Out of all kinds of books, children's storybooks are my favorite. I love how they are always so full of imagination and exuberance, and find it amazing how valuable lessons can be laced into seemingly innocent stories.
With the existence of iPad and App Store, many storybooks have made the leap from physical books and into the screen. And I still love the feel of paperback books, I am excited for storybook apps because they can provide interactivity and creative presentation.
Today, I have another storybook app that I think will make a great addition to your collection. I know we often review book apps, but I honestly believe that you can never have enough of them.
Welcome to Flora's Forest
Flora's Forest is a musical interactive storybook developed jointly by NoodleBright and HabitatSeven. The beautifully illustrated app follows the story of Flora, a lovely young girl with a great deal of courage and determination.
The story starts with Flora and her friends flying a kite on a bright, sunny day. When a strong wind blows, the kite's string broke and the toy was carried off by the gust. Flora, wanting to get her kite back, hurriedly followed the kite's trail into the forest.
Now Flora was a brave girl, but the forest can be a scary place to be. As she ventured deeper, the path became fainter, and she started hearing strange noises. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a big, fuzzy red creature appeared -- it was a strange monster with three eyes, two pairs of feet and a penchant for laughing.
Flora was scared at first, but then she realized that the monster was actually friendly. The two then set off to find Flora's lost kite, and along the way, were joined with two other monsters -- one was blue and puffy with the ability to fly, while the other was yellow and feathery with a head that made sounds.
With the help of her strange new friends, Flora managed to find her kite and had a great time in the process. She discovered that the forest was an enchanting and melodious place. In the end, Flora had to return to her human friends, but she promised to come back and visit the monsters.
What parents need to know
Flora's Forest is an magical little app that can be enjoyed by juniors aged two and above. A cheerful narrator reads the story to your juniors; unlike other storybook apps that we have reviewed so far, there is no option to read the story by yourself. The app highlights the text in each page as it is read, but in my experience, the highlighter tends to go faster than the narration.
Each page in Flora's Forest is an interactive scene where juniors can tap on different elements to discover fun animations. One scene requires juniors to tilt of the device to animate the movements of Flora's kite, but otherwise, no other gestures are needed to explore the app.
As a musical interactive storybook, sound is an important aspect in the app. Throughout the story, you'll hear the background music change in tone as the plot becomes darker or happier. Many elements also produce lively sounds as they are touched -- a prime example is the yellow monster whose feathery head can be played like a xylophone.
User interface-wise, the app is easy to navigate. Moving between pages only require a tap on the left or right arrow buttons that are located at the bottom of the screen. There is a Scenes menu where you can quickly jump to your favorite page. Parents need to note that there is a link to the app's Facebook page that can be accessible from the main menu, so I would advise disabling Internet access before handing this app over to your junior.
What I liked about the app
I admit it -- I'm a sucker for pretty apps. One of my favorite things about Flora's Forest is the colorful and whimsical illustrations, which were drawn by Helen Dardik, an award-winning illustrator and designer. As a mother to three girls, Helen created the monsters in Flora's Forest with the help of her daughters -- it's no wonder those creatures look so adorable.
I also like how the developers designed the transition between pages; instead of the boring page curl, the app cleverly plays with panning, camera zoom and focus to create a sense of depth in each scene. Reading the app was sort of like watching an animated movie, which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Another thing that I love from Flora's Forest is the music. Based on my experience with Philip and other toddlers, I can tell you that music is an important element in any children's apps. Unfortunately, though, many developers don't really pay attention to this.
Flora's Forest, on the other hand, has one of the best music and sound in a storybook app. I really appreciate how the developers went out of their way to compose a track that complements the story instead of just sticking in some random song that play over and over again. The music is so well written, that in the scene where Flora went too deep into the forest, I felt chills down my spine as the music became ominous.
The app also has great interactivity for a children's book. Many elements are tappable to reveal simple and quirky animations. One favorite scene of mine is where Flora and her monster friends discover the sounds of the forest; colorful raindrops will appear on the screen, and you can tap on them to create different sounds. Trust me, that is very cool.
The bottom line
Flora's Forest is a beautiful storybook app whose unique presentation makes it a standout from the rest. The story is well-written, with unique characters that juniors will love. There is a high level of interactivity throughout the app, and it doesn't hurt that the illustration and music are of top-notch quality. Overall, it is a great app that I highly recommend. Bravo!