Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Charlie Brown

First impressions

Are we allowed to mention (or should we admit to) a nostalgic tear running down our cheek as we started the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” app?

The animated cartoon special first aired on CBS in 1965, and it has religiously appeared on television every year since, winning an Emmy and Peabody Award along the way. The app is an interactive way of enjoying this wonderful story, and we fell upon it like a kid in a candy store when we saw it available in iTunes. There were all the characters we loved like Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder and even the infuriating Lucy.

As we paged our way through the book, narrated by the man who was the original voice of Charlie Brown, we were immediately thrust back to our childhood. We couldn’t wait to share it with others.

How it works

Much like the “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” app, this also combines the elements of reading a book with animation, all set to the wonderful background music that is so familiar to anyone who has seen the cartoon. The opening screen features a record player with a switch that allows you to turn the narration on or off, and a volume switch for the music. Sitting next to it is the book by Charles M. Schulz. Once you touch the front cover of the book, you’re into the introduction page, and after that, the beginning of the story.

On the first page, Peanuts characters are standing on a frozen lake and as the narrator reads the story, you can move each one of them and make them skate simply by touching them. You can also touch the falling snow to turn the small pieces into large snowflakes.

This is the way the rest of the book continues. You can move characters, turn lights on and off, create motion and generally bring everything to life just by touching it. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy this story with a child. In fact, it’s such a terrific way to spend time with your kids that you may find yourself reading it every night because wee Johnny wants to “hear it again, again!”

As you go along you can help Snoopy decorate his doghouse, play a bit of piano, and even make your very own shooting stars when Charlie Brown stands outside clutching his little tree. You can make the story last as long as you like, and go back if you want to revisit one of the pages. It’s a very easy app to use. Basically if you know how to turn the pages in a book, you can work this out.

When we played

We sat down and went through it once on our own to make sure we knew what we were doing, and then we went to seek out others to show. Without fail, young and old were absolutely enchanted with this app. For adults it was a great way of enjoying the cartoon they knew so well, and they simply melted when they heard the piano begin and the choir singing “Christmas time is here.” For children, they were immediately enchanted by the cartoon and story, and LOVED being able to be part of it by touching the screen. Although one of them was visibly unimpressed by Charlie Brown’s choice of Christmas tree, we were able to gently explain why he had chosen it, and they seemed pretty satisfied by the end result.

Every time we went through it, we realised we had missed an element the last time, like creating the shooting stars on one of the pages. By the time we had finished there, we’d made enough wishes to last us a lifetime.

We also loved hearing Linus’ speech about the true meaning of Christmas. A lot of the original dialogue from the cartoon is used in the app between the narration pieces, so we were able to hear all the characters’ voices as we remembered them.

Final thoughts

This app is an absolute no-brainer for the Christmas season. You can read it to your children, or leave them to read it and play with it themselves. That being said, you can also just keep it for yourself and play it whenever you’re feeling tired or low. The Charlie Brown Christmas story is absolutely timeless, and despite the fact that the cartoon is now nearly 50 years old, it is as wonderful and relevant today as it was back then. This app is great value for money and is highly recommended.

Pros: Great animation. Interaction options will appeal to all ages. It’s Charlie Brown, what’s not to like?

Cons: Good luck getting your device back once a child realises this app is on there.

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