A few months ago now I first heard about The Story Mouse. It’s a proprietary children’s eBook reader application, which can be downloaded free from the iTunes app store. It comes with one free book (The Three Billy Goats Gruff), and you can buy further books via in-app purchases. There are currently an additional four stories available: The Enormous Turnip, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Three Little Pigs at £1.19 each and The Night Before Christmas at 59p. Further stories are planned to be released soon (according to their Facebook page we should be seeing Little Red Riding Hood in February).
The app will run on both iPhone and iPad. On the iPad, each page displays the illustration and text alongside each other, whereas on the iPhone and iPod Touch you can switch the display between text and illustration by changing the orientation of your device. Each story is an adaptation of the traditional fairy tale, written for kids, but with touches of humour that adults will pick up on as well. You can choose to read the story yourself or to have it read to you. If you choose the latter you will discover that the stories are narrated by a variety of readers, but all are clear, and have nice British accents. Navigation is easy and intuitive, and the three-year-old geekdaughter has mastered all aspects of the app very quickly (including the “there’s a new story Mummy, will you buy it for me please?” bit!).
I must confess, when I first saw the app, I wasn’t sure that I liked it. There was no interactivity, no animation, no “bonus games” like there seem to be in every other children’s book app in the iTunes store. Just stories. It was so simple, how could it hold a child’s attention against the hundreds of competing apps. I was still convinced that what I really wanted was more children’s books on Kindle or in iBooks. But you know what? The geekdaughter immediately loved it, devoured all the books, and went back to listen to them again and again. In fact it’s probably the longest-lived application I have on my iPad and iPhone, often chosen in preference to those other, more-interactive apps. This past week the geekdaughter has wanted to listen to the stories whilst eating her breakfast, and a few times when I’ve suggested we might put some music on she’s said “yes…. Or a story”, and we’ve ended up listening to a Story Mouse story. Thankfully, due to the great narration and quality of the stories, I am happy to listen to them over and over again with her.
As far as I’m concerned, the team behind The Story Mouse are doing everything right. A quality offering, with the ability to test the app out at no cost, as the app itself and the first book are free. You can preview the first few pages of all the other books available before you buy them, and the additional books are reasonably priced, and certainly cost less than a physical story book would cost. My only wish is that there were more books available – I know they’re coming, and I will wait (mostly) patiently for them, but I do think this app will just get better and better the more books it has.
Incidentally, if you like the sound of the Story Mouse but you don’t have an iPad or iPhone you might be interested to learn that you can purchase audio book versions of these stories in mp3 format from the Story Mouse website, or from Audible. And on the Story Mouse website you can download the audio book version of the Three Billy Goats Gruff for free, so again there is a “try before you buy” option.
For those of you with an iPhone or iPad, the Story Mouse app is highly recommended.