A review of At the Beach With Bucket and Spade by J.R. Poulter

Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

At the Beach With Bucket and Spade
Picture e-book ages 4+
Written by: J.R. Pouler
Illustrations by: Sarah E. Bash
An iStory Time book produced by FrogDogMedia LLC
iTunes app for iPhone & iPad—price: AUD $0.99

The creation of the app is to picture books what 3D is to television. Just as 3D TV offers that extra dimension of experience, so, too, the app takes reading to a whole new level. Readers can now interact with books as never before: change font and text size to suit, engage a narrator and watch illustrations leap to life.

‘Summer holiday’s finally come,

We’re at the beach and out in the sun,

Sand and waves and having FUN!’

And so, for two children, their day at the beach begins. After donning hats and sunscreen, the pair get stuck into building sandcastles and collecting shells. When this task is complete, they head off for a celebratory lunch. But when they return to the beach, something is missing.

Author of the award-winning Mending Lucille, Poulter has constructed a pacy tale with an uplifting twist at the end—a story that young children will have no trouble relating to. Told in rhyme, which, of course, kids love, this is a story that at its heart is about family, highlighting such concepts as co-operation and cause and effect.

Bash’s illustrations are colourful and simplistic, no doubt intended to be representative of a child’s ability and style. While the reason Bash chose this style is apparent, her choice has turned this into more of an illustrated story than a picture book. Unlike the illustrations in illustrated stories, which merely mirror text, the job of the picture book illustration is to tell part or all of the story independently of the text. If Bash had added something more to each illustration, perhaps even something as simple as a crab making its wobbly way from sand to sea across each illustrative spread, the story would have gained an extra layer. Children love discovering the unexpected. So, too, the sun safety theme could have been reinforced further through illustration. For example, showing little brother lurking off to the side at sunscreen time, avoiding the ritual as some children will do, and then by story’s end showing the same child decidedly redder and somewhat pensive beside his sun-aware sister would speak volumes.

Generally speaking the book’s design is good: text and illustrations have married well. However, the second page spread, and a few more further on, feature illustrations in dark tones overlaid with black text that is somewhat difficult to read. White text on these pages would have solved this issue.

In the book’s ‘settings’ panel, there are links to browse more iStory Time books and subscribe to the newsletter, as well as narrator and automatic page turning options. Pages turn with a satisfying paper sound that successfully reproduces the picture book experience. My middle-aged senses found the narrator manically enthusiastic—annoyingly so—though I’m sure kids won’t be particularly bothered, and if parents are, they can always turn this feature off. It should be mentioned that the narrator skips a word on the second last page, a possible point of confusion for children who are learning to read.

All in all this is an e-book kids will enjoy reading. Given the price, it is certainly excellent value.

More on this and other titles can be found at: www.istorytimeapp.com

For more information on author, J. R. Poulter visit: www.jenniferrpoulter.weebly.com

Info on Sarah E. Bash can be found at: http://www.jacketflap.com/profile.asp?member=sarahebash

About the reviewer: Jenny Mounfield is the author of a three published novels for children, her most recent being, The Ice-cream Man (Ford Street Publishing www.fordstreetpublishing.com) as well as a number of short stories for both children and adults published in print and online. She has reviewed children’s fiction for e-zine, Buzz Words since 2006 and has recently completed her first novel for adults. She lives in south-east Queensland Australia with her husband and three teenage children.