Bottom Line: Well-done story app with a nice message about how loneliness can be overcome with sharing and kindness.
The Tree I See, from developer Adrian Books, is a rhyming story about a tree and a collection of friends the tree makes. The tree is unhappy at the beginning of the story because he has no tree-friends, but it is still kind and giving to others, including a boy, a squirrel and some bluebirds. They, in turn, provide him with companionship, which makes the tree very happy by the end.
The artwork is extremely well-done, sort of like an artistic cartoon, and the animation is good, but appropriately not-overwhelming for the target age group. Each new friend's animation is repeated on each subsequent screen a la The Twelve Days of Christmas. That may not be as fun as a new animation but I think it serves as a nice reminder of how the group all ended up as tree-friends.
(I should note, however, that a tree with long arms still scares me a bit from watching Poltergeist too many times as a teenager.)
The seasons change as the story progresses, which is terrific, and there are a few background animations such as a cloud that rains, yawns and wears a nightcap. The iTunes description notes that users can "tilt your screen to observe 3D effects," but I didn't really notice anything different. Some screen presses result in small mini-games, such as helping the bluebirds build their nest in the tree.
The text is highlighted when read, but in small blocks rather than word for word. Touching the words toggles the text box into a full screen mode (for early readers or old Dads who need bigger text) and each text box has a stop button and an arrow that stop the narration or hide the box entirely. Pages can be turned with leaves instead of the traditional arrow in the bottom corners of the pages. The usual swipe motion to turn pages doesn't work.
The iPad version regularly costs $3.99, which is a tad bit high, but was recently reduced to 99 cents and the developer has said they'll keep it there if the lower price drives enough sales.
I really like the idea of being able to sit down with a child, play through the book and say "So, when you feel like you need a friend, find something to share." Recommended.
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This review was written by Ron Engel, who grew up in the shadow of an oak tree that miraculously survived Hurricane Katrina.smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.