Kids’ App Review: Rom and the Whale of Dreams

I recently started looking for interactive books for iPad to help encourage my youngest daughter to read. Unlike our older daughter she hasn’t got a huge desire to read, but she loves the iPad and great art so I thought I’d combine the two to see if we can increase her drive to read to herself.

It turns out there are quite a few nice titles available, and they are very reasonably priced compared to print books. I do wonder if they will also have, in some cases at least, increased longevity compared to print books.

Interactive books tend to have small interactive games or activities, as well as sounds or music triggered as you read. Many seem to have multi-lingual narrative tracks.

Rom and the whale of dreams

One particularly nice example that has enchanting illustrations as well as a slightly surreal story is Rom and the whale of dreams (only £1.99 in UK). The story follows a gypsy prince named Rom who has dreams about a strange whale with lion’s paws and butterfly wings. It has gypsy-style music in it, so frankly I was sold the moment it started up.

Rom and the whale of dreams

“Rom and the Whale…” is well made for such a title. I am yet to find anybody who does not immediately grin with delight when they discover the “colouring in” you can do on the interior of the gypsy caravan. These are such simple touches but the quality of the illustration make them wonderful. All pages have some kind of animation or interaction, all different from one another.

All text and narration is in English, Spanish and Chinese, with each page also carrying translations of some key words in all three of these languages as a sort of mini Rosetta Stone. You can easily turn off the narration for readers.

Rom and the whale of dreams

The only criticisms I have of this app are that the creative use of typography can be a bit challenging for a child who is just starting out reading, and it can take a fair bit of gesture experimentation to work out what the interactive element is on each page. Technically speaking, it is a bit sluggish in places, but it is just a “book”. All of these are just nit-picking however.

Overall, I think this book app is great and Rom and the whale of dreams is definitely worth the money. My daughter is still using it after three days and loves it. It has accomplished my mission of engaging her with reading. She’ll be going back to it for weeks.

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Marc Palmer is an independent software developer and consultant. He writes native apps like the music practice app Soundproof for iOS devices for his company Montana Floss Co.. He can also do a pretty good job of designing products. Don't ask him to draw anything, because that's just embarrassing. You can find out more about him here.

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