Violet is back in the second installment of the Violet series of children's interactive storybooks for the iPad, Violet and the Mysterious Black Dog (US$2.99) from My Black Dog Books. I liked the first one quite a lot, and I found this one to be even better. Once again, Allison Keeme does a phenomenal job of rendering the world of Violet and her family. Violet's world is attractive, colorful, whimsical, and consistent.
Any child familiar with the first Violet book will immediately feel comfortable and get right into the narrative. Finding the mysterious black dog that was teased in the first book is the basis of this second volume. The story is simple and quite appropriate for ages four and up. Violet dons her mask and assumes her alter ego as Phantom Girl, going off in search of clues and hoping to find the black dog. When she inevitably does find the dog, a lesson is taught on how children should approach and deal with stray dogs, including a citation from the Humane Society.
The 19-page book is a great technical improvement over the previous offering. In the first book, there was scant interactivity and the potential of children getting frustrated by having to tap on everything to get infrequent payoffs. In this book, the important tappable objects are defined by dotted yellow lines, kind of like a treasure map. When an object is tapped, it produces a detailed enlargement of the object. For slightly older or more inquisitive kids, there are unmarked tappable items on the majority of pages that kick off actions or sounds, like a lamp lighting or the buzzing of bees.
There are also nice little animations that often appear, such as the bouncing of Violet's little sister's ball, or the mysterious dog popping his head into the page. I especially enjoyed one page where you are told to help Violet find clues, but the child can find a clue that Violet doesn't find, bringing the reader deeper into the story and adding a level of interactivity and involvement that was missing in the first book. Another welcome addition is that there is a speaker icon in the upper left corner of each page. When tapped, it plays a recording of Allison Keeme reading the page, and her reading is excellent.