Interactive features seem thrown in as afterthoughts, but ornately detailed new illustrations in a pre–Soviet-era style give this edition of a classic Russian short story some visual interest.
The folkloric tale sets a scheming mother and her two daughters against a third daughter, married to an often-absent Tsar, and her son, Prince Guidon—who meets and marries an enchanted princess after being transformed into stinging insects and partially blinding his evil aunts. The public-domain translation is framed in antique-sounding couplets—“Then the guests, with solemn air, / Led the newly wedded pair / To their iv’ry couch, snow-white, / Where they left them for the night.” Against the text, figures in finely patterned court attire pose formally in scenes through which floating feathers, bouncing balls of yarn and other touch- and tilt-sensitive items drift. There is no audio narration, but readers can opt to record their own. The Prince switches dramatically into a mosquito and back with a tap, but the princess’ transformation from a swan is only described, and the various touch-activated arm movements or sprays of glitter and stars elsewhere add little if anything to the story. Sound effects and orchestral background music are almost inaudible, and, iTunes description notwithstanding, the text is viewable in English only.
Rich in plot—and the inspiration for a popular opera by Rimsky-Korsakov—but with the look and language of an early-20th-century period piece. (iPad storybook app. 10-12, adult)