Bottom line: Intriguing, dark book app with beautiful graphics and engrossing text that's too much for the younger set, but might be enjoyed by an angst-filled tween/early teen.
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A tale off the top of my head is an interactive e-book by French developer La Souris Qui Raconte (the mouse that tells for us Anglophiles). The graphics and unique feel are the best part of this app which tells the story of Ari Allistair Arx-Sorensen. The writing in this 27-page story is also beautifully crafted, and is available in French or English.
As an e-book, this one is above average in its visual appeal. Every page is a bit different, making it interesting to read. One page, with text referring to photos hanging on the wall, shows just one frame with the text in it—but scrolling the screen reveals the character in a variety of animated photos. There are small elements of interaction on each page, but they are limited—the focus is clearly on the story.
The navigation of this app is simple with its advanced interface, which includes a tool bar across the bottom of each page with doves taking the place of forward and back arrows. The Contents allows the user to skip to any page in the text easily from a scrolling thumbnail of pages. The sound can be turned off, but there is no option to turn off only music. While the music is beautiful and adds a lot to the app, it can be distracting to some users who just want to hear the story read.
Another distraction is the font of the text. The font is thin, with words very close together and they're another reason why younger kids wouldn't enjoy this app. When the story is read aloud, the text disappears and is visible in chunks as it is read. It was difficult to follow along, as the presentation of words was not smooth. The narration, however, is beautifully read.
Though the iTunes description lists this book as for ages 8+, it seems much more suitable to an older age range. The text is complex and the story is very dark for a kids app—my 8-year-old son, a prolific and advanced reader, couldn’t follow it. There are themes of love and loss that seem beyond the interest of most children before 12, or even older.
I really enjoyed reading this whole book because of the rich text. However, even after several readings, I still don’t fully understand what I read. It’s a book I could discuss in a literature class—even better, in a French literature class, if I spoke French.
With lines like, “I loved this austere and dark residence with its never-ending labyrinthine hallways and peculiarly named rooms,” and “We would wait for the perfect moment, that point of purity, without noise: the sound of nothing,” or, my favorite, “I pulled from the flames my childhood memories. I cradled them in the moonlight,” this book has imagery well beyond that found in most popular children’s literature or the current bestselling book apps.
The book leaves many questions to be answered—did Ari Allistair really fall in love with a girl from the sky? Is his kindred animal Nimis, a she-wolf, really still with him after 100 years? Did she ever exist in flesh, or is she just in spirit? Debating these and other points is what would make this tale a good addition to a class for older students.
There are quite a few external links on the home page. However, as this app is best suited for older children, this is less an issue. Still, be aware that it does link to Facebook from the home screen.
There is a free preview of A tale off the top of my head, providing the user with the first five pages of the story. This is a great way to check if it’s the right reading level for your child. For older children and teens (ages 10+), this book is beautifully written with excellent graphics. It has a touch of the ever popular paranormal romance but nary a vampire in sight.
Heather Hetler wishes she had a sea turtle for a kindred animal. Her three children (10, 8, and 5) would prefer something cuddlier. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.