Bottom Line: A nice little story aimed at reducing the fear and trepidation that children can have about new experiences. Aimed at 0-4 year olds but contains a parents' section with tips on kids' dental visits as well.
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Luca Lashes and His First Trip to the Dentist, by developer Luca Lashes, LLC in conjunction with Flying Word, is the third app in the Luca series of ebooks dealing with new experiences. These books are a great concept and really helpful for children who are fearful about new things. I was immensely grateful that this particular book didn't introduce anything that might have caused children who didn't have fears to start with, to start thinking that maybe they should! For example, my far too suggestible daughter had no fear of the dark until she read a book about a little girl who was scared of the dark at bedtime. So have no fear as this book doesn't introduce anything specific for kids to be frightened about.
In this outing, the third in the series, it's time for Luca to get his teeth checked, so off to the dentist he must go. He knows this because it's clearly marked on the calendar on the fridge which he is pictured looking at with some trepidation on the first page. His body language and expressions are captured really well by the illustrator - his rigid stance and tightly clenched fists before entering the dentist's office tell a story even when his face isn't visible. Luca overcomes his initial fear of the grandmotherly looking dentist with his magical eyelashes, which when blinked, make him brave. The rest of the story, told after he has done his blinking, is full of smiles and giggles - the dentist experience is a success.
The story itself is told in rhyming couplets and won't win any literary awards but does the job intended. The narration is autoplay only - there is no actual 'read it myself' option, though this can be achieved by activating the pause button at the top of each page. I would recommend this alternative as the pace in the built-in autoplay mode is too fast - the narration ends, the page turns very quickly and the narration starts up again. There's no time to cognate what's happened on each page, or even to play with the interactive features. It all feels very rushed and this short story is over very quickly. There's text highlighting while the story is being read, but as there's no natural pause at the page turns, this isn't going to be very helpful for young readers.
There is some very cute interactivity included throughout the book - the animal magnets on the fridge let out a veritable menagerie of jungle sounds and the boat and fish on Luca's his shirt are fun to play with too. The screen tilt animation, activated by dragging your finger around on the screen, adds interest to an otherwise stationary page. I did, however, continually find myself ending up on the next/previous page because I would inadvertently activate the swipe page turn function while I investigated the interactive items. The page turn arrows themselves are often positioned too close to an interactive object, and I was forever bumping these as well.
There is a menu (which can be activated on every page but the home page) which offers a few different options for the reader. The story can be read (both text and narration) in English, French, Italian and Spanish. There is also the option to change the font size, but the small font is absolutely miniscule and only the largest is actually readable. Be aware that there are external links within the menu. A pop-up box appears occasionally suggesting that you rate the app on iTunes. While this is something seen frequently in adult apps, it's not appropriate in a children's one and I found it incredibly annoying.
The 'suggestions for parents' page at the end of the story offers some good suggestions, both about dental care and ways to approach a first dentist visit. This feature included in each book of the series is valuable and really needs to be expanded upon.
There are colouring sheets and other activities available on the Luca Lashes website, which is accessible through the menu links. While these are a nice touch, it would be more useful to have these integrated into the app as the internet isn't a place that young children can navigate as safely as they can an app on the iPad.
Children are incredibly suggestible and this is a very gentle and positive way to introduce a new experience, but what this ebook really needs is a 'read to me' option. As 'firsts' can be really challenging for children, the beauty of this book is really in the opportunity to approach the new experience by discussing the processes presented in the book with a parent.
Eleanor Holland had a troublesome wisdom tooth removed earlier this year and it was, quite frankly, not as scary as she had expected. She should have read this book and got to the dentist before it became such a problem. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.