Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Parent Panel Review - Cub’s First Winter by Rebecca Elliott – eBook for iPad

Price: £1.79

Available from: Top That Publishing

Suitable from: Ages 3 to 5

Initial Reaction: We reviewed the eBook version of Cub’s First Winter on the iPad. My son is two and a half and loves reading books. He’s also quite savvy with the iPad and is able to swipe and play simple games himself, so I was interested to see whether he’d like the combination of the two. He was keen to sit down with Daddy and read the ‘book’ and the idea grabbed his attention.


Rebecca Elliott’s illustrations are gorgeous. The images are fresh and vibrant, with the bold brush strokes bringing the characters and woodland scenery to life. The open, expressive faces of the foxes will really appeal to children and their warm colours contrast with the wintry weather, emphasising the warmth and love between them.

Mum and Cub (whose gender isn’t identified, meaning that boys and girls can both easily identify with him/her) walk through the forest and home through the snow, tiring themselves out before snuggling up to bed. The peaceful ending makes the book ideal as a bedtime story.

The eBook format we were send didn’t show off the book to it’s full potential. As far as I can work out, you can only view one page at a time, which meant that the double-page spreads didn’t really work: instead of a large picture across two pages, we saw two separate pictures, some with no words, which meant that my son just wanted to skip past them.

As Mum and Cub walk through the forest, Cub asks lots of questions about the natural things happening around them. Mum’s answers are playful and fun:
“Why are all the trees undressed?”
“So that we can have fun in the leaves!” answered Mum.

I can see that many parents would find this approach endearing. But, if I’m totally honest, it really grates for me. Personally, I’m all for age-appropriate, but accurate explanations. But then, this is coming from the woman who told her toddler this week that meatballs are made from “pigs bodies, squashed into little balls”. I like my children’s literature with a hint of darkness and oddity (think Anthony Browne, Alexis Deacon or even Dr Seuss). Cub’s First Winter is cute, comforting and straightforward: not quite to my taste, but something that will appeal to a lot of parents and children.

Value for money?
Less than £2 isn’t too expensive for a beautifully illustrated eBook. 
However, when there are plenty of interactive apps available for the same price, or even free, I’m not sure that an eBook for kids represents the best value for money.

Overall Reaction: My son enjoyed reading this eBook. However, I feel that it lost something from the presentation: the pleasure of having a book to hold and pages to turn was missing, and there weren’t the interactive elements that you’d get in an iPad app to make up for it. We (understandably, I feel!) don’t let our two-year-old play with the iPad unsupervised, so he didn’t have the sense of ownership that he’d get with a ‘real’ book and although he liked it, he didn’t ask to read it again.

I wouldn't buy this as an eBook for the iPad as I think there are more engaging ways for toddlers to use them; if we want to read a book then I’d prefer the traditional sort.

Aside from the electronic presentation, I liked the book in itself. As I said, it’s not a story that I’d personally choose, but I appreciate that lots of readers would find it appealing and I’d consider buying it for someone else’s children as I think the hard copy book would go down very well as a gift. 

By Kirsty 

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