A distinctly peculiar app retells a grisly Victorian puppet show.
Readers meet the clownish Mr. Punch in jail. To Punch’s disingenuous narration (and accompanied by objective stage directions), constable Jack Ketch erects a gibbet and prepares to hang the criminal. “What a handsome tree he has planted just opposite the window, for a prospect!” Punch rhapsodizes. Ketch tries to lure Punch into the noose and then commits the cardinal error of any trickster’s victim: Out of frustration, he demonstrates and does himself in. Punch gloats; story ends. The text, uncredited and unglossed, seems to come from a 19th-century puppet-show script by John Payne Collier; the illustrations feature a photo-collaged image of what appears to be a Punch puppet. It’s artfully done; the watercolor illustrations exaggerate the buffoonery of Ketch and his minions, and the kazoo accompaniment couldn’t be more appropriate. But with no credits and no notes of any kind, it’s hard to imagine who it’s for. Scholars of Victorian literature and culture may find it a pleasing bagatelle. Modern children are the apparent audience, judging by the appended bumper-car game that reveals corny dialogue balloons upon successful collisions. Unfamiliar as they are with the show’s conventions, though, what they are to make of it is anyone’s guess.
Punch and his partner Judy drew enthusiastic audiences in the 19th century; his appeal to the 21st is likely to be considerably smaller. (iPad storybook app. 14 & up)