Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Grimm's Rapunzel - 3-D Interactive Pop-up Book

Grimm's Rapunzel ~3-D Interactive Pop-up Book was created by Ideal Binary and is a modern twist of an old tale. For those of you who know me or know about my research, you'll know that I've done many studies with pop-up books. I actually just received the proof for an article on the very first study I ever did in graduate school which showed that young kids do not learn as well from pop-up books as they do from regular 2D books. After a few rejections over many years, the article should appear in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy in the coming months. Yay! So in honor of my first study, I wanted to review a pop-up app! Price: $3.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Developmental Appropriateness: You might be wondering how an e-book is pop-up on a 2D screen. Well, every other page or few pages, there's a 3D picture that looks like when you open up one of those fancy pop-up books. However, there are no tabs to pull or fuzzy textures to feel in the traditional pop-up kinda way. Instead, these pictures have simple interactive elements that are driven by the plot. So you can "grow" the flowers that Rapunzel's mother loved so much or pick up the music sheets Rapunzel's dropped from her tower. So do these elements distract kids from attending to the story as I found in my study? I actually don't think it will. First, the interactive elements mostly aren't frivolous and are more realistic. For example, to water the flowers, you would actually tap on the watering can and move it all over the soil as you would when watering plants. However, in a traditional pop-up book, you would not be able to do this. You might pull a tab that springs up the flowers. The action of pulling the tab has nothing to do with growing flowers. Second, the 3D pictures are totally separate from the text. So when the story is being read, either by the voice over or by a parent/adult, there is nothing to interact with on these text pages. Listen to the plot, then do an activity related to the plot, go read more plot. I like this. However, at the same time, it seems like two separate things - the text is for the parent, the activities for the children. The text itself is too advanced for a young reader, so someone needs to read it to them. There is also a lot of text on each page, with minimal pictures. The text does not highlight, so there is nothing for the child to follow. There are some words that are in a different color, but I'm not sure how they picked those words - they seem to have a wide range in difficulty, and it doesn't seem like they are sight words, or come from any reading list. Are they even meant to be vocabulary words? Or is the color there just to break up the text a bit? Also, they choose to have the text justified on both sides, leaving some weird spaces that they filled with random little icons. To little kids who can't read and are looking at a two-page spread with barely any pictures, I have a feeling they'll be looking at these little random icons rather than the text. Seems like the focus was the 3D pictures. Even in the demo video, you'll see that much of it is spent showing you the 3D pictures and not the "normal" pages. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 4 years of age). 

Balance: As I've mentioned, I like that the interactive elements are separate from the text. However, I'd like to see more emphasis on the text pages. Adding highlight, or at least make the text bigger so kids can follow along more easily. If the highlighted words were highlighted for a reason, some sort of explanation should be given. And get rid of those random things. Find better ways to break up the text that are useful. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: The story of Rapunzel has lived for many years, so in general, this should be a story kids still want to come back to. The 3D pictures are cool, even if the interactive features get repetitive after many readings. Rating: 4/5

Parental Involvement: The book lends itself to being a joint reading activity. The story is a familiar one for young kids, but it needs to be read to them. The 3D interactive parts are good opportunities to elaborate on the plot or relate elements back to real life. It's a fun activity to do together, but for parents looking to encourage their child to read, they will need to put more effort into guiding their child with the text. Rating: 4/5

Total: 16 out of 20 = 4 stars

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