Bottom line: Nice artwork let down by a story rife with problems. Parents - you can try a few pages of the story for free then buy the rest via in-app purchase if you like it.
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Teeny Tuca - The Roosters' Race Book, by iTmSense, is about a little rooster who runs a race to save a farm. The farm's regular rooster, Stutter, is sick and can't run so Stutter's wife takes Teeny Tuca in hand (or in-wing I guess) for training. If he wins the race then the prize will ensure the farm's financial security. If he fails, then the farmer, Mr. Willy, will lose the farm to the bank. The story also features Mr. Willy's family - his wife and two children, Paco and Lily.
A few pages of the story are free to download but you will need to spend 99 cents via in-app purchase if you want to read the entire 35 page book. The story supports both English and Portuguese language options and in addition to the book there is a section where you can dress Teeny up in different outfits which is cute. The book is nicely narrated but its biggest strength is the artwork which I found clean and colorful. It contains a Page menu and both Read to Me and Read it Myself options.
There were however a number of app features that were either poorly executed or completely absent:
• The app needs a good native-speaking English editor. The little rooster is referred to as Teeny Tuca throughout, apart from on the Home page where he is Teenny Tuca. Tough to recommend an app that has a typo in the title. I think a reference in the app to the town's major is meant to refer to the town's mayor. Cliches like "the evil clutches of" are used too often and some of the phrases sound very awkward for a children's story, for example: "Teeny Tuca’s physical size belied the scope of his bravery and determination."
• The animations and interactive noises are, in general, amateurish. A swanee whistle sound effect is used so often that, together with the banjo music playing on the home page, it sometimes felt like I was watching an episode of Benny Hill.
• Words are not highlighted as read.
• Items are not labelled when touched and there are no clues for how or when to activate interactive elements.
• The app starts as a cute story about a farm that fails to wake up because the rooster doesn't crow in the morning. We discover that Stutter Rooster is sick and then all of a sudden the tale takes a very serious turn: "If Stutter Rooster won the race, Mr. Willy would pay all the farm’s debts with the prize! It was Mr. Willy’s last hope to pay the bank and save the Rag Farm from ruin... What now?" The farm's debts and the possibility that Mr. Willy's family may lose their home is a recurrent theme and I can't help but think it's an issue that is a little too mature for young readers to process well.
• Along with the farmer's possible bankruptcy there are other aspects of the story that didn't seem to be best suited to a children's app. There is the implication that Stutter Rooster is sick due to late night partying, Mr. Willy at one point exclaims "Thank God" and one of the roosters in the race threatens Teeny Tuca with a vicious-looking metal beak, calling him a "loser". Again, I'm not sure this is content best suited to young kids.
• My biggest complaint about the app however is the caricatures and stereotyping it perpetuates. Examples are:
o Paco is integrated into the story but his sister Lily is a passive observer except when she is accompanying her mother shopping. The one time she speaks she gives Teeny Tuca a speech about it not being the winning but the taking part that counts.
o Mr. Willy does the farmwork while his wife, Mrs. Flora, shops and cooks. Even the chickens follow gender stereotypes - at the end of the story, Stutter Rooster becomes Teeny Tuca's coach so his wife can retire from coaching and have babies.
o The banker, Mr. Black, is an evil, money grubbing man who desperately wants to get his hands on Mr. Willy's farm.
Ordinarily I would say that a story featuring a character who doesn't let his size stop him, while being a little corny, might be worth a look. Parts of the story, including making Teeny a broccoli milk smoothie are rather amusing. In addition, with respect to the areas of concern I have in relation to this app, there are some features that could be added or remedied in an update. However, the gender and other stereotypes are embedded in the artwork and the storyline and are not something an update could resolve. Unfortunately, for that reason I don't think the artwork alone is sufficient to warrant a 'worth a look' rating for this app.
This review was written by Deanne Shoyer who is a tad teeny herself. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.