At first glance, the new Monster Isle app looks like just another simple way to entertain your kids. But dig deep into this digital children’s book and you’ll find a wealth of treasures.
Written by children’s book author Oliver Chin (the Tales from the Chinese Zodiac series) and illustrated by animation artist Jeff Miracola (Batman Beyond, Animorphs), this iPad book combines the best of old-school analog reading–strong storytelling and compelling graphics–with the best of digital interactivity. The app’s publisher Immedium is a San Francisco-based company known for its dynamic, culturally diverse and, most importantly, fun catalog of kid’s books and digital media.
Here, kids can choose to read along with a narrator or turn off the storyteller option and read the words alone. What’s great about the latter option is that you can, at any time, touch a word and the narrator will read it aloud–this is a great tool for those children who are learning to read or occasionally struggle with unfamiliar or difficult words.
Monster Isle is the story about a family vacation gone wrong. The Summers family takes a boat ride; the book’s main character Finnegan is joined by his sister Anne Marie, their parents and their dog Howl. The boat is manned by a friendly skipper but the adventure quickly turns dangerous when the boat is caught in a sea storm. The captain tries to turn the boat around but, of course, has no luck.
What happens next is a whirlwind adventure across the high seas and onto a desert island. As the boat captain and family try to find help, they encounter a deadly volcano, mysterious jungle animals and quirky, mythical creatures–a giant abominable snowman, for starters–that try to stop our castaways from finding their way back home.
What I liked: Fun, whimsical illustrations that, if you tilt the iPad at a certain angle, have a cool, layered 3-D effect–almost like a pop-up book. I also like that you can choose to look at the book without any text–this encourages the reader to explore the pictures. Almost every object that you touch moves or makes a noise (tap on a bird to hear him squawk or tap on the volcano to see it rumble) and some even unlock keys to a map or clues to a bigger mystery. The goal here is to unlock all the keys and clues and discover what other stories lurk beneath the surface. I also loved the numerous pop culture references to Gilligan’s Island, Lost, etc–a nice bonus touch for parents.
What I didn’t like: Actually, other than wishing that the app contained more stories–an entire series of family adventures, perhaps–I was pleased with this app and would recommend it to any parent.
To buy or not to buy: If you’re looking for a teaching tool that’s both fun and functional, this is definitely worth the money. It will keep young readers entertained (and educated) for hours.
- App Name: Monster Isle
- Version Reviewed: 1.0
- Category: Books
- Developer: Immedium
- Price: $4.99