For quite some time now, I have been a fan of OceanHouse Media’s Dr. Seuss bookshelf App. They make the well known, and the neglected, Seuss classics available for a digital world. While my family still prefers a trip to the library for the most part, having these titles available all on one device has been a big help on long trips. Books are being added to the collection all the time, and you can access a tentative schedule of titles on their website.
One of this year’s Spring additions, The Butter Battle Book, is a favorite of my husband’s. When we recently decided to explore the Zook-Yook world with our pre-schooler for the first time, we used the app instead of the book.
If you are not familiar with the tale, The Butter Battle Book tells of the long standing feud between the Yooks and the Zooks. Much like The Sneetchess, the difference between Yooks and Zooks is trivial. While the Yooks eat their bread with the butter side up, the Zooks eat their bread butter side down. In a not-too-cold-cold-war they develop weaponry that grows more and more extravagant in each incarnation, until they are quite ready to destroy each other.
“Grandpa!” I shouted. “Be careful! Oh, gee!
Who’s going to drop it?
Will you …? Or will he …?
“Be patient,” said Grandpa. “We’ll see.
We will see…”
They are left in a cliffhanger of a situation, each waiting to drop the bomb on the other. Now I’m sure my three year old didn’t pick up any of Theodore Geisel’s political views when we read this to him, but he did know that they were “being silly”.
Reading Dr Seuss with my children just makes me like the stories more. Where I see the world at large, they see their daycare friends, their buddies. Where I see the cold war, they see a fight about who has sneakers and who has crocs. I cant wait for Yertle the Turtle!
The Dr. Seuss bookshelf offers three options for each story:
- Read It Myself This option is most like a traditional book. Each page appears on the screen to be read by your child or youself. You swipe the screen instead of turning the page. When you touch part of the screen a voice tells you the name of the object you have touched: Zook, Yook, Butter etc, depending on the title you are reading. This can get extremely annoying if you are trying to read the book and all you hear is “Yook. Yook. Yook.” as little fingers reach for the screen. It is also exceptionally cute to hear that little voice repeat the words back to the narrator.
- Read To Me. This portion of the app offers you the opportunity to record yourself reading the book for later use. It has surprising clarity, and offers the chance for multiple family members to be involved, for example a different member of the family could read each page. I like this option despite never having been intrigued by the record-your-own storybooks that are so popular in Hallmark these days.
- Auto Play This option is the one favored by my son these days. The pages are turned for you, and as each word is spoken it is highlighted in a different color, allowing your child to follow along. Even when the story is in progress, it retains the functionality of the Read It Myself screen. When you tap the screen, the word pops up without interrupting the story and you are shown the word instead of hearing the word. You can select the app’s original narrator, or any of the pre-recorded voices from the Read To Me option.
One downside of auto play with regards to this particular book: the voice actor is a little too upbeat for such a heavy story. Think how awful The Grinch would have been with Alan Alda instead of Boris Karloff! Someone with a voice like William Morgan Shepherd would have been a much better sound for this war story.
The latest offerings from Oceanhouse seem to offer more fluidity of image on the page than previously. The story pans and zooms across the images, seemingly to focus more on the artwork. You get to see details for longer, but I’m a traditionalist at heart, and would prefer a static screen. In a similar vein, while my son loves the words popping out of the screen at him, I find them distracting. His is the opinion that truly counts, however.
For children who are bothered by this feature, it would be nice to have an off switch.
The Pinault parent pre-schooler test:
- Requested several nights in a row – check.
- Requested after being hidden from sight – check.
- Story retold by child while on a long car journey – no.
- Child acts out scenes from the book – no.
This will probable be a staple in our house for a short while, at least, though I doubt it will have the attention holding capabilities of his favorite Oceanhouse app, Little Critter. I haven’t been able to pinpoint why yet, but he loves that story app more than any of the others we’ve looked at.
Disclaimer: This title was received for review purposes.