Benjamin leads his sick cousin Peter into another traumatic outing to Mr. McGregor’s garden in this cozy if not quite streamlined digital rendition of the 1904 classic.
Designed to look like an early print edition, in landscape orientation, each screen shows two antiqued “pages,” with text placed on the left and on the right, an elaborately animated version of the original illustration. In portrait mode, only the enlarged illustrations are visible, and the effect is even more movielike; the figures have even been lip-synced with the narration. Within layered settings that move independently to create a 3-D impression, Benjamin, a wilted-looking Peter, the cat that traps the two interlopers under a basket for five hours and Benjamin’s pipe-smoking, switch-wielding father move from multiple joints like expertly manipulated marionettes. There are no sound effects, but a piano chimes in the background as an expressive narrator (optionally) reads, and there is a self-record option too. At four points, the story pauses distractingly to offer readers a jigsaw puzzle, and for all the sophisticated design within the art, the page turns are stiff and jerky.
Though not quite the equal of Loud Crow’s spectacular Beatrix Potter adaptations, this does give the tale a fresh reboot—respectful enough to retain the full text with its corporal punishment and smoking references. (iPad storybook app. 5-8)