The Prairie That Nature Built, by Dawn Publications, is an app based on the book of the same name by Marybeth Lorbiecki. It has 3 parts. The first part is the story, the second part is a matching game, and the third part is a primer.
The book was born out of the author’s love for the prairie. It describes, in poetry from, what the animals and plants in the prairie are like. It starts from the underground and works its way up to the sky. Suddenly lightning strikes and starts a fire. The rain that follows quenches the fire and then months later life in the prairie begins anew. The story does a good job of describing life in the prairie, and I loved how it ended with a little boy who we find out is the voice behind the poem. However, it felt a little tedious and did not hold my children’s attention very well. It was also inconsistent in form. It starts off as a cumulative poem but changes in parts of the book. The illustrations are beautiful and very vivid, and some were interactive. My children enjoyed looking at the animals and seeing if touching them would trigger movement. However, because it did not include any sounds, their interest quickly dissipated. Most of the illustrations were up close, which did a great job of helping children get a good and detailed view of the animals, but failed to communicate the vastness of the prairie. It felt crowded instead of expansive. I also did not like how the view switches from landscape to portrait in the middle of the book and then back to landscape again. The switch felt very strange and distracting to the flow of the book. The audio (narration) was also too loud. You can hear breathing and popping noises every so often. My children eventually decided to turn off the narration as it was more pleasant for them to read the book on their own.
The matching game revisits several pages of the book. This time it only includes the illustrations and a list of items to find. You drag a name from the list to its matching object. If the name matches the object, the name vibrates and stays with the object. If not, it goes back to the list, indirectly prompting you to try again. Other than that, the game provides no helps, hints, or answers. It also has no sound. Once again, it failed to hold my children’s interest. I think the game would make a lot more sense if the animals and plants were introduced in the story. This can be accomplished by displaying the animal or plant’s name whenever it is tapped. The matching game will then serve to test their memory of the plants and animal they came across. Also, it would be great if a correct match revealed a little more into about the animal or plant.
I think I liked the primer most of all. The audio was much better on this one. The pages were clean, easy to read, and informative. I also liked the author, illustrator, publisher, and developer pages. It is presented with audio and it is as though they were speaking directly to the kids. I have never seen it done this way before.
While I feel there is much improvement needed in this app, I appreciated how it seeks to inform and excite children about the prairie. If you decide to check this app out, I would suggest using it on an iPad since the font is much too small to read comfortably on an iPhone.