Subscribe to SLJ
Touch and Go
Inside Touch and Go

Review: ‘Hattie the Backstage Bat’

Several reviewers have commented on how popular Auracle’s personalization features are with children. These features allow users to record their own voice reading the story and/or modify it. Modification can be minimal—changing the name of a character, or a few words here and there—or, it can be extensive—rewriting the story using the illustrator’s artwork as the framework.

Emergent readers especially enjoy these features and I suspect they are appreciated by parents as well. It’s one way that adults who work evenings or are separated from their children can be part of the bedtime (or anytime) reading routine.

Title: Hattie the Backstage Bat
Author: Don Freeman
Illustrated by: Don Freeman
Narrated by: Alan Scofied
Developed by: Auracle/Auryn, Inc.
Platform: iOS, requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Version: 1.0.4
Price: $3.99

PreS–Gr 2-A faithful adaptation of Freeman’s out-of-print picture book (Viking, 1970). Young Hattie has always lived in the deserted Lyceum Theatre, fed by friendly Mr. Collins, the stage doorman. When actors arrive to rehearse a mystery play, the man warns Hattie to stay out of sight. Tension builds as readers wonder if Hattie will be able to follow his advice as opening night approaches.

Alan Scofied’s rich narration is perfectly suited for this story, which is set on a dusty, dark stage. Freeman’s shadowy blue-toned illustrations translate well to the iPad screen, evoking a suitably old-fashioned feel. The three menu options provided for most picture-book apps—“Auto Play,” “Read To Me,” and “Read Myself”—are found here and work smoothly. Navigation is aided by a clearly marked “Home” button and a slide-out, illustrated page index, available on each screen. Interactivity is minimal; the focus here is on the story. Word labels pop out when certain images are tapped, even while the narration is playing (which may distract some young listeners.)

Of particular note are the easy-to-use personalization features. Children can record their own voices reading the story, or even rewrite it using Freeman’s pictures as their guide. As in Auryn’s adaptation of Freeman’s Inspector Peckit (Viking, 1972), switching back and forth between the original and the personalized narration is fluid. A delightful story brought back to life in a new medium.—Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books