October 27th, 2011
Dr Seuss app
Review by Miranda West, Kids Editor
iPod Touch app iPad app iPhone app
Features: narration by four different voice actors, custom music and sound, and original artwork with enhanced colour
Production credits: Oceanhouse Media, Inc.
Launch date: 27 September 2011
The upside of rediscovering ‘lost stories’ by a well-loved author like Dr Seuss these days is that there is so much more to talk about than simply cover design and a refreshed imprint page. Things like ‘multi-platform release’, ‘scene-by-scene custom background audio’ and ‘what would X want to see in a book app if he were alive today?’
Presumably Michel Kripalani and his team at Oceanhouse Media discussed all of these things when tasked with developing an app alongside the hardback release of Dr Seuss’s The Bipplo Seed and Other Lost Stories (Random House). And it’s a big task – these 7 Seussian tales haven’t seen the light of day since the 1950s, and even then their exposure was limited to readers of Redbook magazine. Not only that, these days the Dr Seuss market is as buoyant as ever with over 450,000 copies of The Cat in the Hat sold in 2009 alone, outselling the majority of newly-published children’s books. No pressure then.
So with largely unseen material and an entirely new generation of readers with a fondness for all-things Seussian – thanks in part to the 2003 film adaptation of The Cat in the Hat with Mike Myer’s brilliantly-acerbic portrayal of the Cat – it’s only right that material like this should be handled with care.
The Bippolo Seed and Other Stories was produced in association with Dr Seuss Enterprises who work hard to protect the integrity of the brand and ensure that characters are not licensed to anyone who would ‘round the edges’.
So does this digital adaptation remain true to these guiding philosophies and manage to entertain and engage a 21st century audience of screen-swiping kids?
Time and thought have been invested in this app and it shows. There is no melodrama – à la Mike Myers – rather the words, sound and images are a gentle blend that just…works. In fact, for this reason, the app was a very pleasant surprise. We like the auto-play mode best as the voice actors are superb and word-highlighting allows children to follow the text. The illustrations gently pan in and out, often different crops of the same picture which, rather than feeling repetitive and boring, simply draws your attention back to the words and story.
There are 6 other stories included: The Bear, the Rabbit and the Zinniga-Zanniga, Gustav the Goldfish, Tadd and Todd, Steak for Supper, The Strange Shirt Spot, and The Great Henry McBride.
The titles alone remind us of Ted Geisel’s rare talent as a children’s storyteller. Interestingly he never had any of his own children, and would famously say: ‘You have ’em; I’ll entertain ’em.’ And we’re pleased to say that entertaining children of all ages is something this beautifully-produced adaptation does in bucket loads.
Other Dr Seuss apps from Oceanhouse Media:
The Cat in the Hat (7 April 2011, £2.49)
Green Eggs and Ham (27 September 2010, £2.49)
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (9 March 2011, £2.49)
Dr Seuss’s ABC (8 June 2011, £2.49)
You can follow Oceanhouse Media on Twitter @oceanhousemedia and Random House Children’s Books @randomhousekids