Friday, March 23, 2012


iSammy was created by Merx Global LLC for 4 to 8 year-olds and is an e-Book about Sammy the Suitcase. This e-Book differs from others in that it leaves a word blank on each page that you and child can fill in and record, taking the involvement with the story to a different place than if just reading a story. It also provides a boy or girl mode, which basically changes whether the boy or girl character in the story becomes a bigger character and more easily identified with. Kinda interesting, right? Price - Free (For now at least)

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPad.Requires iOS 3.2.2 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness: The story is about a suitcase that has travelled with a family on many trips but is then left in the attic, passed over for newer suitcases, but then finds a new purpose. So it allows for many opportunities for conversation - traveling, different types of vacations, feelings, etc. The fill in the blank feature really does amplify these opportunities. Parents have to help their child figure out what words are appropriate to finish the sentence and in so doing, could spark conversations of their own experiences. I also like the idea of having the boy or girl option to help your child identify better with the character in the book. Children can learn a little bit about how to take their own perspective - for example, a girl choosing the girl option could think about their own favorite toy or a girl choosing the boy option could learn about taking the perspective of others and think about what a boy's favorite toy would be as opposed to her own. 

But let me point out that this app really does have to be used with a parent. They will need help filling in the blank. More importantly, the app does not read to you, so someone who can read will need to be present. It would be nice if there was the option for it to be read, especially after everything has been filled out so folks can hear the complete story. In terms of usability, again, I think it requires an adult to help record the words and erase if they want to redo. Although I appreciate that this app almost forces a parent to be present, I'm sure parents would also appreciate the option for their child to independently use the app. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 6 years).

Balance: There is a lot going on here. There is a squirrel and a moose on every page that repeats your recordings in a funny voice. Otherwise, they have nothing to do with the story. There are also a lot of hotspots on each page, none of which really forward the story. Some make sense in that they show the functionality of the objects in the room (e.g. tapping on a light and it turns on), and others are purely just for fun (e.g., tapping on the suitcase makes it jump up). Several even just repeat throughout the pages, so it's not even anything new. In fact, there are so many hotspots that they often get in the way of turning the pages. I seriously found it quite frustrating to turn the pages - and maybe this was not just because of the hotspots. Perhaps, luckily, we have a parent present to help focus the child back on the story, but I think that all these other hotspots can take away from the co-reading conversation. Rating: 2/5

Sustainability: I at first thought this would be great in terms of sustainability, because you can erase the recordings and add in new words all the time. But then a closer look at the types of blank words left me thinking that it's really not all that flexible. Some of the blanks require pretty specific answers, and different answers don't really change the story all that much. I feel the story itself was written to help provide prompts for conversation, so as a story on it's own, it may not become a favorite, unless maybe you're a family that travels a lot and has lots of travel stories. Rating: 3.5/5

Parental Involvement: What I like most about this app is its approach to getting parents involved. Recording the words is a fun way to incorporate technology and also serve as prompts for conversation. Rating: 5/5

Total: 14.5 out of 20 - 3 stars

Disclosure - I received this app for free for review purposes.

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