When Hallmark told me that they would be sending me an Interactive Storybuddy to review, I wasn't sure what to expect. As soon as we unpacked Watson the Raccoon, we all oohed and aahed about how cute he is and how lovely and soft his fur is. Just as a cuddly toy, he would have got a great reception, partly because he has such a friendly face and he is just the right size for snuggling up to in bed, but also because you don't see many raccoon soft toys so he had great novelty value too.
But that's just the start. Watson comes with a hardback storybook, called Watson and the Case of the Sneaky Stealer. It's a lovely story about the animals getting in a flap when their possessions start going missing, then being happy to give them up when Watson the Raccoon investigates and they discover that they've been used in a birds' nest full of chirping chicks. The wholesome values of generosity, kindness and tolerance that feature in the tale, along with the beautiful coloured illustrations of the animal friends, would make this a lovely book to read together in itself.
But put the two together and a little bit of Hallmark magic happens ! Press the button on Watson's ear (first making sure that he is switched on in the unit in his tummy by opening up the back of the toy - we got off to a false start and had to read the first page again !) and when you read the story aloud, he listens carefully and chips in with a range of different sentences at key moments in the story. He's activated by certain keywords that are highlighted in the text, but young listeners won't realise this and will totally believe that he's sprung to life and joined in with the story !
Slightly older readers will find his input a really useful motivational tool for reading aloud and it's a great way of keeping young listeners interested for longer.
This is the first book available in the series but there are at least two others available, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more appear in the future. There are also other story buddies available and I have to say they're quite reasonably priced, at £19.99 for the toy with a book and £5.99 for extra books. The soft toy or the book would make a lovely gift by itself, but the two together are a truly magical, special present that young children will cherish. It's a fabulous idea, and that's me speaking as a teacher as well as a mum !
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £19.99 for the interactive storybuddy with one book
for more information : http://www.hallmark.co.uk/Watson-Storybook-and-Buddy.aspx
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