July 11th, 2012
Bizzy Bear Builds a House
Review by Miranda West, Children's Editor
iPod Touch app iPad app iPhone app
Features: Encouraging children make an early connection between text and meaning
Production credits: Nosy Crow
Launch date: 21 June 2012
Following the success of Bizzy Bear on the Farm – the interactive picture book app aimed at 2-4 year olds, Nosy Crow have now released Bizzy Bear Builds a House.
Small children – particularly boys – love ‘stuff that moves’ and for this new app Nosy Crow have focused on movement and machines as Bizzy gets to work on a construction site. With plenty of opportunity to lift and lower the crane, pile up earth using the digger, saw, hammer and paint, it is a small boys’ paradise – a bit like Diggerland in Kent.
These are Nosy Crow’s first storybook apps to be based on existing, physical books. However the publisher is quick to point out that Bizzy Bear books haven’t simply been ‘squashed’ into the iPad. Indeed fans of the print version will appreciate the added-extras : original music and lively child narration, brand new artwork and text, and of course, plenty of interactive features.
Tom Bonnick, Nosy Crow’s digital project manager, says, ‘These were print titles which felt particularly suited to being adapted into apps. They are a board book format with tabs and sliders to push and pull, and so interactivity is already built into the story to some extent – they really lend themselves to child-participation.
‘The art style worked well for an app too: the books were drawn digitally, and Benji Davies, the illustrator, has a background in animation, which meant the transition to an iPad wasn’t a hugely difficult one to envision or implement.’
In addition, the Bizzy Bear board books have sold well internationally and have been translated into a number of languages. Both important considerations when developing new product for the app store’s global market. As for foreign language versions, Nosy Crow have forged relations with app partners who will release localised versions in French, German and Dutch.
Unlike Nosy Crow’s award-winning fairy tale apps, Bizzy Bear is aimed at a much younger, mostly pre-literate user. Bonnick continues, ‘I think the market for apps aimed at children in this age group is just as robust as those for emergent readers. There are a different set of expectations associated with apps for the younger audience – Bizzy Bear is a smaller story, visually-led, with a simple set of tasks and lots of encouragement throughout. Parents and grandparents seem to be equally enthusiastic about high-quality books apps for this age range.’
Something that will feature in all Nosy Crow apps from now on is word-tracking. As the text is read by the narrator, the relevant word is highlighted so early readers can follow or ‘read-along’. This feature may be lost on Bizzy Bear’s audience, however, it will encourage children make an early connection between text and meaning. Kate Wilson, managing director, adds ‘In this app, as in all of our apps, we’re encouraging children to link having fun with stories, and to link stories with text.’
Once small fingers have mastered the interactivity, this will be one app that is revisited time and again. Another brilliantly produced storybook app from Nosy Crow.