Bottom Line: Classic fairy tale gets royal treatment with many bonus features that include a very creative spin on the traditional story. There is a lite version to try for free.
JustKidsApps has taken a classic piece of children's literature and put a fresh spin on it with a fun and modern animated book app, Grimm's Frog King. The Frog King aka The Princess and The Frog was first published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm. Despite being over 200 years old these tales are more popular than ever with over 25 versions of the Frog tale alone listed on AR Bookfind. These classics are also the inspiration for NBC’s show Grimm.
It's not often that an ebook app has an Introduction, but this one thoughtfully provides a few tips to enjoy reading the story, viewing the illustrations and making the most of the extras: The app has the usual Read to Me or Read Myself formats; narration is available in the original German or English; illustrations can be viewed in greater detail by spreading one's fingers over them and pinching to return to original size; shimmery fairy dust identifies areas to tap to activate an animation; different voices are used to great effect for the frog, princess and narrator, as well as plenty of accompanying croaks.
The traditional tale has a vain and rather self-absorbed princess drop her gold ball in a well. The frog strikes a bargain with her to retrieve the toy. She tries to renege on the deal and blow off the slimy frog, but froggy, with the king's help, forces her to make good on the deal. Frog tries to hop in bed with the princess (platonically), gets thrown against a wall and turns back into his princely self. They marry and live happily ever after.
Take two of the story adds snarky asides from a young girl. She gives the frog and Princess the names Horace and Hortense. Hortense’s manners and intellect are called into question and the girl compares her to a toddler. She also demands that the princess and frog kiss at the end of the story which launches a new ending with a Shrek-like twist. A family album of Horace (Prince Croakabert), Hortense and their offspring and ancestors follows. There are very few apps with a better or more interesting story than this "version with a Funny Twist."
The tale is fairly long, but the app does save one’s place and pick up there the next time which is nice and not routinely seen in book apps.
The extras actually add something to the story and aren't just the standard fare: There are a series of frog jokes, a chart comparing frogs and toads, a quiz on the story details and a rather funny commentary on the relevancy of the monarchy in today's world. I appreciate that the bulk of the bonus features are at the end of the story.
The commentary from the modern-day girl in the twisted telling is spot-on and opens multiple avenues of discussion with young readers. Imagining a future for the characters or answering all the what if’s posed is a great creative exercise. Identifying motive and the author's purpose is a critical skill for older readers, so it's never too soon to introduce these elements. Of course the great elephant in the room is how the king's two older daughters felt about their baby sister getting married before them, and to a prince no less.
Out of curiosity, I read a traditional telling of The Frog Prince and found the app follows the tale quite faithfully with the exception of the Prince's dutiful servant Henry being left on the cutting room floor. The language is a bit more current, but the spirit of the original is fittingly kept. For example, the princess’ description of the frog as, "Just a waddler," is changed to "old splasher" in the app.
The narration is very strong, but unlike the ingeniously updated second telling of the story, the visuals are very old-style and seem outdated. There are some touch interactions but the app's emphasis of story over flash probably isn't going to work with most preschoolers. The words are not highlighted when read or read when touched.
The German version sounds really smooth but is otherwise unintelligible to me. Because SAFK leaves no stone unturned in vetting its apps for review, however, I had my sister-in-law, a native speaker confirm the text is German and talks about a frog.
No matter what language you speak, the remarkable retelling with a modern twist is enough to make this app a winner.
If you would like to purchase Grimm's Frog King ($1.99/iPad) please support Smart Apps for Kids by using this link button:
This review was completed by Jill Goodman. JustKidsApps is an advertiser at smartappsforkids.com. Deanne Shoyer, a reviewer for smartappsforkids.com, co-authored this app.