I had the opportunity to preview a new app from Ruckus Media (their other apps include The Night Before Christmas and The Velveteen Rabbit) called A Present for Milo: A Touch and Surprise Storybook. A Present for Milo is an interactive storybook style app aimed at children ages 2 through 5. The story follows Milo the cat chasing a mouse through a house, with a surprise at the end.
The illustrations in this story are delightful. The beautiful artwork from Mike Austin would be at home in a hardcover childrens’ book, and is a big step up from the graphics often seen in these types of apps. The app features animation and sound effects when different pictures are touched. There are a wide variety of effects, so that touching the same picture does not always invoke the same animation. The animations themselves are lovely, adding to the atmosphere of the story rather than distracting from it. In some storybook apps, animations and sound effects can feel tacked on to the story, but here they blend right into the rest of the artwork so that you feel that the illustrations themselves are moving. I especially enjoyed the interactive elements in the piano scene, with its ticking metronome, floating musical notes, and even the ability to play the keys on the piano.
I tested the app with help of my 5 year old and 2 year old. They both enjoyed the app, tapping on different pictures to see what would happen and giggling at the results. The animations do require you to wait for one to finish before another can start. I thought that might cause some frustration, but my 5 year old had no problems waiting, and my 2 year old didn’t seem to notice.
The story itself is a simple one, but there was enough going on to keep both of my children engaged. I would like to have seen an option to turn off the narrator’s voice to give my 5 year old the opportunity to read the words herself, as the words are within her reading level. Perhaps in a future update that feature could be added. The only technical issue I had with the app was that I wish it had the capability to bookmark the last spot read or to save its state so that you can return to where you left off. With a two year old, accidentally exiting apps happens on a regular basis. That can be frustrating when you are nearing the end of the story and have to go back through it from the beginning.
Overall, A Present for Milo is an appealing, polished app with beautiful illustrations and engaging animations that young children will enjoy. I would recommend it for children ages 5 and under.
A Present for Milo is out today, December 8, for the iPad. It can be found at the App Store. It is on sale for the first two weeks for $1.99.