Bottom Line: Classic folk tale gets an extravagant, cutting edge adaptation for the digital age that older children and their parents will enjoy over and over.
At some point during any awards telecast, a B-List actress gets onstage in a borrowed gown and announces that awards for technical merit, which nobody really cares about, were given at a dinner earlier in the week. If book apps got awards for technical merit like movies do, then that pretty up and comer would have handed a boatload of golden statues to Moving Tales for The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross. This book app is like nothing you have seen before. The narration, illustration, text display and background music combine to create a totally immersive experience. I actually find myself lingering on some pages even after the narration finishes just looking at the incredible artwork.
Pedlar Lady is based on a 13th century Persian folk tale. The ancient story which has English, Irish and Jewish variations stands the test of time in Moving Tales' compelling digital mash-up. The bent over haggard pedlar lady has a dream. She leaves her run-down home and walks to a castle in search of the bridge from her dream. Once there, a palace guard castigates her for wearing through her only pair of shoes to chase a dream. He tells her of his own dream of a tree with bottles hanging from it and a rocking chair on the porch. Inspired by this dream which perfectly describes her home, she makes the long journey back. Once there she digs under the withered looking tree in her parched yard, and she discovers the treasure, a bubbling stream, was on her property the whole time
The language used throughout the story is sophisticated almost to the point of being inaccessible. Ineluctable is not a word you hear every day but when the narrator with the subtle old world accent says it, somehow the meaning is clear. The app offers read to me and read yourself options but I always opt for read to me because the narration is by far the best in any book app. There's something so soothing about it that I could see using this book for a bedtime story even for a small child that wouldn't quite follow the story. Spanish and French voiceovers are also included, but they lack the stateliness of the English version.
The interactive elements in this app are as subtle and muted as the palette used for the illustrations. The best way to experience this app and enjoy it is simply to watch and listen. This is not read a page, play a game material. The sounds and motion outside of the text serve to place the reader in the Pedlar Lady's environment and enhance the overall dreamy setting rather than detracting from it with endless tapping and swiping activated gimmicks.
Moving Tales is an apt name for the developer because this book reads like watching a movie. Letters in the words literally fall off the page. Shadows grow and night falls as the pedlar lady makes her journey. A lone crow squawks and is perhaps a harbinger of a less than happy ending. Fortunately the story ends with visitors from far and wide visiting Gushing Cross to enjoy the Pedlar Lady's newly green and lush yard. The lesson learned from this fable may be lost on younger children, but the power of the language will linger long after the last page is turned.
The technical proficiency demonstrated in this app is without compare. What it lacks in interactivity, it more than makes up for with the quality of its narration, soundtrack, art and movie like appearance. Teachers will especially appreciate the lesson plans and pdf text for Pedlar Lady available for free on Moving Tales' website. This recently created bonus along with some technical updates to the app which added among other things the ability to skip pages with snapshots go a long way to soften the blow of the $6.99 price tag ($4.99 for iPhone).
Some people will not like this book app. Given that the tale on which it's based is already hundreds of years old, it stands a better chance of lasting than many of the flavor of the month movie tie in book apps so prevalent now. I would, however, love to see Moving Tales adapt some of Leo Lionni's books for the iPad. Their modern adaptation of a more readily known children's classic would preserve and bring a whole new audience to quality children's literature. Moving Tales' latest interactive ebook is for young children so let's hope their considerable talent and innovative take on book apps wins them best book and not just all those technical awards next time around.
If you would like to purchase Pedlar Lady ($6.99 iPad, $4.99 iPhone) please support Smart Apps for Kids and use the following links:
Jill Goodman dreams of sleeping past eight in a snore free purr free bedroom.