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Paddington for the iPad

iPhone app iPad app iPod Touch app
Features: Features a choice of a bedtime narrator
Production credits: Harper Collins
Launch date: 7 December 2011

Legend has it that Michael Bond bought the original Paddington bear from Selfridges one snowy Christmas Eve as a ‘stocking filler’ for Mrs Bond. Now, many Christmases later, Paddington has undergone another transformative experience. For the first time, this small brown bear – and national treasure – can be enjoyed on our iOS devices.

A Bear Called Paddington was originally released in 1958 and, like all classic children’s literature, continues to charm new generations. There is something terribly British about Paddington, which I was reminded about when I looked at the app. He’s like a charming old gent – impeccable manners but easily flummoxed and prone to stubborness. This ‘little old man’ aspect of his character is, of course, what makes him so adorable and entertaining as he is thrown into all manner of situations. So how does he cope with ‘going digital’?

What strikes you most about this app is its beauty and simplicity. HarperCollins and Bold Creative have clearly worked hard to preserve the essence of the original book. The charming illlustrations by R.W. Alley remain untouched (to the untrained eye) except for the merest hint of animation – the occasional flicker of emotion from Mr and Mrs Brown – a raised eyebrow, the blink of an eye. While Paddington, rightly, is treated to more sophisticated enhancement as he raises his hat, moves his head, eats a bun or gives a wave. The end result is quite magical.

The enhancement prompts are brilliantly child-friendly – a Christmasey sprinkle of gold stars. But they don’t all trigger animation. Some are minor sound effects – background noise in the station or on the street, for example – or a single musical note. The latter may be met with mixed reactions, especially from people like me who were expecting more dialogue or movement.

As is the case with the original Paddington books, most pages contain quite a large amount of text (for this adaptation, word highlighting could have been a nice addition in the ‘Read to Me’ option, helping children to follow the narrator). And for those that find the text too intrusive and simply want to listen, a touch of the ‘paw’ icon makes the text box slide out of view. Navigation is via arrows at the edge of the screen or a single dotted line at the bottom which also shows your progress through the book – although the latter felt slightly redundant once it became clear that you couldn’t jump to the corresponding page.

Some the key features of the app are more to do with the capabilities of your iOS device than the digital adaptation of the story, and they really add value to the overall package. You (or a visiting grandparent, for example) can record a reading of the story so your child has a choice of bedtime narrator. Another nice touch is the option for readers to drop a photograph of themselves into the Paddington picture frame and email to family and friends.

Paddington for the iPad is a beautifully-crafted app produced by a team that clearly respects the author, illustrator and one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature. And we’re told that there is more to come in 2012. Meantime if you do happen to have a new iPad 2 for Christmas, please look after this Bear (app).

Paddington Bear app

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