Bottom Line: Charming story with appealing characters and inventive, interactive elements make this a Top Pick for ages 3-7. There are even nice messages about friendship and not being afraid of the doctor.
Even Monsters Get Sick, written and illustrated by Michael Bruza, is the latest app for youngsters from Busy Bee Studios, makers of the popular Zoo Train. The book is a true gem and a perfect example of why every family needs to invest in an iPad. I was hooked from the first page. If the Apple Stores held midnight release parties for new apps, I’d be one of the crazies standing in line for this one.
That’s high praise considering my kids are 10 and one is about to start Hunger Games.
The story’s narrator, who speaks in a child’s voice, is Harry. He trades Mona stickers, gum and a skateboard for her monster, Zub. Trades of things of vastly unequal worth are something I did as a kid, so I immediately felt a connection to the story. The plot is simple: Mona traded Zub because she thought he was a boring monster. Harry does a number of fun things with the monster to prove he is not boring. Nothing, including a triple-scoop, banana-whip, peppermint ice cream sandwich, excites the monster. After trying all kinds of things, the monster sneezes quite dramatically and Harry figures out Zub is sick.
The book is full of novel tasks that complement the story and keep even the worst wiggle worms’ attention. After hearing about the terms of the trade, readers on the next page are asked to physically make the trade by sliding the proper number of items into a wagon. There are motor tasks like mazes, a match-the-shapes puzzle and a whirlwind to swirl round and round.
The artwork is unique and outstanding. Some of the animations are hidden and quite surprising. Tapping the popcorn bucket Harry and the monster share at a 3-D movie results in a phantom arm reaching across the screen and grabbing a kernel. A bird pops out of a cuckoo clock and an exercise ball makes a sad pfoof sound when you try to get the monster to bounce. The sound effects throughout are dead on and sure to garner laughs.
The language is age-appropriate and there are read-myself and read-to-me options. The words are not highlighted when the app is read. In read-myself mode, tapping will result in the entire selection being read, rather than the individual word. A page menu lets you skip to any page in the book and the words per page are manageable for beginning readers. New vocabulary like boring is given sufficient context.
Beyond the text highlight and read options, my only recommendation is one I make for all book apps and that is to get it rated for Accelerated Reader, DRA and Lexile reading programs.
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