Panda: The Curious Cat is an engaging and cute interactive storybook that will tickle young children. The story is fun and wholesome, the interactions interesting, and the messages embedded in the story positive.
- Highly interactive
- Engaging story
- Embedded lessons about bathing, sleeping and listening to parents
- Optional voice-over mode to read the story to young children
- Choice of three languages
Panda: The Curious Cat is a good example of an interactive story book that will entertain young children over and over. After the optional voice-over reads the text, users are invited to interact by touching the screen in various places. Developers did a good job of encouraging the very young to interact with the pictures on each screen, using devices such as a shaking box. When the box is touched, the cat knocks it over and walks out. Touching the chair, then the table will help the cat climb and touching items on the shelves cause the cat to bat at them and make them fall or do another action. Each screen has engaging interactions that can be repeated and will hold a young child’s interest. The actions move the story forward, rather than simply being random happenings. For example, Panda wakes from his nap hearing the birds that his mother has warned him to leave alone. He can chase the birds right out the window, across the yard, and into a tree. The tree leads the cat out of his yard and into trouble. The young reader will need to help the cat return home for the happy ending to the story.
While the story is playing, it can be a bit tough to find the menu button that controls returning to the menu. It is located in the lower left corner of the screen, but fades quickly and is very difficult to see. The button will return the user to the main menu with the options screen and other choices. There does not seem to be a way to back up through the book, either. That might be an addition for developers to consider-children often have as much fun moving back through books as forward as they search for favorite pages and sequences.
The app does run a credits scroll at the end of the book on the first time through, which seems somewhat unnecessary. The credits might be better left in a special section for parents or older children to access when desired.
Panda: The Curious Cat teaches several important concepts. First of all, there are embedded lessons that will reinforce the ideas of cleanliness, resting, and obeying parents. Underneath all of that, though, the very young will get lots of experience with cause and effect as they touch different parts of the screen and see the effects it has on the cat and the scene. Exposure to the different languages is a plus, as is the clear, but accented voiceover in English. The English narrator reads clearly, but with enough of an accent that listeners will know the speaker is from a different country.
The Options menu on the front page of the app allows users to choose whether pages have text and/or oral narration. Users can choose which combination will be best for the child using the program.
Parents or other adults will need to be prepared to explain words such as “microscopic” and “parabolic” to young listeners. These difficult words are a part of the story, but the context provides little information about their meanings. For some children, that will be great, but for others who may be easily overwhelmed by difficult vocabulary, it could prove frustrating.
This is a very cute app, and quite engaging to play with. Young children will delight in making the cat do all sorts of activities, and will be especially pleased when the cat “messes up the room” by knocking things over. The story is very pleasant, but tackles a somewhat scary theme of getting lost and into trouble. The message that children should listen to their parents comes through loud and clear, but in a very nonthreatening manner.
Many of the interactions can be repeated during the story, as well. For example, there is a dream sequence while Panda is napping. Young users can see the image of the character in the dream, and can change them by tapping the dream bubble on the screen. The characters cycle with each tap, including some that haven’t been introduced yet in the story, such as the loud dog and the chirping birds. This makes a great opportunity for an adult to encourage prediction skills: “Where do you think Panda will meet a dog like that?”
Panda: The Curious Cat is priced at $2.99 in the App Store. Most children will enjoy the engaging interactions again and again. If the user plays in the most efficient manner possible (only doing required interactions to move the story forward), the experience takes six to seven minutes. However, if the user takes time to explore, there are enough diversions to play much longer at a setting. It’s a good value.
This app is very child-friendly. There is no outside advertising, no links to social media, and no mechanism for sending email from within the app. The content is quite appropriate and engaging for the target age group. However, the options (particularly the “change language” option) are accessible to young explorers. It might be better to protect these areas of the app for the convenience of parents who do not want the young child changing them. There should be a “home” or “back” option to stop the story in the middle if need be, and the credits should be in an area for adults (who are more likely to read them anyway).