At the meeting when the Horn Book staff decided starred reviews for the May/June Magazine issue, we read aloud Marianne Dubuc’s picture book Animal Masquerade. It took a good fifteen minutes (each one of them absolutely delightful).
The app In Front of My House (Winged Chariot, 2011) based on Dubuc’s book of the same title, begins, “On top of a small hill, behind a brown fence, under a big oak tree, is my house.” It’s much the same style as Animal Masquerade, starting with an image on one page that is somehow related to the next page, to the next page, and so on, until it comes full circle (unlike Animal Masquerade). The pattern is varied by playful twists and turns, such as the “nothing at all” that is thankfully under the bed (“phew!”) — or the dragon that is behind the princess in the story book that is under the old sock that is next to the nothing at all! Users may switch back and forth between English and French text/narration at any point during the story.
Each new image appears in an unexpected way, by peeking into the screen from one of the sides, pulsing — that’s when you’re supposed to drag it out into the open — or as part of the background or landscape you swipe to pan. Since the backgrounds are generally blank space, I felt impatient after a while having to retrieve every pulsing image and began swiping through the pages like crazy. The problem with that approach: each illustration and narrated text took too long to appear, with a dignified fade in that made me wish I could just flip the pages as quickly as I wanted.
The app is beautiful, but this long (120 pages!) picture book makes for a very long app experience.
Available for the iPad; $2.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.