Polish publisher Festina Lente and digital developer Kartalia have collaborated on a lively animated picture book app of 1824 short story “Chory Kotek” — The Sick Kitten (May 2013) — by Stanisław Jachowicz. Jachowicz, who wrote original fairy tales, published a children’s newsletter, and wrote a children’s songbook, is considered the father of children’s literature in Poland. The app’s English translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones is accompanied by Ludwika Micińska’s illustrations with music by Sławomir Zamuszko.
In this cautionary tale, a kitten feels ill after overindulging in unhealthy food. The doctor, a distinguished gentleman cat with bushy eyebrows and mustache, top hat, and enormous glasses, prescribes an unpalatable remedy: “ages and ages” of bed rest and gruel. The kitten is dismayed by the thought of “no sausages, bacon, or fat,” no mice or chicken breast, but a trio of mice helpfully (and perhaps a little gleefully) offer him porridge and veggies.
Micińska’s collages, with their varied fabric-like textures, visible “stitching,” and vibrant palette, are soft and warm, despite the text’s didacticism. In her narration, British actress Mel Giedroyc performs the rhymed couplets with a rhythm that feels natural, not too sing-songy, and ably embodies both the doctor’s disapproving baritone and the kitten’s petulant whine. A few interactive moments per screen predominately feature the mischievous mice who, unbeknownst to the cats, slide on the doctor’s curly whiskers and pop out of unexpected places. The friendly art, interactivity, and nuanced narration help to balance out the story’s lecturing tone.
The app offers “read,” “listen,” and “play” modes. The “play” section contains three brief activities: a whack-a-mole-type game, a memory game, and food pyramid matching game. (Unfortunately, this last activity never functioned properly on our device, repeatedly causing the app to crash). A thumbnail menu of the screens is available from each page and from the main menu.