Around the World with Lilup: Children’s fantasies fulfilled

Spoiler alert! Lilup is the perfect kids’ book for the iPad. It doesn’t just promise interactivity, it delivers, allowing your child to read while they play, play while they read or listen to you read the story to them. If you have kids learning to read this is a definite best buy.

For those of you who read or heard about the wildfires in Austin’s Oak Hill on Sunday (the largest fire in Austin history) the answer is, yes, that was our neighborhood, and, no, our street wasn’t evacuated. But we were definitely there.

We had left to see the Austin Lyric Opera performance of Flight and noticed the huge billows of smoke as we drove by on 290. Traffic was already stalled so people could take in the show. By the time we entered the Mopac overpass, the flames were visible in our rearview. Since the Y building skylines aren’t visible, this was a big fire. By the time we crossed 360 a couple of minute later, the flames were four times as wide.

Needless to say we didn’t see the opera. Carol called her friend Julia and her brother Bill who also live nearby and we drove back to make sure we would have time to evacuate the cats if we needed to. Carol also had to get Julia’s mother because the roads were blocked from Julia’s direction. The planes flew over her to drop the fire retardant.

No one was hurt, eleven houses burned and, as of yesterday, they were still monitoring hot spots.

People are upset because a homeless guy left his campfire for a moment (as they should be), but the solution is not to bring in the cops and drive away the transient camps like people are proposing. The solution is to get off our selfish asses and stop letting the government give our country away to greedy corporations who lay people off by the thousands and bundle their mortgages into high yield investments only to expect us to bail them out when they can’t make money after kicking people out of their homes because they can’t pay their mortgage because their jobs went to Bangalore.

Carol asked me if I ever considered doing a children’s week or at least children’s apps. I replied that if she actually read these posts while she proofread them she would know I frequently did children’s apps around holidays. Then, realizing that Carol rarely asks a question for information or idle curiosity, I asked why she wanted to know.1

“Oh, no reason,” she said. And then she said, “but there’s this interactive children’s book called ‘Around the World with Lilup,’ and I though you might want to review it.” I told her I would be glad to look at it. Then, a moment later, she added, “While you’re at it, there’s an app called Geo Walk HD that might be worth reviewing.”

This was pure Carolspeak. What she really meant was, “These apps look cute and I would really like to try them out but I’m not about to spend money on a stupid iPad app. If you were to spend the money for your blog, however, then it would make sound fiscal sense for me to download copies using your account.”

And so, dear readers, we arrive at children’s week. I will review three apps that seem to be geared toward young people, Around the World with Lilup, Geo Walk and a game called Colorflys (which must be for children because it bores the hell out of me).

Interactive books seem to be raising the stakes on what it means to be interactive and I’m glad. I’ve downloaded too many highly touted interactive books that basically had pictures that moved a little. Lilup, by contrast, seems to be designed to fully engage young (meaning learning to read) readers.

That being said, I loved it.

Partly because Lilup reminds me of our dog Pookah. Pookah left the world when our Neanderthal dog Chutney was young and sprightly and not the behemoth that sleeps in front of our door and refuses to budge so we can’t get in or out. He’s welcome back any time he can make his jail break from doggie heaven.

I like to think of Chutney as Achilles, the big dumb lout who mows every obstacle out of her path, and Pookah as Odysseus, the devious bastard who conned his way back to Ithaca. A humanities professor told me the Romans loved Achilles because he was virtuous and dumb, whereas the Greeks loved Odysseus because he was sly and planned ahead.2

Pookah was not only sharp, he was devious and he was fluffy and white like Lilup. If we gave Chutney and Pookah bones, he would hide his then distract her and steal hers. She would see him chewing the bone and look around for hers, never understanding why it disappeared.

If we put him in a down stay (lie on his belly) he would stay on his belly and scooch across the floor to wherever he wanted to go. He would bark at the door at dinner until we would check to see who was there and then snatch food off our plates. And if he did something really, really bad he would find a way to lead us into the other room so we wouldn’t discover what he’d done.

Lilup isn’t a devious dog like Pookah, but he loves to play and because he’s fluffy like a cloud he can fly. Around the World with Lilup tells the story of Lilup’s flight around the world to play with bats, penguins and even lion cubs.

Around the World with Lilup tells the story of a dog who floats around the world because he’s white and fluffy as a cloud.

Every aspect about the book, from the text by Ben Hecht to the Nelson Wells illustrations are first rate for a children’s book. I loved it and I’m well into my fifties. This isn’t the hip, adult friendly kind of kids’ book like Food Fight, but it still stands on its own.

But the interactive elements shine. The animation simulates the dimensions of flight well, I almost recaptured the joys of my own childhood flying fantasies. Young readers can also move the characters around on the screen in just about any direction they want, even beyond the borders of the page.

Readers can move the characters around at will and the background scrolls at the edge of the screen. The interactivity is designed for random play, like finger painting, more than structured activity.

The developers include a number of nice touches. Readers can run their fingers along the text and the words pop up as they touch them. The options allow readers (or parents) to listen to a narrator or read to themselves. Pages can turn with the narration or at the readers discretion.

Perhaps the coolest option is the ability for parents to record their own voices reading the text. They can stop, playback and rerecord sections using the written text as a prop.

Parents (or gift givers) can record their own voices so their children can listen in their absence.

Personally, I loved Around the World with Lilup and there are no kids young enough for the book left in my family. But I don’t regret buying it for a moment. My only surprise was when I described the book to Carol. She had no idea it was even about a dog. She hadn’t even looked at the description in the App Store.

So why did she recommend it?

It sounded like something I would review and if I liked it then she would not only have avoided spending our money herself, she would know it was worth reading herself.

It is, Carol. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

Jenny Manytoes rates Around the World with Lilup

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Lilup. If you have kids learning to read, it’s definitely a best buy. If you’re anyone but a cynical bastard who doesn’t have the tolerance for children’s things, you may well enjoy it too.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

1This is not completely Carol’s fault. She learned this from her mother. Even then, she really didn’t master the art until she met my family, who are masters at hiding agendas. For the first ten years, she actually answered my family’s questions with no awareness there was more at stake. Then she began to see the patten. Now she’s a master strategist, even if she doesn’t know she’s doing it.back
2If you expected a joke about Roman Republicans and Greek Democrats at this point, you already got it so I don’t need to tell it. You would be in the Odysseus camp. If you had no idea there was a joke coming you probably aren’t reading this footnote either so I don’t need to finish making it. I might tell you to check your heel, but you wouldn’t understand why.back

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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