Rounds: Parker Penguin by Barry and Emma Tranter (Nosy Crow, December 2012) is the second entry in this series of nonfiction apps about life cycles for preschool users. The text and interjections from anthropomorphized Parker present information about emperor penguins’ physiology and behavior, their Antarctic habitat, and their place in the food chain in an entertaining and accessible way.
In both the “read and play” and “read by myself” options, users trigger Parker’s pop-up speech bubbles with taps, help Parker waddle and slide on the ice, and navigate as he swims to hunt for food and escape hungry predators.
The app does not hurry users along but allows them to waddle, swim, or slide as long as they like before choosing to progress to the next screen.
After a “long march to find a mate” — complete with a military-style marching tune — grown-up Parker meets his mate, Penelope. As in Rounds: Franklin Frog, reproduction is simplified and sanitized, perhaps overly so. Parker and Penelope perform a mating dance (of sorts — their movement and the musical accompaniment are more reminiscent of a club night than anything found in the animal kingdom) and then one or both penguins mention “start[ing] a family”. On the next screen, Penelope passes Parker an egg with her wings. Given the young age of the intended audience, this simplified approach is understandable, but as HB intern Susan said in her Franklin review, “Be prepared for questions, parents!”
Parker guards the egg through the harsh Antarctic weather while Penelope returns to the sea to hunt. Once chick Percy hatches, the family is reunited. Percy eats the fish Penelope regurgitates for him and loses his down feathers; then the app begins again with Percy as the star.
Users may follow Percy and mate Pippa, then their son Peter and mate Pearl through their own life cycles until the birth of Peter’s chick brings the app back around to Parker. The “round” theme carries over into both the app’s cyclical structure and the illustrations, with the animals and features of their environment created from circles.
Like other Nosy Crow apps, the developer’s quirky style is really what makes Parker shine. Familiar Nosy Crow elements present here include British kids narrating both the main text and pop-up speech bubbles, a wide range of potential responses to taps, a dynamic score, straightforward navigation and prompts for interactive opportunities, and cheeky humor.
Available for iPhone and iPad (requires iOS 5.0 or later); $4.99. Recommended for preschool users.