can be interacted with on each page. It seems like the developers, Pinwheel Books, animated just about everything on the screen. That can be annoying, but in this case the animations are subtle enough to work well. I especially enjoyed one page where the two boys see a woman with a beehive hairdo that makes Ben think of ice cream and Sam an actual beehive. When pressed Ben says "mmmmm" and Sam says "Oh no!"
The narration is solid and works well with the child noises included in the animations. There are activities for coloring the two main characters, dragging toys through a maze, touch matching, and drawing.
There are definitely a few areas in which Sam and Ben (well, not them, but the app) could improve. The words are not highlighted when read or read when touched, nor are there options for either. There is, annoyingly, no home button that allows the user to move to the front menu page, nor is there a button that allows jumping from one page to a page that isn't the next or previous one once you're in the text. It's also not cheap, as far as apps go, at $3.99.
I don't know why, at least to me it seems, like every book about preschoolers/toddlers and family life has to have a reference to poo or pee in it. I feel like I constantly have to tell my kids to stop talking about that sort of thing (especially at the dinner table or, you know, a coat-and-tie affair) so I'm never thrilled when I see it in a book, unless the book is supposed to be about potty training. Maybe I'm just weird that way but I don't want my sons to be the next Lloyd or Harry.
But I digress...
Sam and Ben is a good app that brings a lot to the table, but it is certainly missing enough key elements I look for in an ebook app to fall short of Top Pick status. If you've got more than one toddler/preschooler, though, I recommend it as a great launching point for discussion about differences, even in one family.
If you would like to purchase Sam and Ben please use the links provided. The cost is the same, but Smart Apps receives a small percentage. Thanks for your support!