Reviews in this column first appeared in SLJ’s Touch and Go. After each review, you’ll find the date it appeared online. Online, there are links to related resources, a trailer (if one exists), and a “purchase” button. Please note that later versions of some of these titles may now be available. Visit Touch and Go at slj.com for additional reviews, commentary, and interviews with people in the field.— Daryl Grabarek
Gr 8 Up–The ideal audience for this app would be readers who couldn’t get enough of Darren Shan’s horror series, moved on to Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor, were drawn to Rick Yancy’s “Monstrumologist” books, and plan to read that classic horror touchstone, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Morris has created an interactive companion story to Shelley’s talewith a sophisticated take–asking readers to decide in which direction the story advances. Tapping the book cover on the first screen causes a title page to slide to the right and a table of contents to appear. Chapters are read from top to bottom on the right side of the screen; Chapter One begins with a first-person account of an evening walk, including enough detail to firmly situate readers in revolutionary Paris. The narrator directly addresses readers and offers two possible courses for the narrative to follow. Each subsequent short text section concludes with a question and with two or more choices as readers work through this version of the classic story (“We can cut through these back streets. It’s not even ten minutes’ walk from here. Or perhaps you would prefer the scenic route?”); options not selected slip gracefully off to the right and disappear. Part One is told by Victor Frankenstein and Part Two begins with the voice of the monster.
Orientation is landscape only, navigation is easy and elegant, and audio is minimal. The pen-and-ink-style graphics are delightfully atmospheric and include several detailed illustrations from centuries-old anatomical texts, along with period reproductions. “Extras” include “The Original Frankenstein,” “The Art of Frankenstein,” and information about the author.
Encourage readers to visit the inkle Studios website, which offers free web-based software for creating a their own book in same format.—Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle, WA (6/11/12)
Gr 7 Up–Anyone who appreciates da Vinci’s artistic brilliance will enjoy this rare glimpse into his genius as a scientist. The app is a companion piece to an exhibit at The Queen’s Gallery in London and showcases 268 meticulous drawings from the Royal Collection, each a testament to how far ahead of his time the man truly was. Taking full advantage of the iPad’s high-resolution Retina display, the software allows users to zoom in for a closer look at the tiniest details of line and shading.
After a brief video introduction, the app opens on what looks like an ancient parchment paper portfolio divided into two parts: “The Story” and “The Drawings.” In the first section, viewers can watch as experts discuss da Vinci’s 28-year investigation into anatomy or browse through 11 artfully illustrated chapters of in-depth information about his life and work written by Martin Clayton, a curator at the Royal Collection.
In “Drawings,” da Vinci’s work can be accessed by time period and medium, or visually, by scrolling through thumbnails of the art or by body systems. Like an exploration into his mind, moving a special lens over da Vinci’s notes in his signature right-to-left mirror writing reverses the text, tapping an icon reveals English translations of the comments he made in Italian alongside his drawings, and rotating and swiping modern 3-D images of the body exposes various internal systems juxtaposed with the artist’s drawings of them. This is an outstanding learning experience, rich in information, jam-packed with interactive tools, and absolutely gorgeous to boot.—Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY, NY (6/1/12)