Many writers and publishers are investigating the potential that Apps have to tell stories with digital media. Some supplement a book, some are digital versions of the book, and publishers are continuing to try and find new ways to catch the attention of young digital natives and their parents (along with their many, many media devices).
While I'm definitely not looking for more time in front of a screen for my kids, it is part of the world we live in today. So, I do like when I find a particularly good app for the kids to enjoy. For my Youth Programs class, we had to review an educational/literature-based app. Here's my review for Don't Let the Pigeon Run this App! based on the books by Mo Willems:
“Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App!” By Mo Willems (and you!)
This app is based on the character of Pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, created by three-time Caldecott honoree Mo Willems. The app is sold by Disney Publishing Worldwide Applications and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app currently requires iOS 5.1 or later to run, and is 263 MB. It is rated for ages 4 and up. The app is $5.99.
The “Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App!” is designed for both entertainment and to encourage storytelling and imagination. In the app, children can create their own version of the Pigeon story along with the help of the character of the Bus Driver. For the Create Your Own Story option, there are three developmental levels: Egg, Chick, and Big Pigeon. In the Egg level, the stories are already created and the kids listen to them. In the Chick level, the child is given a choice of responses to choose from to create the story. There is also a Read button, which will let kids read along with the stories in the Egg and Little Chick levels. In the Big Pigeon level, the children are allowed to give their own range of responses to questions by speaking answers into the device’s microphone. Kids can save up to six of the Big Pigeon stories to listen to at a later time.
In addition to the Create Your own Story game, there is also a Draw the Pigeon game. In this portion, kids use their finger to draw a pigeon (or whatever they want). If they want to learn how to draw the Pigeon himself, there is a very easy-to-follow tutorial hosted by Mo Willems. Once finished with their drawings, kids have the option to save the picture to the device’s photo library.
There is also a “Boring Stuff” section. This section includes directions to the apps games, as well as copyright and publisher information, and information on Mo Willem’s Pigeon books. This section is the only one that includes any sort of advertising, and it does offer the option to share an email address to receive information about new mobile apps and offers from Disney books. It does require entering your birth date, as a precaution to keep people under the age of 18 from signing up, but as in many apps, this information could be easily falsified. Tie-ins to Willem’s other characters, such as the Duckling or Elephant and Piggie are also mentioned in some of the games.
This app is very kid-friendly, of professional quality, and easy to use. It fits in nicely with lessons on ways to develop and write stories, and encourages kids to have fun using their imagination and creativity. It receives high reviews from app review sources such as Curious Little Apps, Little eLit, Common Sense Media, and the Apple app store. The graphics are simple, appealing, and done in the style of the Pigeon books, so children familiar with the books will recognize Willem’s drawing style. For those kids who haven’t read the books, this app will most likely compel them to seek out Pigeon’s print stories as well.
The app is interactive in that it encourages kids to come up with their own new versions of the Pigeon story. It requires the kids to shake the device and speak into the microphone, as well as tap the screen. Most of the technical issues seem to stem from customers having trouble getting the microphone to work, but that question is addressed on the app store page.
This app could be easily enjoyed at library storytime, from Toddler to Elementary age, in place of or in addition to any of the Pigeon/Mo Willems storybooks. Depending on the technology available (is there a microphone that works?) and the age of the audience, any of the three levels of the app could be used in a group setting. It can also be used in a classroom or school library. This app could be used on in-house library iPad devices. Although that does bring up a concern in my mind because of the create your own story feature. I am guessing that saved versions would need to be checked from time to time to make sure that no inappropriate or vulgar phrases were recorded and saved on the device. I know this can be an issue with some publicly used apps/games from time to time. So while it could work in a general computer setting, I would think it would be more advantageous in a storytime or small group setting.
Personal anecdote: Our family discovered this app when my son was four, and he still absolutely loves it at the age of six. I would have thought the novelty of it would have worn out, but the ability to continually create new and original stories keeps the appeal alive. Even my teenagers love to get on this app. It is an especially fun one for multi-age levels to play together and come up with silly stories, so I like that aspect as well.
"Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!" App Store. Apple Inc., updated 1 May 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dont-let-pigeon-run-this-app!/id459749670?mt=8>.
Healy, Christopher. "Don't Let The Pigeon Run This App! - App Review." Don't Let The Pigeon Run This App! App Review. Common Sense Media, 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews/dont-let-the-pigeon-run-this-app>.
Jones, Bradley. "IPads in Storytime: Skokie Public Library Primary Time." Little ELit. Little ELit, 10 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://littleelit.com/2013/02/10/ipads-in-storytime-skokie-public-library-primary-time/>.
Stewart, Libby. "Curious Little Apps: Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App." Curious Little Apps: Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App. Curious Little Apps, 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://curiouslittleapps.com/dont-let-the-pigeon-run-this-app/>.