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Gary’s Place is a delightful storybook app that tells the story of a young gopher who strikes out on his own. It’s a story of growing up, realizing what you have, and the dangers of wanting too much. Gary learns a valuable lesson in the happily-ever-after ending.
- Clear navigation tools
- Animations on most pages
- Read alone or narrated options
- Sound effects
- Clear and colorful illustrations
The story of Gary’s Place is very enjoyable. Nearly all children will be able to relate to wanting a place of their own as Gary does, and will be green with envy as they watch him build the perfect home. The story is very relatable and will touch nearly every child’s imagination. Technically, this app works very well. Animations are smooth, sound effects match the animations, and pages transition at a good pace.
The app would be enhanced by adding a few games or activities related to the story. As is, unless a child picks it as a “favorite,” children are likely to lose interest after a few viewings. One possibility might be to help Gary dig his home, where touching the screen opens up new rooms in his house. Another might be to decorate a room, using “stickers” from a gallery so that children could arrange furniture or other items as they wish.
Gary’s Place has several features that are perfect for emergent readers. The text itself is at a good level for beginners, ranging between first and second grade readability. There are several repeated phrases that young readers will enjoy. Users can easily choose to have the story narrated or to read the text themselves. It might be nice to have an option to switch the narrator on or off in each page, or to voice only words that are touched by the user to help a beginner with tough spots.
When the narration option is chosen, words change color as they are read aloud. They keep pace with the narrator, neither lagging behind nor running ahead, which is vital for a tool like this to be an effective learning and teaching aid. This system works very well to highlight text and help young learners start to recognize important words. It also fosters readiness skills, such as awareness of print and connections between alphabet letters and the sounds they make.
Gary’s Place is entertaining and fun, but may not have the staying power of other apps due to having no elements of surprise or interaction built in. Children would enjoy it for a few sessions, and perhaps return to it from time to time, but they are likely to quickly outgrow it.
Most pages have a hidden animation sequence, so users will be entertained by finding and activating it when they go through the first few times. Many of the animations move the story forward, which makes them more meaningful. Some of the sequences are quite lengthy, such as the ending sequence where Gary’s home floods. If the user watches long enough, a fish is dragged up through the flooded home after Gary has popped out of the front door in a rush of water, and the water fountain on the next page spouts a seemingly endless array of household items.
This app’s entertainment value would be enhanced by adding more random actions to find, perhaps even randomizing which were available on pages for different sessions. Adding games or activities as previously mentioned would also increase the staying power of this app.
For $2.99, users will get a fun and engaging story with cute animations and sound effects. As the market for storybook apps becomes more competitive, developers will have to take a hard look at interactivity and staying power for users. A few dollars are not much to spend even on an app that might have a limited number of uses, and if your child is entertained by the story or even perhaps gains some confidence with reading, the money will have been well spent.
Gary’s Place is very child-friendly. There is no advertising and no links to social media. There are no connections to the internet for children to stumble into and no in-app purchases available. There is a scrolling credits page at the end of the story that appears after every use, but it is easy to skip if desired.
Gary’s Place is a fun and entertaining little app. The story, narration and animations are enjoyable, but young children may tire of it rather quickly.