The Old Woman and her Pig get pulled into 21st century

First impressions

We have no children of our own, but our two brothers granted us a niece and nephew, so we’ve found ourselves more in tune with the world of the wee ones. As such, we’ve become more aware of apps out there that will keep children happy and, more importantly, occupied and quiet. When we were a similar age, we loved reading books with our parents, and we also liked the sound of our own voice. That’s why Me Books appealed to us, and we reckoned that our young relatives would feel the same way. The Ladybird Books version had so many stories we remembered from when we were kids, like “The Old Woman and her Pig.” This seemed liked the best one to download and test, and so we took the plunge.

How it works

Just like iBooks and the like, this app comes with a few books included so you can try it out before you commit to buying more. Each book looks exactly like its original Ladybird version, and as you turn the pages, the app makes a very satisfying page-turning sound.

Inside the “cover” are instructions to explain how you can personalise the story. On each page is a hotspot. When you press it, it indicates areas where when you press and hold, you can record your voice reading the book. This is a great option for parents that would like to have their child hear their voice reading to them, even if they can’t be there at bedtime. It is also terrific for children so they can record themselves reading out loud. You can record, delete, record again, or leave it completely and press the words to hear a celebrity’s voice telling the tale.

You get three books to start, and if you like how it all works, you can buy more through the shop. Classics like “Chicken Licken,” “Dinosaurs,” “Puss in Boots” and “Cinderella” are all available and at the reasonable price of $2.99 each. When you consider what you would pay for the books, plus having the recording options, it’s a pretty good deal.

This app has won a lot of awards, and once you use it a few times, the reason why will become obvious. You can change the recordings as often as you like, and your kids will love it. It’s also quite the trip down memory lane for parents who should remember a number of these stories quite fondly.

When we used it

When we first downloaded the app we were immediately drawn to The Old Woman etc. Although we couldn’t quite put our finger on it (so to speak) there was something so familiar about that story. Sure enough, the moment we opened it we recognised the drawings and the old woman finding a crooked sixpence with which she decided she would buy a pig. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

We perused the instructions on how to record our own voice, and then proceeded to record the first few pages of the story. Once we had created a few examples, we went back to hear our handiwork. Our first reaction was “Wow! The volume!” Maybe that’s what people had been talking about all these years … But the recording was remarkably clear and we were enchanted with ourselves.

The only thing we must admit not remembering about the Old Woman and her extraordinary trials trying to get her new pig over a stile, was that at one point in the story she had to get a butcher to start killing a cow (to drink the water, to quench the fire, etc.) It just seemed awfully mean to get a butcher to kill a cow just because she couldn’t get a cheap pig all the way home on her own. We resolved next time to read about Robinson Crusoe.

We tried out the app with a couple of young subjects to see how they liked it. Thankfully there was no time limit on the recordings because one of them in particular was very careful to pronounce everything perfectly, but to see their faces when they pressed the words afterwards and heard their own voices was lots of fun. Cinderella next wethinks.

Final thoughts

This could be worth its weight in gold. It’s a great way for parents to encourage their children to read and share books together. This app has become so popular that others are becoming available from Me Books that offer a wider range of books and publishers.

Ladybird Classic Me Books

Cost: $4.99 (which includes app and three books)

Seller: Me Books Ltd and Ladybird Books Ltd 2011

Devices: iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone

Rating: E for Everyone

Four stars

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