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Digital Book Review: If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

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Oceanhouse Media, officially licensed as the provider of iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone applications for Dr. Seuss properties, is kicking off 2012 with the release of their digital book version of If I Ran the Zoo at the introductory price of $2.99. The ap, which uses the original delightful Dr. Seuss illustrations, offers three ways to read the story.

The “Read to Me” option features a professional reader. Words are highlighted as they are read, and pages need to be swiped. “Read it Myself” allows the child or an adult to read the book in the traditional manner, not a bad feature for those of us who still like children on our laps at bedtime. Children reading on their own can tap unfamiliar words to have them read aloud. They can also tap on pictures to have the words identifying them zoom out and pronounced. “Auto Play” allows the child to have the story narrated and the pages turned automatically. Additional production values include background sound effects and enlarged artwork which spotlights a portion of a picture and then zooms out to the larger page.

The ap is easy to use — even young children and technologically challenged elders will have little trouble working with it. Although I must confess that highlighting individual words is a challenge on the iPhone for those of us with less nimble fingers who may be reading to children at bedtime. Of course, you can always have the youngster do the tapping. There is no problem on the larger iPad screen. The ap is also available for the Android as well.

The story itself, for those unfamiliar with the Dr. Seuss classic, deals with the exotic menagerie young Gerald McGrew’s imagination creates to replace the humdrum ordinary animals he finds in the normal zoo. It is a bestiary that includes a “fine fluffy bird called the Bustard / Who only eats custard with sauce made of mustard,” a family of Escher-like deer whose horns are so entwined you can’t tell one from the other, not to mention the wild “Tick-Tack-Toe.” Gerald travels the world from North Dakota hunting the Iota to the wilds of Nantasket in search of the Gasket. It is Dr. Seuss at his inventive peak, a joyful romp to whet the imagination of any child.

Like the other Seuss masterpieces, If I Ran the Zoo’s whimsical use of language coupled with its fantastic artwork has been instrumental in creating new generations of book lovers. Oceanhouse’s catalogue of adaptions for the digital age — a catalogue that includes Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and Horton Hears a Who among others — will hopefully do the same for the generations to come.

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About Jack Goodstein