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Spot app review

spot menuMany of David Wiesner’s best-known books are wordless or nearly wordless. Mr. Wuffles, Flotsam, Tuesday: readers create their own narrative based on a visual experience. And that experience is unlike any other — each of Wiesner’s books is entirely unique, though each is also indelibly his.

His new app, Spot (HMH/Smashing Ideas, February 2015), is also wordless (there are some sound effects and music). It’s also entirely unique, indelibly his, mind-blowingly imaginative…and very difficult to describe. It’s a little hard to figure out how to enter and navigate once you’re inside; a ladybug crawls across the screen (it’s the letter o in Spot). Tap its back, then use the pinch-and-spread method with your fingers to zoom in, aerial-view-like, on: first an island, then the exterior of a house, and then inside the house, where you’ll find some small ladybugs — they look like the heroic ones from Mr. Wuffles — working on constructing a giant mechanical ladybug. Zoom in on their worktable where five pulsing “hotspots” appear — one on a moldy sandwich, one on a pencil, a cookie, a newspaper, and a file folder labeled “Worlds: Mekanikos, [something in alien language that also looks like it’s from Mr. Wuffles], Katzaluna, Oceana Prime, Lower Rügg.” Pick a pulsing spot to follow, and zoom in further an another (out-of-this)world, populated by creatures familiar, remarkable, and/or bizarre. And on and on…

spot worktable

These worlds-within-worlds are truly interconnected: motifs reappear throughout the app, and visitors from each of the worlds make cameos in the others (e.g., fish in a rolling aquarium attract some uncomfortable attention in Katzaluna, a cat-populated metropolis). Humorous details — particularly visible in the species’ interactions and various tourists’ clueless behaviors — add emotional warmth and additional narratives to interpret.

spot cat parade

an uncomfortable interaction with the locals (plus a parade-float stowaway)

With so much to explore, this app will keep kids engaged, confounded, inspired, enthralled. You can find downloadable parent and educator guide PDFs along with a brief “Behind the Scenes” video here. Dive in, embrace your confusion, and enjoy.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $3.99. Recommended for primary users and up.

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