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Letter Buddies AlphaBooks (app for digital devices)

Cavallo Publishing

2633 Lincoln Blvd., #617
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Order in Canada: Oxford University Press

Letter Buddies Alpha Books is a preschool application for the iPod Touch, iPhone, and other digital devices. I reviewed the application on an iPod Touch with my younger brother Jacob, who is 3 years old.

The application features a menu of all the letters of the alphabet from A to Z. The child touches a letter to select it, and then the app will display the characterized letter (each letter looks like a different "character" or "letter buddy"). A voice introduces the letter and asks if the person can think of a word that starts with that letter. For example: "Hi, my name is Active A. Do you know any words that start with the letter a?" Some words on the screen are a different color; "Active A" and "a" are both green. The color change does not indicate interactivity. This application does not repeat sounds or words when touched; therefore, it is not interactive. It is simply an audio flashcard app.

You swipe your finger to go from screen to screen. When you swipe to the second screen, it shows something in real life that starts with that same letter. The letter "a" shows an airplane where you see the little ''A" character pointing at an airplane in the sky; and a voice says, "The airplane is in the sky." You then hear an airplane noise after the voice. Jacob wanted it to repeat the airplane noise or words on the screen; however, to repeat anything, you must first swipe to another screen and then swipe back to re-engage the app. You cannot simply touch the words or objects and hear them.

This application is simply meant to familiarize the child with the letters of the alphabet, not to allow interaction with them. A child that is perhaps 5 or 6 years old could use it independently after you explain how to repeat any sounds, but it is probably intended for a younger age group. Keep in mind that a younger child has to be helped through it and might not find it as appealing for that very reason.

Overall, it was a good thought process behind the idea. If young children are used to more interactive games or applications, then they might become bored with this app. However, if applications and games are new to them, then this app will definitely familiarize them with the alphabet. If this is used in place of regular flash cards, you have the advantage of hearing the name of the letter and the sounds it makes. If you are looking for an educational game for your preschooler, then this will not be very satisfactory for you. But if you are looking for some really nice flash cards that won't end up scattered on the floor, then you will be pleased with Letter Buddies Alpha Books.

Product review by Hannah Wuehler, age 16, with the help of Jacob Wuehler, age 3 (children of Deborah Wuehler, Senior Editor, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC) October 2011

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