What had initially drawn me to The Very Hungry Bear (iPhone and iPad) book app (by We Are Wheelbarrow) is the simple but appealing artwork that hinted of some nature-themed story revolving around a hungry bear. Immediately upon opening the app on my iPad, I was pleasantly greeted by some peppy, but easy-going music with an unhurried quality, along with a big brown bear holding a fork in his hand while staring nose to nose with a white polar bear clutching an armful of fish — I think I know who the hungry bear is in this children’s storybook. The illustrated artwork throughout the book is fresh and unfussy, which encouraged me to want to look a little deeper — to the next page — and the next.
As the storyline goes, the reason that the big brown bear is cranky is because he’s been fishing for quite awhile for his daily meal, and doesn’t seem to have any luck catching anything, well, that is until he catches an iceberg with a likeable polar bear on top, who apparently has had no problem catching all the nearby fish. The friendly polar bears offers to share and even to give them all to the big brown bear if he can help him find a place to stay. So, being a hungry bear, he agrees to help and off they go on a not-so-easy journey to find just the right home for the polar bear. I won’t ruin the story, but let’s just say that the brown bear has made a new friend — but he’s still a hungry bear in the end.
The book’s navigation and user interface are very well thought out, well defined, and easy to use. It contains: Read to Me, Read Myself, Guide, Index, and About — which clearly explain everything you could possibly need to know about this iPad book. The book was very enjoyable to listen to thanks to the professional-sounding male voice over done by the narrator, possibly due to the accent and personality he delivers to both the narration and character parts. One feature that I especially like is in the Read Myself. There is the opportunity to record your own voice (press the microphone icon) and hear it read back to you (press headphone icon). This is great for a variety of reasons: a child can hear his or her own reading improvement done over time by recording and re-recording his or her own voice, or it can become a cherished book read to a child by a special family member or friend, especially if this person is away or no longer with him or her.
Another “attention-to-detail” thing that stood out to me about this book was the mix of text font size (that added visual interest to the reading), as well as the emphasis on some bolded words; but what made the story most appealing was the use of word rhyming intertwined throughout the story that made it a lot of fun to read aloud and hear narrated. There are a few animations on every page, along with some fun interactive opportunities. I loved discovering that I could make the eyeballs of both bears sway back and forth (mimicking my finger movements) on the opening page, as well as making numerous wriggling fish leap from the bears’ grasps by tapping on them — along with many other amusing interactions. There seems to be a nice balance of animations and interactions that don’t overwhelm the story, or the child. But, this interactive book isn’t just about telling an entertaining story with a character building message, there is a sort of look and find bonus game where kids will have fun discovering the 6 hidden fish throughout the 16 pages of this amusing story — if all 6 fish are found, at the end of the story there is a cute igloo surprise.
Overall, I found The Very Hungry Bear to be a simple and charming, quality book that contains pleasant sounds and artwork, a good message, as well as a fun story presentation style (with engaging rhyming words) that is sure to engage young children — maybe even sparks some giggles from everyone reading this iPad Book app. At a $4.99 price point, some may find it a little steep compared to other books, but I do think the overall quality and voice recording function does provide added value. What do you think?
The Very Hungry Bear iPad App Download