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Review: The Blue Jackal Series – An Interactive Book for Kids

Photo Credit: Brad Flickinger on Flickr

Even though I have an iPad the one type of book I hadn’t read until now was of the interactive kind, so when Pankaj Gupta got in touch with me to review his interactive Blue Jackal series based on tales from the Panchatantra I jumped at it, even though the books are for children.

Since it’s my first interactive book I wasn’t sure about what to expect or even what parameters to gauge by. I figured I’d give the stories a spin at bedtime and see what I felt about some aspects of it. Over a couple of nights I took a look at two stories/apps –

1. The Blue Jackal

2. The Blue Jackal in America



Languages

‘The Blue Jackal’ had multiple language and voice options. I could choose between English Male, English Female, French Female and Hindi Female. I enjoyed trying out the different options and listening to the story in Hindi.
I really liked the idea of the same story in multiple languages as it has the dual benefit of reaching out to a larger audience and getting children to listen and learn more than one language.

‘The Blue Jackal in America’ however had only one option for narration – English Female.

Story

The story of ‘The Blue Jackal’ is the old tale of how the jackal became the blue king. The story is told well and even has a moral at the end.

‘The Blue Jackal in America’ starts where the previous book ends – the animals get caught and are shipped to a circus in America. This story is longer with an introduction to classic American landmarks, a plot hatched to escape the circus and a sub-plot from the Panchatantra to inspire the animals to escape.

Over all this is also a well told story with a moral at the end that children will enjoy. However I did not like some messages in the story. America is repeated talked about as the land of the free, the land that everyone aspires to be in, etc. Considering the brain drain we are already facing, this isn’t the message I’d want children to take away from the story at that vulnerable age.

Characters

The first book has some common characters from the forest apart from the jackal – the lion, the hare, the tortoise, the elephant, the mouse, the bear, the monkey, the snake and the giraffe. Though there are quite a few of them, they don’t have much to contribute except play the supporting roles in the story.

However in book two some of them come back to play more substantial roles. There is the lion, the rooster, the monkey, the parrot, the elephant, the deer, the mouse, the tortoise and the hare who this time round add to the story. The jackal along with the other animals set the stage for a good plot and variety in characteristics.

Music, Sound

Both books have a lot of music and sounds that children will enjoy, but Book Two definitely has more than the first. I found myself clicking on the characters and all over the screen constantly trying to find new dialogues and sounds that were built in.

The dialogues, music and sounds add to the story and make it entertaining even in repeated reads. I think children will enjoy revisiting the stories over time.

Animation

There is also a lot of animation but just like with music there is more animation in Book Two than One. It took me a while to figure out that there were interactive elements in Book One, but once I did, I had to click on everyone of them. And ‘The Blue Jackal in America’ kept me busy for quiet a while with the amount of animation it had. Kids are sure to like the bit where you shake down a Christmas tree and redecorate it.

My Thoughts –

‘ + + + ‘

On the whole the stories were engaging and fun. The working of the apps was quite intuitive and easy to figure out. Children of all ages will enjoy them but younger children will enjoy them repeatedly.
Each story seems to end with a connection to the next, so I’m looking forward to the next story in the Blue Jackal series where I think the animals will visit France.

‘ – – – ‘

There were a few things I felt were missing in the books like there was no pause button in either book to stall the narration, so I had to go back a page to restart the narration if I missed something. I would have also liked a button to repeat the narration on each page.
The Blue Jackal had a counter showing how many interactive elements there were on each page so they were easier to find. However The Blue Jackal in America did not have a displayed counter, so I had to click on absolutely everything on the page to make sure I didn’t miss out. That said, the narrator did give instructions to animations on some pages.
I also would have preferred to have more language options than just English in book Two.
Lastly the apps did hang on me a few times and that needs some looking into.

Going by what I saw in the first story and the next, I think the team at Five Axioms Inc. is learning and getting better at the stories and apps. The Blue Jackal series is definitely something for parents and kids to look forward to.

Have you read an interactive book before? Reviewed one? Do you have any suggestions for me?

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