I found this app while looking for a good interactive digital book app for my 4-year-old son. I remember when I was working for a multimedia software house in South Jakarta around 1994, a household for an American expatriate for an international oil company was looking for help on troubleshooting their Mac computer at their big house in Kemang area. I was sent there and found out that they were asking help to install a software called “Little Critter – Just My Grandma and Me” by Mercer Mayer. I was not sure why they couldn”t do it but I guess it was part of the deal that my boss when selling the Mac computer to them. I inserted the CD and voila, just by following the instructions on the screen, I could install it within few minutes (I had no prior experience of using Mac at that time). Honestly I was quite impressed by the Mac (it was a PowerMac). To me. at that time, having a PowerMac is like a luxury. It could get you two new cars (with the currency value at that time) in Jakarta. Having a IBM PC-compatible hardware at that time was only equivalent to one or two new motorcycles. I had neither of those. During that opportunity, I learnt on how to use the Mac as well as playing around with that software a little bit. According to the family, they love this Little Critter character in particular, especially their daughter. This is why I remember about this as it was a very vivid memory.
Enough with my past, now moving on to this app. I was glad that OceanHouse actually provides an option for users whether they want to subscribe or purchase the stories. The app itself is a free download but stories are not free (They do have monthly free story however). After installing this app to your iOS device, upon launching the app, it will show you a dialog that has the offers for subscription and purchase. There is a time-limited special offer to purchase all stories in a 64% saving if you choose to select that option. When user purchased all stories, the subscription sign will be marked as unlimited. If you install the app on other device with the same iTunes account, you could Restore your purchase by clicking the Restore button on this same dialog.
For each story, you would still need to download it one by one (for first time only). The story that is already downloaded will be marked with “Downloaded” at the bottom of the story’s icon.
Certain buttons are actually for “Parents Only”. When a user/kid click such button, a nag screen will appear as follows. It will warn you that the feature is for Parents Only and you are required to swipe the screen with one of your fingers to the direction that it tells you (the direction always changes next time the same screen appears). This is a nice feature to prevent accidental access. However, to my experience, this seems to be not enough to totally prevent accidental access. Also, not all features are protected by “Parents Only” nag screen. Kids could still accidentally access them if they really want to.
When you click one of the Story Icons in Home/Main area, a dialog will appear to ask user about what reading mode that user wants. After selecting the mode, the story will launch and display the interactive story. The narration text will be highlighted if the part is selected or spoken (depends on the mode).
There is a little blue up arrow in a blue circle at the left bottom corner of the story page. It is the button to open up the options dialog at the bottom of the screen.
When options dialog appears, you could select Home, Pages, Voice and Options. To close that dialog, you could click the down blue arrow in a blue circle at the most left of that dialog. Home button will bring you to the Home/Main area, exiting the story page. The Pages button will give you preview of all pages in the story. If user clicks on the preview, the story will jump to the selected page that user clicked on the preview.
The Options button will allow you to control on how the interaction should be during the story reading session.
The most exciting feature that this app has is the ability to provide your custom narrator voice (it could be the parents, the kid, or the grandpa/grandma, or some other fav voices). This can be done by clicking the Voice button in the dialog and click New.
A new dialog will open, asking for the name of the voice.
Consecutively, it will ask you to click the Record button in order to record the narrator voice. You could record your voice for every single page in the story or just provide for few pages only.
Once the new narrator voice is recorded, it will show up as an available narrator voice.
Going back to the Home/Main page. Perhaps if you have too many stories, it will be a bit difficult to find the story that you want. You could sort the stories based on topics, Alphabetically and by Date, or you could also search by typing your own keyword. Those can be done when you open the SORT STORIES dialog by clicking the green circle button on the right top corner of the screen.
The search result is displayed at the top area and related stories will be displayed underneath it.
The help button (shown as green circle with parent and kid icon) is provided at the right top area of the Main/Home screen. There are 3 sub menus in the Help dialog as follows:
About: This is a short bio of the original author (Mercer Mayer) of the Little Criter stories as well as OceanMedia intro.
Help: Provides some FAQs and few additional general options (interestingly it provides an option to show/hide Faith-based stories). The “Remove Data” button is provided to remove downloaded stories if you need more space in your device. The version of the app is also displayed here.
Reading Statistics: For parents who want to track their kids’ reading activities, they could access this dialog. Of course, this is only provided for convenience, not for accuracy of actual time they spent reading.
At the end of the day, I was quite happy to get this app and having access to all stories. The animation was smooth (so far no delays/hiccups). This is truly the ultimate way to read Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter stories.