Bottom Line: A calming, gentle story that introduces young children to the sights and sounds of a hair salon by accompanying little Luca, the Brown-Eyed Boy with Magic Eyelashes, on his first visit.
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Haircuts can be a traumatic experience. Some kids have extreme sensory defensiveness and just can't stand to have their heads touched. Others have difficulty tolerating the buzzing of the clippers. My own son was once one of these kids. He cringed so much during a cut, the stylist finally put down her scissors half way through and said she couldn't continue. A well thought out social story like Luca Lashes and His First Haircut may have helped save Dean from a terribly lopsided new ‘do.
Luca's story by developer Luca Lashes, LLC in conjunction with Flying Word begins with him waking from a nap and pulling on his hair which his mommy has said is too long. Luca is of indeterminate age. He sleeps in a big boy bed but plays with plastic keys while riding in his carseat. I suppose his age is deliberately vague since the age at which children are exposed to the same firsts as Luca may vary wildly.
The tale of his salon visit is short and has only two lines per page. It's told in rhyme, but some of the couplets are a bit forced. The story is told from a third person narrator’s point of view. Luca's mom tries to prepare him for the visit by telling him about clippers and spray bottles, but he is unsure what those even are. Fortunately the app has pictures of each. Each step of the trip to the salon from putting on the apron to seeing hairs falling on the floor, is described and pictured through carefully drawn illustrations and helpful interactive elements. Luca survives the trim and happily looks forward to his next visit.
Narration and text are available in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Chinese versions which can be selected from the menu. The menu also has a section about the authors, an option to leave feedback through email, and a link to the publisher, FlyingWords’ website.
The app features narrated autoplay or the option to read for your child. The words are highlighted as they are read but the text is impossibly small even on the largest setting. It is adjustable from a six point font up to maybe 12 point. I have no idea why the print is so small. I couldn't read the credits even with my stylish granny glasses perched at the end of my nose.
I don't care for the autoplay in this instance. The whole point of the app is to discuss the situation and assuage fears; so, it feels much too rushed with the pages turning automatically as soon as the narration completes. There is a pause button in the top left of the screen, but an option to control page turns oneself would be preferable. There are interactive elements on most pages so hitting the pause button is required in order to take advantage of everything.
The interactions include clipper buzzing, turning lights on and off, stylist chairs that go up and down and clock hands that turn. Tapping Luca's mom gives kids a chance to actually hear her call the salon to schedule an appointment. Luca's bedspread is even more magical than his long lashes which he blinks when he is afraid or unsure. One cool effect is the feeling the car is moving as Luca's mom drives him to the salon. While nice and somewhat in a 3D vein, the effects in no way approach those found in The Magnificent Travelling Palace which also boasted use of 3D.
The publisher's splash screen bears the logo See Hear Touch. Their books claim to have enhanced audio and 3D effects. These don't seem to be the strongest selling features of Luca Lashes and His First Haircut. PicPocket Books and iStorytime do a much more polished job of transferring an author and illustrator's concept into an engaging high quality app.
The app includes an extra not found in many ebooks - a parents section. This page is narrated as well which is strange since most parents can read. The authors offer some tips for making the book an effective social story and creating a positive first experience.The comments also give some ideas for scheduling a haircut. Providing links to kid friendly salon chains would be more helpful than the generic tips to bring a camera and keep the first lock for the baby book. This section would also be more useful if accessible from the menu since the book does not have the option to skip pages.
The text makes clear Luca relies on his magic eyelashes to give him the confidence and strength to get through challenging situations. Many children do well with a security blanket of sorts, but I wonder if kids with pale, thin lashes will feel less confident. The parent notes don't offer any suggestions to build a child's self-confidence with his own unique special magic.
The developer's website has additional material available for download. There is an introduction to Luca's family including his dog Pete. Luca lives in a cosmopolitan area as evidenced by pictures of the ethnically diverse people he encounters during his new experiences. There are some coloring pages, connect the dots, and spot the difference pages that can be printed off as well. Including these in the apps would be better since many won't take the time to seek out the website and part of the beauty of iDevices is being paperless.
Jill Goodman's son Dean now loves his tattooed, pierced, rainbow-colored hair stylist at Super Cuts. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.