The Elephant’s Child is an ebook app from developer Absolutist. The story told is based on one of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and follows Kipling’s tale fairly closely, with some heavy editing of the multiple spankings and vengeance found in the original. (Yikes!)
The Just So Stories are fanciful origin stories, this one explaining how the elephant first got his long trunk. It begins with a very curious young elephant with a short, stubby nose. The other animals in this story find the elephant child’s questions annoying. In fact, he is “looked down on” because of this curiosity—which is at least better than the original, where the other animals all spank him.
One of the animals directs the elephant child to go to the river and ask the crocodile what he ate for dinner. Of course, the crocodile wants to eat the elephant. Thankfully, the little elephant finally finds an advocate in a python, who helps him escape. In the process, the elephant’s nose was stretched into the familiar long trunk.
When the elephant returns to the other animals, the app does make mention of the other animals wanting to “beat him," but now he is able to defend himself. In the original story, he defends himself by seeking vengeance and spanking the other animals, but in the app there is no mention of exactly what his new ability to defend entails.
This app is advertised as having over 300 animations. On the first page, wait long enough without touching anything and a hand pointer will point out the interactive elements, such as a giraffe hiding behind a tree, and speech bubbles with different messages (Hi, there. Let’s be friends. I’m an Elephant’s Child. I’m cheerful!)
Other interactions include falling bananas, food appearing/disappearing, weather changing, plucking an ostrich’s tail feathers, and speech bubbles with some questions asked by the elephant’s child, which sound very much like a typical preschooler: Why is the sky blue? Why is the sun round? Why is it raining?
There are also 20 puzzles, one on each page. Tap the puzzle piece in the upper right corner of each page to reach the puzzles. They are a kind of slide puzzle, with 12 squares arranged in a grid. Tap two pieces to have them exchange places, with the finished puzzle a scene from the story or with the same animals.
Even with the interaction and puzzles, there are several things I didn’t enjoy about the app:
- There is a button to turn the “read-to-me” option on and off (on every page, actually), but it is not possible to turn off the background noise and music.
- There are ads at the end of the game for other Absolutist apps; tapping opens them in the App Store.
- The English translation is not great. There are many awkward and almost nonsensical phrases, such as, “He was asking questions all the time to find answers to his questions,” and “And the Elephant’s Child found it out from the first second!”
- Though the iTunes page claims this is a professional actor reading the story, the voice is very slow and almost monotone, and not at all pleasant or engaging.
- The premise that asking questions is “bothering” and that questions are “foolish” is not something I want my child hearing without discussion. I work to encourage the opposite—a sense of curiosity and exploration of the world are virtues in my family. This means I can't recommend the app as something the child can play by themselves.
- The iTunes promo page for the app states that, “The Elephant's Child will assure your kid that not all the books are boring.” My kids are already quite convinced that books are not boring—mostly by reading and listening to books with excellent writing and intricate plots. Interactive elements may be fun, but in the absence of good writing, they don’t do much to further reading development.
There is a Lite version of the app that gives access to the first few pages of the book, at which point the full version can be purchased through an in-app purchase.
However, after just a few pages, there is not only a link to the App Store to purchase the full version, there is a link to rate the book in the App Store in order to get more free pages. This makes all 37 ratings and 32 reviews of the Lite version suspect and not very useful. After that solicitation, rating the app only gets two additional pages of the story.
Despite the simple interactive features that may appeal to toddlers/preschoolers, the basic idea of the story, translation problems, and other issues make this an app I can't recommend, especially at $4.99.
If you would like to purchase The Elephant's Child please use the links provided. The cost is the same, but Smart Apps receives a small percentage. Thanks for your support!
Why does Heather Hetler write app reviews? Why do her three kids enjoy playing iPad games? Why does she use the iPad in therapy as a graduate speech-language pathology clinician? Ask any of these questions, and she promises not to get too annoyed, and she definitely won’t send you to the crocodile. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.