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Review: ‘Leo the Lightning Bug’ for i0S and Android

If you’re interested in building an app library be sure to visit your favorite developers’ websites and follow them and School Library Journal on twitter. Along with new products, you’ll find out about free apps, and occasionally, sales. Right now Oceanhouse Media, Inc., the developer of Leo the Lightning Bug and a collection of Dr. Seuss digital books is offering some terrific deals.

Screen shot from 'Leo the Lightning Bug' (Drachman). Illustrated by James Muscarello.

Title: Leo the Lightning Bug
Author: Eric Drachman
: James Muscarello
Developed by: Oceanhouse Media, Inc.
Platforms: iOS, requires 3.2 or later; Android
Version: 1.08
Price: $2.99

PreS-K-Poor Leo–he’s a firefly that can’t illuminate his rear end. But the resolute creature soon learns that practice makes perfect in this app based on the Eric Drachman’s picture book (Kidwick Books, 2001), illustrated by James Muscarello.

Children can read the story independently, listen to the English-only narration while turning the pages, or let the “Auto Play” mode take charge.

Screen shot from 'Leo the Lightning Bug' (Drachman). Illustrated by James Muscarello.

A tale of perseverance set under the stars would seem to be the perfect bedtime app, but issues arise in Leo in both the independent reading and auto-play modes. Tapping illustrations uncovers hidden noises, but these are recycled throughout the app and fail to enrich the narrative. In fact, touching Leo’s mom on one of the early screens creates a bit of a spoiler as she whispers “I’m so proud of you,” something she doesn’t say in the text until the story’s end when Leo conquers his glowing problem.

The narration is sometimes difficult to understand as the child voicing Leo has difficulty pronouncing certain letter and vowel sounds. The running time of this simple story in the auto mode feels lengthy at more than 11 minutes.

Parents and educators looking for an overt if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed message or an app to sate the insect-obsessed will likely find a good match here. Despite a few neat special effects, this lightning bug tale doesn’t really shine.- Shannon Ozirny, Port Moody Public Library, Port Moody BC