Bottom Line: A solid, fun e-book with a great message that can be a catalyst for some important conversations around the topic of bullying.
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Be A Buddy, Not a Bully is an interactive iPad-only app that recounts the age-old story of the relationship between a big, burly bear farmer and a shrewd, mean little banker who I think is a weasel.
The basic story is as follows: Buck O. Bobo wants to dig for treasure on Harvest Wannadogood’s land. Harvest tells Buck “No!” but Buck doesn’t listen. He comes back to Harvest’s farm and begins digging without permission. Harvest and Buck go back and forth with Harvest pleading with Buck to listen, and Buck getting increasingly angry and kid-friendly violent. Ears of corn are thrown.
Not knowing what to do about this problem, Harvest writes his thoughts down in his journal, and then goes to the town’s leader, Chief Tatupu, for help. With the wise chief’s guidance, Harvest and Buck are able to see things from each other’s perspectives and they become friends. The end.
It’s a simple story, but a good one. Kids will enjoy the characters and parents will appreciate the message. I appreciate how the bully in this story is the smaller character bullying a larger bear. That sends the message that bullying can affect anyone in any way, which is important for kids to understand.
Here’s what works:
- As with most ebooks, there are three options for the story: Read to Me, Read by Myself, and Autoplay.
- The voices used in Read to Me and Autoplay are good. I made this judgment based on the fact that I did not immediately switch to Read by Myself as I do with most other ebooks.
- In the Read to Me and Autoplay versions, there is a very nice karaoke-style highlighting of the words as they are read. This is great for kids to develop a connection between the reading fluency they are hearing and the actual words on the page.
- The pages are interactive. The app's best feature is that after the page is read, the child can tap on each character and hear their inner thoughts about what has just happened. There are also some fun game-type interactions that the child can take part in, such as making Harvest jump and duck as Buck throws ears of corn at him. Certain things on the page light up, to indicate that something will happen when they are tapped. (More on that in a bit. )
- Harvest writing in his journal can help parents and educators teach kids to write in their own journal.
- At the end of the story, there are discussion questions. When stories have a message such as this one, it’s important that the child doesn’t just finish the story and forget about it. Discussion questions allow the child to reflect on the story and what they are taking away from it.
- There are a few things in this app that don’t work for me:
- • Some of the animations are really loud and annoying. On a number of pages there is a crow that rustles loudly in the corn field and the child has to touch it to make it fly away. But a few seconds later it starts rustling again. That animation should be on one page and it should stop after activation.
- •There is no bookmark option. There were several times when I would start the story, but then have to close the app before I was finished. When I went back into the app, it started me from the title page. All of the pages in the book can be viewed from the options menu, but it would be nice for a child to be able to open the app and start from where they left off.
- Before the story begins, there is a page that has a big, beautiful map of Midlandia, where the story takes place. This map confused me because when I first saw it, I thought, “Wow! This is going to be a great app with lots of different stories to explore!” The area labeled “Harvest Farms” was glowing, so I pressed on it thinking, “That must be where I need to start.” It led me to the story, and when I was finished, I eagerly went back to the map to explore a new area. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that I could not tap on any of the other areas of the map. Sadness. The map just shows how all of the Midlandia Press stories occur in the same world, without allowing the child to actually enjoy all of the stories together or even see a picture of the other areas, which leads me to my suggestions:
- Integrate the stories. It would be enjoyable for kids to be able to click on multiple areas of the map to reach all of the different stories. If not, at least put a nice pic to go to with the other areas of the map so there is some interactivity.
- Have the crow fly away permanently. Ensure the volume on the interactions matches the narrator volume.
- Add more discussion questions. Right now there are only two.
- A record option would be fabulous for kids to use when they are reading the story by themselves. Taking that extra step would be extremely beneficial for kids who are working towards becoming fluent readers.
Despite those issues, I will definitely be using this app in my third grade classroom this year. I think it is worth purchasing and will be sure to keep on the lookout for updates. Recommended.
This review was completed by Allison Kelly, who is starting her 14th year as a teacher. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review.