Wednesday, January 25, 2012

App Review: Chinese New Year With a Dragon

Hearty "gung hei fat choi" to everyone out there, and happy Year of the Dragon. In honor of the turning of the Chinese calendar, to 4710 for those keeping track, we're taking a look at a brand new picture book app from Mobad Media called The Year of the Dragon.

The tale of the Chinese zodiac and that smarty-pants rat makes a fun story, whether for children or adults. And interpreting the characteristics of each of the twelve symbols can be a hoot for kids. My family is fascinated with the zodiac animals, and they often chalk up the behavior of others to the sign under which they were born. "What do you expect, Mom? He's a Tiger!"

And as with any reading of the zodiac, we are quick to lay claim to the positive attributes associated with our own symbols. I'm a sheep (observant! artistic! ingenious!), and I live with a couple of monkeys (self-assured, competitive innovators), one horse (cheerful, quick-witted talker), and a bunny rabbit (elegant and compassionate artist). And when we meet someone who shares our sign, there's immediate sympathy. It's like finding the kinship of another Bears or White Sox fan without all the messy logos.

The Year of the Dragon is a sweet, simple story of Baby Dominic, a newly hatched dragon whose parents remind him of what makes their kind so special. "Who blows the winds? Who commands the rain? Who advises the Emperor? We do!"

When Baby Dom and all his friends from the zodiac team up together to win a race, he uses his own special dragon traits to save the day.

With fun interactivity that doesn't let tapping fingers get too distracted and vivid illustrations, The Year of the Dragon feels like a traditional book. And Mobad keeps the focus on literacy, as kids can choose to hear a narrator tell the story and follow along as each word is illuminated, or read to themselves. And if a child stumbles across an unfamiliar word, Mobad has made learning new vocabulary easy: she can just tap on the text and hear it pronounced.

The age range for Year of the Dragon is broad, as the youngest app set will adore Dom and the interactive features, and emerging and confident readers will enjoy the storyline, the other Chinese zodiac characters, and the hidden surprises.

Priced at $4.99.

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