talking puppy is a (slightly creepy) reading friend for toddlers

However, while Pepper tours her new workplace, kids can look for the various shapes represented throughout the story, like the circle on the hose reel, or the oval on Pepper’s ill-fitting, obviously-designed-for-humans gumboots. Buddy doesn’t mention the shapes, so these can be something discovered with parents or guardians during story time.

Same goes for Cooper Finds A Way (about opposites), Bella’s Mystery Morning (colours), Buddy to the Rescue (emotions) and Mona Follows A Clue (numbers). Buddy reads the story, but it’s left to the parents to dig into what these themes really mean.

Storytime Buddy can 'read' the five included books, or act as a nightlight.

Storytime Buddy can ‘read’ the five included books, or act as a nightlight.

What’s disappointing about Buddy is just how irritating its voice is. It would have been far better if parents, guardians or distant relatives could record their own voices reading the stories.

The stories themselves also leave a little something to be desired. They’re not going to be the next Goodnight Moon or Happy Hocky Family. They cover the bases for two-year-olds, but they lack the soul or character of a children’s classic.

They also don’t have the author listed or a title page, and some of my fondest childhood memories include my parents or aunts sitting me down and reading the title on the cover, followed by the title, author and illustrator from the title page. I’m not sure if that’s a thing in all families, but it’s something we still do with the next generation of the family to reinforce that these stories and pictures come from people’s imaginations and maybe these kids can come up with their own stories, too.

But what is wonderful about Buddy is that it gives kids the opportunity to have story time — without a screen — whenever they want, and it gives toddlers control over when and what they read, which is wonderful for independent kids and those with busy carers.

Buddy even asks reading comprehension questions, orchestrates happy learning sing-a-longs, and has both a bedtime mode and a nightlight mode. Bedtime mode has Buddy quietly read a bedtime story before playing ten minutes of soft lullabies, while nightlight mode plays gentle lullabies and lights up Buddy’s collar charm as a soothing nightlight.

And, while adults may be creeped out by Buddy’s voice, kids seem to find it completely normal, if not utterly charming.

Buddy might not come with any literary classics, but for $59.95 this is a useful, educational gift for 2–4 year olds.

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