Bottom line: Great for toddlers and preschoolers, this app brings together five books illustrated by a Caldecott Medal winner. It's fun, colorful and includes some very catchy tunes. Definitely worth a look if your little one is an animal lover.
If you would like to purchase Simms Taback ($6.99 iPad only) or try one of the individual books in the collection ($2.99 each), please use one of the following links:
Simms Taback sounds like a location in the Australian outback, but the name refers to an American graphic artist as well as author and illustrator of children's books. His accomplishments included: winning the Caldecott Medal in 2000 for Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, the Caldecott Honor in 1998 for There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and being the designer of the very first Happy Meal box for McDonalds, in 1977. Mr. Taback died on December 25th, 2011 so it's a fitting tribute that, at the time of the first anniversary of his death, five books he illustrated have just made their debut in the App Store. All the books in the app were illustrated by Mr. Taback but the author of three of the books is Harriet Ziefert, an elementary school teacher who has also written several hundred books for young children.
Simms Taback children's Book Collection is brought to the App Store by Blue Apple Books in conjunction with CJ Educations, the developer of Play 123, an app that is in our Top 100 Free Apps list as well as my list of Top Ten Free Apps for Autistic Kids. The collection contains five stories about animals: Safari Animals, City Animals, Who Said Moo?, Where is My Baby? and Wiggle! Like an Octopus.
Safari Animals and City Animals are the two books that were both illustrated and authored by Simms Taback. They are guessing games involving exotic animals like zebras and hippos in the Safari version and urban animals in its City counterpart. Who Said Moo? stars a curious rooster who is running around interrogating all the animals on the farm in order to find out which one said Moo. Where is My Baby? also takes place on the farm but in this one mother animals are trying to find their little ones. Wiggle! Like an Octopus aims to get children out of their seats and imitate the movements of ocean creatures.
Upon opening the app your child will see a bookshelf with the five storybooks on its shelves. Simply tap on a book to read it. Also on this homepage is some information on the books, Simms Taback, Blue Apple Books and CJ Educations. There are links here to the publisher and developer's websites which I would prefer to see in a Parents-only section. The same is true of the More tab which will take you directly to the developer's other apps in iTunes. A Parents-only section would be an area that children cannot access by simply tapping a button. It can either be protected by a lengthy press and hold or a password.
Once you or your child has selected a book to read, you then see the book's home page. From here you can select either auto play or read to me options and each app also has a Song Time and Activity section. When reading a book, if you or your child taps on the bookmark on the top left of the screen, a drop down menu enables you to return to the homepage or to jump to either a particular page, Song Time, or the Activity section. If you would like to read the book to your child then you can tap the sound bubble button to turn off narration and there is also a button to press so music can be muted.
The Song Time section is exactly what it sounds like - the words of the book are put to music and your child watches a short animated video of the song. Words are highlighted as they are sung. The Activities in each book are in line with the subject matter of the story. So, in Safari and City Animals your child is shown a small portion of the animal and they have to guess what it is. In Who Said Moo, they have to tap on the right animal when presented with that animal's noise. There's a Mother-baby matching exercise in Where's My Baby and in Wiggle! Like an Octopus your child can select an animal and try and move the way the animal moves.
What did I like about this app?
- The content is perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers. Taback's illustrations are described on his official website as "naive". Some might think them very crudely drawn but they are designed to appeal to the youngest children in particular with their simple shapes and bright, primary colors. They look spectacular on the iPad.
- The app's production values are top notch. The narrators and music are excellent and the songs are really catchy.
- Words are highlighted when read which is great for the acquisition of early reading skills.
- I loved the drop-down menu enabling you or your child to jump to a favorite part of the book or hop to a different section altogether.
- I could not get the mute button for the music to work. If the app is used by teachers or therapists in particular, then the option to be able to mute the sound is a very important one to have functioning.
- In read to me mode, the interactivity is minimal which, given the age range and all the other things going on like music and sound effects, I think is perfectly appropriate. However, I sometimes found it tough to work out if there was interactivity on a page or not. I would wait and see if anything happened then start randomly tapping all over the page. Some visual cues would be helpful here to ensure that children who are enjoying the app alone do not get frustrated.
- The activity in Who Said Moo? is undertaken at a pretty fast speed. Given the target range of the readers I think that the animals should be on screen for a little longer. I found the activity in Wiggle! Like an Octopus a bit lame - it just repeated the content of the book but was less interesting.
- The app costs $6.99 and two of the books - Wiggle! Like an Octopus and Where is My Baby? can be bought separately for $2.99 each. Given that the collection contains five books which also include songs and activities, I wouldn't call the app expensive, but for me to describe it as good value it would need to be at a lower price point.
This review was written by Deanne Shoyer who really enjoyed wiggling like an octopus as part of her background research for this review. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.