I love reading stories to my children. We read a couple of stories most nights, and we often read and explore eBook apps together at other times during the day. The interactive elements of eBooks can add meaning to text and bring a lot to the reading experience. Still, when you are trying to settle and calm your children, you might not want them tapping all over the screen. At those times, you need a story that is simple with not much fuss. Today I am reviewing an eBook app that fits this category, and is one my children have come to love.
Far to the North by Gina Ricci, is simple story about polar bears, and how they spend their day before settling down for the night. The beautiful illustrations are enchanting, and the narration is clear and expressive. The background music plays seamlessly through the app, and adds to the relaxing tone of the story. Slideshow-like in operation, the only interactivity you will get is swiping to turn the pages. There are some beautiful, subtle animations that form part of the illustrations, but there is nothing to be tapped or dragged on the pages. The story is not Christmas-related, but it does seem to fit the whole “North Pole” theme that seems to be prevalent at this time of year.
- Beautiful illustrations and story by author and illustrator, Gina Ricci
- Subtle animations – the stars twinkle, the snow falls softly, and the Northern lights put on a beautiful show.
- Narration – The clear, expressive narration with an English accent by Madeline Ricci is a delight to listen to. If you or your child prefer to read aloud, Narration can be turned off.
- Gentle background music plays seamlessly through the story. You can’t turn this off, but I can almost guarantee you won’t want to.
- Text is highlighted as read. This is a great feature that is supportive of early readers as it helps them to link the spoken to the written word. Text highlighting can be turned off.
Far To The North doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it doesn’t need them. The lack of interactive elements is a plus when you are trying to settle a cranky child down with a story. When I first opened the app, I had a cranky, over-tired toddler on my lap, and he settled down immediately. The music was soothing, and the illustrations caught his attention. Apart from the odd giggle when the polar bear was swimming and playing, he was quiet and was happy to listen to the story three or four times in a row.
My other children, aged from 5 to 10, also loved the story when I read it to them at bedtime, and it has been requested a few times over the last couple of weeks. When I ask my children what it is about the book that they love, it always comes down to the illustrations, which are truly beautiful. As we read the book, my children happily discussed the pictures and it also lead to some research on the Northern Lights. Northern Lights, along with snow, ice and freezing weather in General, are something beyond our experience here in our tropical climate, however books such as this one give us a glimpse into life in a different part of the world.
I am a fan of interactive elements, but as I mentioned, I don’t think this app needs them. Instead, my wish list focuses on supportive features for early readers.
- It would be great to tap individual words and hear them spoken aloud. This would be great for those children who like to read by themselves, but who struggle with the odd word. You can then play language games with the text, such as finding words with particular phonic elements, or sight words.
- A repeat button to hear the narration again might be handy for times when children are distracted and miss the narration. At the moment, you need to switch to a different page and back gain to hear the narration repeated.
- It might be useful for some to have an option to turn off the background music. While I love it, I know a boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder who finds some music uncomfortable and distracting.
- My last wish is for more books by Gina Ricci. We loved this story and we don’t get tired of looking at such beautiful pictures.
Normally I’d choose a traditional book for sleep time, but if you are out and about, having Far to the North on your iPhone or iPad means you would have access to the perfect “sleepy book” every time. With all the craziness that comes with the end of the year, I think we’ll be reading it a lot.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Pickpocket Books for giving me this app to review. The views expressed above are my honest opinions of this Far to the North. I own 11 other of PicPocket Books that I have purchased, and one that was given to me as a gift by a third-party. PicPocket eBook apps all have the same kinds of features as this eBook, although some have a couple of interactive elements, such as sounds that are activated through touch. There are lots of stories to choose from (I only own a small sample!) and there is a variety of authors and illustrators. You’ll also find books that are suitable for different ages, and some in different languages. Books are available for iPhone and iPad, and are usually priced between 99 cents and $3.99. I’m only sorry I haven’t gotten around to reviewing others in the series, but hopefully next year will see some published on my blog.
- The Tradition of Reading during the Holidays (babyzone.com)