Today, I’d like to talk about two more apps from Ruckus Media in their Rabbit Ears Entertainment series, The Velveteen Rabbit and John Henry. Both are universal apps for the iPad and iPhone. The format of the two apps is similar. Each offers three choices upon opening the app – “Watch the Video,” “Read the Book,” and “Read and Record.”
“Read the Book” is what it sounds like – the stories are offered along with lovely illustrations. Pages are turned with a familiar page swipe. Unlike some other children’s book apps for the iPad and iPhone, there are no interactive elements or sounds when this mode is chosen. There are occasional subtle animation effects as new text slides into place over an illustration. The formatting and sizing of the images is excellent, especially on the iPad. The end result is an experience much like reading a traditional children’s book, which can be a nice break from the noise and action that can at times be distracting in some other apps. This format makes these apps perfect for bedtime stories, when you want to calm children down rather than rile them up.
“Read and Record” lets you record yourself or your child reading each page. Then the book can be played back with your voice reading the story.
“Watch the Video” is the really unique feature of these two apps. They feature celebrity narrators narrating the story over the illustrations, but with additional animations and effects (particularly with John Henry, which has some nice train animations).
As for the stories themselves, The Velveteen Rabbit is the classic children’s tale of the toy rabbit that can become real if a child truly loves him. This charming, bittersweet story is sort of a precursor to more modern tales like Toy Story about toys having a life of their own. The narration by Meryl Streep is, as one would presume, superb. The soothing background music suits the beautiful illustrations.
John Henry is the folktale of the strongest man who ever lived, 45 pounds at birth and born with a hammer in his hand. He can drive steel stakes like no other man, but has a showdown against a new-fangled steam powered hammer. Denzel Washington narrates, with background music by B.B. King. The effect is upbeat and well-suited to the mythical central character.
Both apps are well-done, preserving the charm of the classic stories while making good use of the capabilities of a new medium. The file sizes are large (281 MB for John Henry and 366 MB for The Velveteen Rabbit), so make sure you allow enough room on your device. They are available for $1.99 each from the Apple App Store.