Benji Davies’s illustrations for the Bizzy Bear board books (Nosy Crow) are like catnip for young children. I defy any toddler or preschooler worth her salt to walk by a Bizzy Bear book and not pick it up. The wide-eyed, cheerful animals on the construction site (Let’s Get to Work!) or traveling to the beach (Off We Go!) are irresistible; add sturdy movable elements to push and pull, and you’ve got a kid-friendly novelty book. The texts are uninspired (“Bizzy Bear, Bizzy Bear, / give a shout! / Bizzy Bear, Bizzy Bear, / tip it out!”) and the plot is minimal, but kids won’t care a whit.
The illustrator’s animation work is obvious in his congenial cartoony style, and it’s no surprise that Bizzy Bear now stars in a Nosy Crow app, Bizzy Bear on the Farm (December 2011; based on the board book, Fun on the Farm). The app features Bizzy on a visit to Sunny Farm, where he helps Farmer Joe (a tiger) with such chores as feeding the pigs, putting lambs in their pen (“Those lambs are very jumpy!”), gathering eggs, and putting the tractor away.
The app has the standard Nosy Crow features, including pulsing blue dots that signal users to tap the screen and make a character speak or make something happen. You can choose to read the text and speech-balloon dialogue yourself or be read to by a cast of seemingly professionally trained British children. Their perky voices are a good match for the perky text, but the kids start to sound pesky after a while (again, kids won’t notice). The upbeat background music adds to the sunny atmosphere, as do bird songs and other animal noises.*
The app is simple enough for toddlers to use along with a grownup and engaging enough to hold their attention over multiple viewings.
Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 5.0 or later); $3.99. Recommended for preschool users.
*NB: I’ve been asked by nearby co-workers to add a warning about the musical quacking ducks. Bizzy may “like to hear the ducks quacking,” but they seem to make more sensitive (on edge?) adults go quackers.