Heroes of the City – review & giveaway

In stereotypical boy form, Andrew is very into vehicles of any sort (though he does like the colour pink). From passenger ones like cars and buses, to construction ones like diggers and cranes, to emergency ones like police cars and fire engines, to countryside ones like tractors and harvesters, and of course to airborne ones like planes and rockets, he can’t get enough of them. So when we were given the opportunity to review some goodies from the TV cartoon series Heroes of the City, I knew he’d love to put them to the test.

Heroes of the City is about rescue vehicles in a small town where everyone can be a hero. Each episode involves an exciting adventure, where characters such as Paulie Police Car and Fiona Fire Engine help the people of the town find thieves, put out fires, and solve the many mysteries that happen in the otherwise quiet town. The characters emphasise friendship, warmth, and what can be accomplished by helping each other. The cartoon is primarily targeted at children age 3-7, and is created by Swedish company Ruta Ett DVD AB. So Andrew well and truly fits in their target audience category.

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We were sent a goody bag that included 3 exciting items – toys, book and DVD – each of which I’ll review in turn below. Andrew’s first impression of these goodies was this:

“Wow I love these toys, they’re my favourite!” (though I don’t think he’s quite understood the concept of favourite, he says that about a lot of things, but still, this means it’s positive), “can I watch the DVD please?”

Toys

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We received two die cast toy vehicles – Paulie Police Car and Troy Tractor. These are very cute, and just the right size for Andrew to enjoy playing with now that he’s old enough to have something that bit smaller than the chunky vehicle toys that Joel still plays with. They look well made, and being metal (rather than plastic), they look like they will last for a long time of being well loved. I love how they are cartoon-y in shape – not like a standard Matchbox-style toy car – and reflect really well the characters that you see on screen. They have already been played with a lot, including the snippet of fun in this video in which they went to the car wash (or tractor wash)…

Book

We were sent the Hot Air Balloon story, and there are others too. It has hard front and back covers with glossy full colour pages inside. The pages are filled with full scenes from the episodes, with chunks of text in boxes overlaid to tell the story. I think there is just the right amount of text for Andrew, and he can easily follow the story. He loves the big, bright pictures that fill the pages, and he’s had fun pointing out what he can see as well as reading the story with me and recognising letters and a few words. I think the font is easy to read and about the right size for Andrew at this stage. On the front and back inside covers, there’s even a spot the Calamity Crow scene, which is a fun searching game.

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My one slight reservation is that it sounds slightly American to me – for example in this book, the word soccer is used instead of football, and I had to explain to him what this was, because he knows what football is but he hasn’t heard of soccer. I don’t have a problem with American culture, it’s nothing personal, I just like to stick with British English when reading to Andrew. In time he will no doubt get used to American English too. It won’t stop us reading this book, I just have to do more explaining on a couple of things.

DVD

We were sent Volume 1 which has 5 episodes on. Andrew likes watching it, and straight away picked up on the fact that it’s the same characters and city as the ‘games on Mummy’s phone’. I like the animation, and the faces on the vehicles cleverly show all sorts of emotions using lights for eyes, bumpers for mouths, grills for noses etc. I can see how the aim to ’emphasise friendship, warmth, and what can be accomplished by helping each other’ comes across through watching it myself with the boys, I think it achieves this well and in a way that appeals to preschoolers, particularly if they like vehicles.

The theme tune is catchy, and I found myself humming it to the boys randomly – this happens with various kids programs I find, and this too has made it into my subconscious playlist 😉

Again I should say that the English is American, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but just something to watch out with in terms of vocab differences that crop up. It doesn’t seem to stop Andrew understanding it, though he’s used to watching DVDs and youtube in various languages that he doesn’t understand much of!

App

We were also asked to review the Heroes of the City Movie app, which is free to download from the App Store and Google Play. It is aimed at 2-6 year olds, so again Andrew fits well into this target audience. Included in the app are films and games, based on the Heroes of the City TV series. You get one full episode, one music video and 3 games for free, and then extra ‘fun-packs’ cost £2.49 each, with more films and games.

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I downloaded the Apple version of the app on my iPhone (we were sent the full app for free). I first gave it to Andrew one morning whilst I got Joel ready and did some jobs around the house; I wanted to see how much he could figure out on his own. Before I knew it he had played most of the nine games, so I asked him to show me what to do so I could play too. He’s used to the finger actions needed to play games on his grandparents’ iPads, onto which we also downloaded the Heroes of the City app too.

He loves doing jigsaw puzzles, so the game on the app where you have to slot pieces into a puzzle to reveal a character was particularly popular, and he was very good at it. The pieces were trickier to move on the phone than on the tablet-sized screen, but he still managed it. He also liked the game where you have to touch a car that’s racing along to make him jump and catch stars with points attached. This was mainly because the car makes a ‘waps’ sound whenever he jumps, and Andrew thought this was hilarious – this game is now called the ‘waps’ game to him.

HotC_app_01As you play more games, you earn trophies depending on how well you perform, and then you can look at all your trophies in another section of the app. Andrew asked me what this was as he was flicking through, so I explained to him about the gold, silver and bronze trophies – I’m not sure he understood fully what the different colours mean, but he now knows he’s winning and collecting trophies as he goes along. I’ve also heard it on the grapevine that there is a special secret surprise in store which you unlock when you’ve collected enough trophies….!

As well as the games, there are some film clips – more than 6 hours in total (if you buy the extras). Andrew has watched a few of these, but so far it’s been mainly games that he’s played. I can imagine though, that the film clips would be a great way of entertaining him for 5-10 minutes or so if we are out and about and he’s bored waiting for something – it’s like watching a DVD but handily on the phone, already downloaded so no issues with internet connectivity when out and about. If you’re at home and have Apple devices, there is an Air Play function for your Apple TV.

I generally don’t spend money on games apps because there are some good free ones out there, but I would consider paying for 1 or 2 extra Heroes of the City fun packs because they are great games and just right for Andrew’s skills and interests at the moment, plus there are levels that increase in difficulty as he grows and develops.

Overall

We have been impressed with the pack that we were sent: Andrew has enjoyed the games, TV episodes and book, and I have generally found them just right for his age and development, with room to ‘grow’. I also like the fact that this is a collection of various media all based around the same characters and stories. Many of our books, DVDs and games are like this, and I’ve noticed that these are ones which Andrew generally comes back to again and again – maybe he likes the fact that he recognises characters across the various activities he’s doing, whether that’s reading, watching a DVD or youtube, or playing a game on the phone/iPad.

If you’d like any more info on the series, you can find out all about it on the website, Facebook page or on Twitter.

Competition time!

If you like the look of all this fun we’ve had, here’s your chance to win your very own set of toys, book and DVD. All you need to do is fill in the Rafflecopter below to be in with a chance of winning, by 22nd March (please see full T&Cs below).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: we were sent the pack and full app to review free of charge, but all opinions expressed are honest and our own, based on our experience of using the items.

Exploring Coventry city centre – #CountryKids

It’s slightly odd living back in the city where I grew up. Some things haven’t changed, but others have, and I certainly don’t know much about entertaining small children here, though I’m learning. We won’t be here for long, so it’s not worth putting down lots of roots in terms of what I get up to with the boys in the week. One trip that I was planning to do on a day when we had nothing else on is a tour of the city centre – a part of the city that has changed quite a bit since I last lived here full time over 10 years ago. It’s still not perfect, there are city centres that I would far rather walk around, but it has come on since the days that I can remember visiting town.

The first real attraction that we came to when entering the centre from the direction in which we walked from Granny and Grandad’s house was Broadgate, which features the famous Lady Godiva clock and Lady Godiva statue. For anyone not familiar with the legend of Lady Godiva, she was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and she rode naked on a horse around Coventry in protest against the unfairly high taxes that her husband was charging the town’s people. It is also said that a man named Tom watched her as she rode around, hence the name ‘peeping Tom’. When Broadgate was redeveloped after the Second World War (much of Coventry was destroyed in Blitz bombings), a clock was built – every hour on the hour it chimes and Lady Godiva rides out whilst Peeping Tom watches from above. Andrew absolutely loves watching this clock, and luckily this day we walked past it twice, both times near the turn of the hour, so we could stand and watch the show. Here’s a video of the clock in action, and in the pictures below Andrew is showing me what Peeping Tom did. As well as the clock there is a large statue of Lady Godiva overlooking the city centre precinct of shops.

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After we’d hung around waiting for and watching the clock, and Andrew had run around the black squares that are part of the design on the paving, we headed down the hill to the Transport Museum to warm up! This is a place that I just about remember visiting as a child, but it has been done up since I last went and is well worth a visit. There is no entrance fee (though anyone is welcome to donate towards its upkeep), and what you get for your (lack of) money is amazing. There are vehicles from across the centuries and across the world. It starts with bikes and horse drawn carriages, goes onto old motor cars, buses and trucks, and ends up with some very modern vehicles, not forgetting Thrust and Thrust 2, cars which broke the world land speed record. Both my boys were in their element, and would happily spend all day pottering around this fantastic museum. There are various activities and interactive displays for little ones, and the whole place is set up brilliantly for families as well as transport enthusiasts to get lots out of it.

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The museum also provided us with an hour of shelter from the cold day. Of course no eating or drinking is allowed inside though, so we had a quick pit stop outside when we left for a drink and biscuit. There is a large square outside the museum with a bench running around the outside where you can have a red plaque made with your name on if donate some money to the attraction. Towering above this square is the ‘Whittle Arch’ – a memorial (shaped like a double aeroplane wing) to Sir Frank Whittle, RAF engineer officer who was born in Coventry. I tried to explain to Andrew that this was a bit like an aeroplane wing, but he wasn’t too sure! On the side of the museum, there is a large screen, and as we walked past it was showing a film about some young people doing a dance class, so we stopped and did a few moves ourselves for a minute or two.

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Our next destination was Coventry Cathedral, and to get to that we walked up through a very old area of the city where you can see the remains of the old priory. Well, we couldn’t actually go into the building that now houses the excavated undercroft that day, but we stopped by the fountain (far left picture below) that was built fairly recently as part of the opening up of this historic site and behind which are some more ruins of the old priory. Then, as we walked up the road towards the entrance of the cathedral, Andrew spotted these mini fountains on the other side of the road, so we had to go and investigate. Unfortunately he didn’t have his wellies on as it wasn’t a wet day, otherwise he would have loved to jump in the water that was just spraying back down onto the pavement. This water feature is right outside one of the main buildings of Coventry University, which has an amazing view overlooking the cathedral – or should I say cathedralS…

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As I said above, much of Coventry was destroyed in bombing raids in World War 2, because traditionally it is a city of heavy industry, particularly cars, and the factories were used to manufacture weapons in the war. During one night of the Blitz, the old cathedral, St Michael’s church, which looked remarkably similar to a factory from the air, was hit by incendiary bombs and burned to ruins. The outer walls and the spire survived, and this ruin is now a symbol of peace and reconciliation through the work of the Cross of Nails charity administered at the cathedral – a cross made from three large nails was found in the rubble the day after the bombing. Then in the 1960s, a modern cathedral was built right next to the old ruin, attached via a giant canopy between them. We didn’t go in to the new cathedral this time, that’s a whole trip on its own, but I showed the boys various features from the outside, such as the etchings on the windows above the main entrance (top centre picture below) – several years of school trips to this attraction taught me many interesting facts about its design. We did, however, have a walk around the ruins, where I tried to explain to Andrew why there was no roof – quite deep stuff for a just turned 3 year old! He was fascinated with looking up at the spire, and I told him that one day we could climb up it when we’re with more grown-ups. Although there isn’t as much detail as in the new building, I pointed out a few items in the ruins, including the cross on the altar that is made from two charred wooden beams from the roof of the old cathedral.

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Once we’d finished here, we carried on walking through the centre and had a brief look down at the shopping precinct. Andrew pointed out what he could see from this vantage point, and by this time Joel had just about fallen asleep. I’d been in touch with Grandad who works in town, and he was looking forward to coming out of his office and meeting us for lunch. And where better to meet him than back at the clock where we had started – we were just in time to watch it strike 12 noon.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the sights of Coventry, and we’ll definitely be returning another time to the Transport museum for more vehicle fun.

This week I’m linking up again with the fantastic Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog, because we had some outdoor fun in the city.