It's not just another eBook

eBooks for kids, this is the tag line for Sanoen. A company that is a digital publisher specialising in children's literature with an educational focus. Sarah, the little fairy : Grandma gets lost is their first story from the collection that is to be filled with other titles in the future.

The content is quite well put together, in this particular app/story, they talk about Alzheimers and how it affects Sarah's grandma, who keeps forgetting. So the doctor has put Sarah on some fun exercises to try out with grandma, where as the little fairy, Mina (is Sarah's doll) tells sarah about the connections in grandma's brains and how they are affected by Alzheimers. So when grandma is lost, the family panics and Sarah saves the day by knowing where to find grandma.

There are interactive elements in the app and also some games. The text is accompanies with voice over and it is available in about 5 languages. It is an effort that is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.

It got difficult to review this further, for a couple of reasons. I hope that Sanoen take this into consideration and not as a critique of their or their contractors work.

On the main menu, if there was text for the icons indicating what they were for, it would make navigating so much easier, also considering that this is for kids, it would really be nice to have that upfront and visible.

On the first page, the items are scattered all over the place, this is an activity for the kids, to move them into the box. The objects would have been more fun if they were physics enabled objects, right now they float if you leave them in mid air. This is a bit of a let down in interactivity.

The Memory game is a nice touch, but unfortunately, memory game has unique pictures totaling half the number of squares present and then every time someone taps on a square, the tile/square flips to reveal the picture and the player has to remember what picture was there. The version of memory available in this app is basically *guessing* by tapping one tile and then the rest in sequence to find the pair, each time a new set of tiles are selected as a pair, so it is not about memory any more, and honestly quite confusing for children.

Generally in a children's app, items that are highlighted, or marked as different are call out to actions items, which mean that when clicked they either do something special or the child can hear a narration of that item. When any portion of the text is tapped/touched, the entire narration starts, this can be a bit repetitive.

The Spoon game is not very clear and despite the fact that you collect no spoons or all the spoons, you see a big black creature which to me was an indication of you have failed. Even if I collected all the spoons. Not very motivating for children.

From a design point of view, the text is an absolute disaster, the narration text is made up several fonts and colours which goes against all design rules and looks garish and ugly.

The sprite for Sarah's mother is strangely the same, sometimes she has a brush in the same pose, remove the brush, she has the same pose with the family, etc.

Given these points and that the target audience for this app are children aged 5 to 9 years, and priced at $2.99 the app falls very short of what it set out to do. The story is authored by Marga M. Garriga which is perhaps the saving grace of the whole app, it is very well woven to help a child understand what Alzheimer's is and what are the effects of that, so that they can then deal better with family members that could have been affected with Alzheimer's.

The Illustrations by Vanessa Linares (of HMM Multimedia?) are nice, the only issue is that Grandma is drawn as vector art where as some others are a combination, so it does look a bit strange in places.

The unfortunate truth about this beast of design and creativity and Academia is similar to the right brain and left brain differences, which basically means that there is a difference between a designer and a developer. The credits indicate that the developers for this app are Inqbarna, a company that is founded by 6 team members that have PhD's and papers on several technologies. However, this app also indicates that the forte of these founders could be realtime and communications software, not creative software. They could write a wonderful streaming video app or write a paper on the multimedia compression. I would have thought that this was their first app, but the wesite indicates that they have already created a couple of apps, which also suffer from the same Design (code) vs Design (Art) type of issues.

Lastly, the QA testing team indicates the last name Xarrié which is common between three testers and the Production team of Jaume Xarrié, should have found small issues that are present regarding touches and the memory game, etc. The twitter account for Sanoen is that of the Author, so it could seem that the Author is a director/owner in Sanoen as she is also the Co-Producer on this app.

This might seem a bit harsh as a review but the fact is that when compared to other titles that are developed with smaller teams and budgets, the results outweigh this app. To provide examples, there is the "Be Confident" series by Anne Fox (programmed by David Fox), then there is the "Filin Banyosu" a Turkish story book written by Alasdair Turner, illustrated by OiP and programmed by just one developer, "Deniz A. S. Cetim", this is a wonderful example of interactivity and fits right with the demographics too.

All in all, the effort by Sanoen and the Ministry of Culture, Spain is commendable and hope that there are more of these stories to come. Maybe if they do take note of the issues mentioned and make the relevant changes, they might actually have an app that will work for the intended audience.

Software : Sarah, The Little Fairy
Version : 1.1
Publisher : Sanoen
Website :
Twitter : @margamgarriga
Platform : iOS
Price : $2.99


  1. Hello,
    This is the first App that Marga and I produce and your feedback will be very useful for the second one we are working on.
    We tried to be so evident on the icons and navigation that no instructions were to be needed. If it is not 100% evident for all readers we will label icons in future.
    Objects on page 1: Agreed, it would be nicer if objects fall to the ground.
    Our memory it is a “music” memory, not an image memory. All the images are equal on purpose. Kids get it, but I have to confess you are not the first adult confused. We should state it more clearly.
    We wanted to allow for easy narration replay. We thought text tapping was an intuitive way to ask for it. To prevent disruption, tapping has no effect while the narration is ongoing.
    Spoon game: If you really collect all 10 spoons, you get an OK sound after each spoon and a prize at the end. I agree with you we should reward all kids some way. Maybe, awarding a lower-prize for kids missing a few spoons.
    Quality control team is very inexperienced. They are our sons and nephews, all below 8, who played with the app over and over before release. Placing them on the credits as quality control team was a sort of a thank you and also a little family joke.
    The Spanish Ministry of Culture agreed to fund 30% of our production costs for this app and for the associated eBook. We are grateful to them for that. They have no responsibility on content.
    We intended to build an interactive book. What the kids of our days expect as a “seating-relaxed” experience. The tiny surprises on each page and the two games (spoon and music memory) are intended to be just little rewards for going through the story. We did not expect them to take a primordial role.
    Again thank you for the time you devoted analyzing our App and all the comments. You do very a serious review job.
    Best regards
    Marga M Garriga & Jaume Xarrié


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