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The Bedsby Tales app review

bedsby menuTales from the Crypt fans who’ve been dying to introduce the next generation to episodic horror will be all over The Bedsby Tales (Jacob Duane Johnson, March 2015), a series of short stories for middle graders with some interactive elements. “Episode 1: Thoughts of Unknown” begins with a dubious welcome from a shadowy-creature storyteller in a creepy lair (“Well hello there my little friend, I’ve been expecting you. Run into any, problems along the way?” *menacing chuckle*).

The story in rhyme begins: “There’s something creepy about a house in the night. / Mysteries of emptiness and absence of light.” The narrator, Kevan Brighting, a 2014 BAFTA nominee for games performer, does his best Vincent Price (and with those rhymes it’s difficult not to think of “Thriller,” but not in a bad way). There are good sound effects, too: creaky floorboards, rattling wind, ticking clocks, and tinkly, haunting music.

The visuals are shadowy mostly black-and-white cartoon illustrations, with a shifting cinematic perspective; moving down a long corridor or up a windy staircase, for example, or zooming down from the ceiling and toward a small key hole in a door. When you finally reach the destination — a little boy’s room — there’s a pause in the narration and a wordless scene plays out, complete with scary monster (and it is pretty scary; then there’s another one, too, under the bed, which is even scarier). The story picks back up and moves swiftly to its everything’s-ok-fornow denouement. Then we’re back to our crypt-master who sets the stage for next time.

bedsby monster

In the interactive mode (you can also set it to auto play), listeners are occasionally stopped to perform tasks inside the creepy house: prying up floorboards to unearth a key; pulling portraits off the wall to find a clock’s hand; using that hand to set the time at midnight (that one’s the most fun); using the key to enter the boy’s room. It works well, pacing-wise, and lets kids play a somewhat active role (though seasoned app or e-book users may not find enough interactive bells and whistles).

There are six stories coming in the current “season” (the first episode is free). They’re definitely creepy, but not too terrifying. Good for young horror fans who can take the tingles or slightly older ones who don’t like blood and gore.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later); free for the introductory story. Recommended for intermediate and middle-school users.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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