Developer Wee Society’s alphabet app Wee Alphas: Find Your Special Letter (2012) is “designed to encourage positive interactions between preschoolers and grown-ups” in addition to supporting pre-literacy skills.
Each letter of the alphabet is represented by an animal whose species and name correspond to that letter, e.g., Eli the elephant, Sidney the squirrel. The menagerie includes extinct (dinosaur) and imaginary (unicorn, yeti) creatures in addition to familiar faces from the farm, forest, and zoo. Silly rhymed couplets with a bit of alliteration (“Charlie the chipmunk cheers for sharp cheddar. / Don the dino rocks a striped scarf in all weather”) entice users to continue to the next screen.
Touch the letter hidden within each animal’s geometric-shape-based body, and it’s highlighted in the illustration and each time it appears in the accompanying text. More tapping reveals an animated surprise with sound effects: Don in his striped scarf stands imperturbable through shining sun, falling raindrops and snowflakes, and blowing wind; Kate the koala, Leo the lion, and Max the moose sing an a cappella harmony. Some of the verse/illustration/animation combinations are on the cheeky side, such as “Finnegan the fox writes flippant film critiques” alongside a hipster-ish fox who wiggles his glasses.
An instrumental version of indie band Rabbit’s circus-y song “Pea” provides upbeat background music. The app ends with an opportunity to trace “your special letter” — the user’s first initial — and to view the entire alphabet of Wee Alphas (with both upper- and lowercase letters) and their animations on a single screen.
Navigation is simple with forward and back arrows. A locked “stuff for grown-ups” menu allows adult users to turn the narration and/or all sound on and off; there’s no narration-only option. Also in this section are a tutorial for use and suggestions for extending the experience.
This app may not be best suited for preschoolers just encountering the alphabet, as the hidden letter shapes are sometimes capital, sometimes lowercase, and often somewhat abstract in shape in order to fit within the animals’ bodies. But preschoolers at any stage of pre-literacy will get a kick out of the goofy animals, funny rhyming text, and engaging animation.
Available for iPad (requires iOS 5.0 or later); $2.99. Recommended for preschool users.