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OCEAN Coral Reef & Research Ship Review by Tess Hamre

Roxie Munro
K.I.W.i Storybooks
P.O. Box 1964
Great Falls, MT 59403

K.I.W.i (Kids Interactive Walk-in) Storybooks combine fold-out wordless picture books with an interactive app. When I first heard about OCEAN Coral Reef & Research Ship, I was very excited. My developmentally delayed, physically challenged daughter loves all things related to oceans and seas. When I told her we would be reviewing a different kind of ocean book, she waited rather impatiently for it to arrive.

Wordless books are a wonderful way to encourage imagination. The two-sided fold out story book measures 10.5 inches by 31 inches. Included with the storybook is a laminated card stock play figure of a scuba diver. The play figure can stand on its own. One side of the storybook is the colorful coral reef backdrop. The other side is the detailed backdrop of the Research Ship. Because the backdrop is a fold out, it can stand up, creating a backdrop for exploring the imagination. My daughter enjoyed making up her own stories about the “scuba man” and his ocean diving trips.

The K.I.W.i Storybook App opening page has a little green bug that welcomes you to the Storybook app and asks you to select which backdrop you wish to use. In addition to icons of both backdrops, there are buttons labeled ‘for big people’ and reset app.

To access either of the blue buttons you must touch and hold for three seconds. This is a nice feature that can prevent a child from accidently wiping their progress with the reset app or getting lost in the ‘for big people’ menu. This menu contains links to the K.I.W.i app store and website. On this page you’ll also find backdrop images for the other K.I.W.i storybooks.

I love that the app does not link to social media, collect personal data, contain advertising, or include in-app purchases. This makes it a safe app for children like my daughter who might accidently click on a share or purchase button.

The App activities are the same for both backdrops. These include Search & Find, Make Some Noise, Explore & Learn, Puzzle, and movie making.

This app requires use of device camera to scan markers, which are available as a free download. It also uses the camera feature to take pictures of what you find in the Search & Learn activity.

Search & Learn:  The app shows you nine small pictures and the player searches the backdrop and takes a picture. We were disappointed that even though you can check your images, it doesn’t actually tell you if you were right. There is no answer key or help button.

Make Some Noise: This is my least favorite activity, but it is fun to click on the pictures and hear sounds associated with those items. This may have been my daughter’s favorite activity though. She says she likes it. It’s fun. She really liked tapping the dolphin and hearing the sounds of a dolphin. The other backdrop has a photo of a computer and when you tap it, you hear the tapping on the keys.

Explore & Learn is the most educational part of the app. This activity requires the markers. When you select Explore & Learn, a picture shows you where to lay out your markers.  Scan a marker and the app will display some information and a question. Sometimes the information helps you to answer the question. For some of the Coral Reef markers we were frustrated because the information given didn’t help us to answer the question.

Puzzle:  Exactly what it is! Scan a marker and the app creates a puzzle. This activity proved too difficult even for me. The pieces were very small and there were so many, that I gave up. It would be wonderful if the app had levels of difficulty for the puzzles. I think my daughter would have enjoyed a puzzle with 8-10 pieces that were larger.

Movie Making: Using the tablet camera and the backdrop of your choice you can create a movie. The app provides some images that you can add. Each scene can be up to 1 minute long and the entire movie can be as long as 8 minutes. While recording, tell your story!

I really loved the concept and idea of a wordless picture book with what I believed was an optional interactive app, but I found the app portion very frustrating to use and not a good fit for my daughter. She could not use it independently and some of the features were better suited for older elementary students.

-Product review by Tess Hamre, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2016