Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats: App Review, by Awnali Mills
When my friend Rachel Sharpe emailed me about this wonderful app that I just had to try, I jumped right on it because she has great taste in apps. Once again, she was right! Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats ($2.99 iPad/iPhone) is a fun little story with great graphics and interactivity and worked well in storytime.
The story is about this wonderful machine that a little girl named Kalley has invented. On each screen, she shows her father different parts of the machine, each one interactive. You can pull the levers, push the buttons, use the puffer and the smasher, paint things different colors (and combine primary colors to create secondary colors), and sort things into different bins. Kalley’s father thinks all of this is wonderful, but he’s baffled by the point of all this machinery. At the end of the story, the little girl finally explains that this machine makes food so that her father won’t have to go to work, but can stay home with her. Sadly, her father explains to her that he works for more than just the ability to purchase food, and Kalley proclaims that she’ll just make machines to do those things too!
And, that’s the story behind the app. The developer came home from work and his daughter had designed this machine on paper for the very same reason that appeared in the story. The developer turned her idea into an app as a way of possibly making her dream of daddy staying home a reality. I like a heartwarming-tale-meets-cold-hard-technology story as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make a bad app into a good one. Fortunately, this is a pretty good one.
What I liked: The interactivity is pretty fabulous. There’s enough stuff here to keep kids playing with it for a long time, and it’s sneakily educational. Being able to watch as cats play around the machinery, and using the machinery to try and tease them is fun (cats cannot get hurt). You can also remove the cats as one of the options. You can have narration or not as you choose, and have background music or not. It’s easy to navigate, and there are no ads or in-app purchases. I loved that it featured a girl as the engineer. I love the message that kids have the power to create things to improve their lives.
What I didn’t like: The “puffers” and “shrinkers” on my app didn’t work, although the screenshots shown on the app’s website show them working. While this is disappointing, it didn’t lessen the charm of the working machinery. Some of the word choices irritated me, particularly when the girl tells her father, “It stamps shapes of the things that you choosed.” Yeah, I know that it’s a little kid speaking, but obviously incorrect grammar makes me a little crazy.
I liked this app enough to use it in a food-themed storytime. I wasn’t sure how all the interactivity would translate to a storytime setting, but I managed to work some of the machinery while I was reading, and worked some of it after reading the page—practicing ahead of time is crucial here. If I had to do it over again, I would lower the volume a bit (I had it on full blast) so that the noise of the machinery didn’t compete with my voice as much. The kids were glued to the screen and seemed to enjoy the story. I meant to make the app available for play after stories, but kids were mobbing the flannelboard I had made available for play and I got distracted. Maybe next time!
Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose. ~*~ Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.