Although the print book has been out for more than a year, The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks by Jan and Mike Berenstain (US$2.99) has just hit the App store in time for Thanksgiving. This is the tenth in the series of Bear books released by Oceanhouse Media, and it employs the same excellent engine used by all their books. Instead of having one picture per page, the engine allows for lots of panning and zooming, so one picture can be used for multiple pages. I consider this a good idea since kids like to swipe pages, and although there are only 35 pictures in the book, it will take 108 page swipes to get to the end. This cinematic approach is very appropriate for this type of book since it allows the virtual camera to uncover parts of larger graphics when they are appropriate, keeping the story and the reader's interest flowing.
The story is appropriately simple. Papa Bear bartered some furniture for a few cases of Farmer Ben's best Apple Blossom honey along with Squanto the Turkey, who will stay at the farm until fattened and ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Sister Bear becomes attached to Squanto and wants to keep him as a pet. Her wish is eventually granted via a bit of Thanksgiving magic.
Like the rest of the Oceanhouse line, this is a universal app, and works in both portrait and landscape orientation. There are options to have it read to you, to read it yourself, or to auto play where the book gets read and pages turn themselves. The soundtrack is perfect as are the graphics. I only found one mistake. During a play the kids put on, a screen is shown with two word balloons and one is empty. I'm surprised at this oversight since every other Oceanhouse book I've read was technically perfect. I'm also surprised that you can't touch a word in the text and have it highlighted and spoken without the entire page being re-read. Many interactive children's books provide this function, and I would expect it to be coming to this series before too long. On the brighter side, Oceanhouse has increased the number objects that, when touched, display and speak the name of the graphic element. In fact, I couldn't find anything on any page that wasn't interactively touchable.
I consider this a very good app and one that will keep nearly all kids (in its demographic) interested and engaged for quite some time. Perhaps while the Thanksgiving meal is being prepared by frenzied adults who will probably appreciate the brief distraction.
Note: the Berenstain books are published by Zondervan Publishing, which sells Christian books, and often contain a (subtle) religious message. Just FYI.
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