Bottom Line: Just in time for Halloween is an app full of the most scary thing parents ever face—children's creative excuses to avoid chores. Thankfully, your worst nightmare will leave your child in stitches.
If you would like to give your kids a special Halloween treat and support Smart Apps for Kids, please purchase My Monster Mayhem ($4.99 iPad/iPhone) using the following link:
My Monster Mayhem, from UK developer Digital Leaf, is a brand-new app written by Anita Pouroulis and beautifully illustrated by Sholto Walker. Jill just reviewed their title, Pancake Pandemonium, and from her review, I can tell Digital Leaf is on the way to making a name for itself in quality children's e-book apps.
This book is the story of a creative little girl and all of the monsters she faces in her house. I thought the story may be a little scary, but it was quickly clear that the monsters weren't a real threat. The scariest part of the monster under her bed is his jelly belly he likes to expose. He and his slimy friends are also the reason the girl slams her bedroom door, doesn't pick up her clothes and won't turn off lights when she leaves a room, much to her mother's chagrin. One cute monster makes messes with dental floss (and is, of course, the reason the girl cannot floss her teeth every night); another hides in her closet (and throws all of her clothes on the floor, naturally); and one lurks in the bathtub drain (for sure the only reason for the water all over the floor).
The monster names are a nice feature of this app. The dental-floss-obsessed monster is known as Broncus Dentus. The monsters hiding in the dark house (the reason for all of the lights being left on, the user has surely inferred) are called Nocta-no-noes. This element makes for a creative Halloween-themed lesson plan. Students can try to invent new monsters to avoid chores, giving them as inventive names as possible.
The interactions in this app are not overwhelming, and the story and illustrations are the real focus. This is what I prefer in an e-book, though those who desire more interactive elements may find this app to be somewhat lacking. Some pages have just one interaction or sound effect, but others do have a little more excitement. My favorite page was the bath scene—popping the soap bubbles was almost as fun as bubble wrap.
One bonus is the first time through the app, the user can find a little monster hidden on each of the 20 pages. When all are found, a simple puzzle game featuring three different scenes from the book is unlocked. The pieces are all rectangular and lock into place when in the right spot. The app can also be reset completely allowing the monsters to be found by another user.
I found this e-book perfect for helping young children practice making predictions or inferences. Why does the little girl leave food on her plate? How will the little girl blame a monster for the mess in her room or in the bathroom? The vocabulary is also excellent for my uses in speech therapy—what are scraps of food? What are tentacles? What does it mean to be appalled?
The rhyming text in this book is highlighted word-by-word when the story is narrated. The pacing of the narration is a little fast for younger children to try to follow along with the words, but it's just right for listening. The story narration can be read with a woman's voice, girl's voice, or turned off.
There are a few ways in which the app could be improved. First, there is no page menu which makes it difficult to quickly jump to a particular page. The developer would do well to add a page index to its book apps. Also, the screen goes to a blank white "Loading" page every time the page is turned. This was distracting and a bit annoying to me, though perhaps it is the fault of the No-patience-us residing in my house.
I wish there was a way to mute the sound effects in the app. They are not overwhelming, but when I use an app in therapy, sound effects can get on my nerves by the end of the day, as well as interrupt the therapy process. I have to resort to turning the sound up to hear the narration, then down in order to discuss each page with students. Another issue regarding the app's failure to stay locked in landscape mode when the device is rotated has already been submitted to Apple as an update by the developer.
My biggest concern is at the end of the book the user is brought to a Share screen. There is no avoiding this screen, and it leads to Facebook, Twitter, email, the developer's website, and the App Store to rate and review. While I understand a developer's desire to promote, it is not acceptable to me to have external links so easily accessible in an app. My kids use the iPad without my direct supervision, and they do click these links, especially the five year old who is simply exploring all the app has to offer.
Overall this is a fun e-book, and not just for Halloween. It can even open the dialogue between parents and kids about the silly reasons kids might invent for not doing chores, meaning it just may make it into my discipline tool box. ("Grace, was it the Squinkies-Saurus who made this mess, or was it you?") For an e-book, it's priced a little high, but still worth it for those who value high-quality children's picture books.
Heather Hetler is hoping that Happy-to-clean-it and Love-to-organize monsters come reside in her home soon. A Paperwork-is-great monster would also be appreciated for her work as a Speech-Language Pathologist. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.