Hats off to Hat Monkey
Hat Monkey, the new app from Chris Haughton & Fox and Sheep, has made a big splash on the App Store since its recent launch. As big fans of Oh No George!, one of Chris’ fabulous picture books, we couldn’t wait to check it out. We also have a copy of Hat Monkey to give away; details on how to enter are below.
This app is a book/game hybrid which follows a day with Hat Monkey, from a knock on the door in the morning to bedtime stories in the evening. Along the way, you make friends with this wonderful character through a range of interactions. It’s perfectly pitched at pre-schoolers and their parents, and he reminds me of someone Tove Jansson might have created as a friend for Moomintroll. So why do we love Hat Monkey? Let’s count in a way he might appreciate…
This is definitely an app, not a book, but brings Chris’ expertise in making picture books into play and is designed to be shared between parents and children. Between interactions is a page of very short text, with no narration. Chris says on his blog, “I fought to keep the text screens in the app and so make it more like a book than an app. That way it can function as something shared between adult and child as a read-aloud, as well as a purely solitary activity. Like my books, it has very simple text and can also double as a satisfying early reader with a nice payoff for each sentence read. “ While it’s very unusual not to include narration, this definitely does promote sharing and independent reading.
The app looks amazing and unique in the App Store, with a beautiful mix of reds, purples and blues which really stands out on screen. Full marks for design!
The interactions are all simple but fun. We loved making friends with Hat Monkey, texting him, high fiving him and dancing with him. And when we phoned him, Mr Tall (6) and Little Miss Chatterbox (4) had definite questions they wanted answered – “Why do you always say meep all the time Hat Monkey? Why do you sound like R2D2?” They loved talking to him and figuring out his answers (there’s a lot of scope for hearing what you want to hear!)
Hat Monkey is a super expressive character despite minimal facial expression – so clever. I defy anyone to resist his plaintive mute requests for bananas from the fruit bowl. You will be feeding him all day.
The app is a very clever way to link with Chris Haughton’s “real world” stories A Little Bit Lost and Oh No George! Little Miss Chatterbox was very excited to see Hat Monkey reading Oh No George! for his bedtime story. I can see this working really well as a model for picture book creators, as hopefully it will sell a few books (and provide more evidence that books and apps can work together.)
It’s multilingual, with English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish available. Mais oui, nous avons des bananes!
The app developer Fox and Sheep always puts together a very high quality app – we also recommend Nighty Night, Little Fox Music Box and Petting Zoo.
My only concern about the app was that it might not have longevity, particularly for older pre-schoolers (it seems perfectly pitched for ages 2-3). But there are in fact already plans to automatically update the app with new scenes in future and keep it fresh – hurrah!
To find out more about how this app came to life, Chris’ blog post on The Making Of Hat Monkey is fascinating.
Finally, here’s the official trailer –
I am delighted to be giving away one code for Hat Monkey courtesy of Chris Haughton (thanks Chris!).
To enter, simply leave a comment below this review before 22:00 BST on Thursday 11 September 2014. I will use www.random.org to choose the winner. Good luck!
EDIT 11 SEPTEMBER– and the winner is Carol! Congratulations, your code is on its way.
Hat Monkey for iPad/iPhone, developed by Fox and Sheep/Chris Haughton, available from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/hat-monkey/id904565251?mt=8 priced at £1.99 /US$2.99 at time of writing.