A deft combination of classic fright story and solid interactive artwork gives this nightmare tale an enjoyable creepiness.
A boy is haunted by nightmares: a castle on a foggy night, incorporeal voices calling, a big moon in the sky, ravens cawing. He brushes away the dreams until they are too insistent, and so he enters the dream and the Castle of Nightmares. From the start, readers will know this app will provide some good, spooky, Vincent Price fun—the music alone gives it away—but so does the artwork, all shadows, soft buttery light and doors hiding who-knows-what? The interactive features are great and ghoulish, too, as earwigs and spiders crawl out at readers, for this is very much a book, with lots of words to read as well as tapping to effect. The characters are a curious combination, echoing both the past and now: John, the hero, looks more like Geneviève Bujold than a strapping youth, and Eleanor, queen of nightmares, who has trapped child after child by luring them away in their dreams, is a punk Cruella De Vil. But the whole thing slips along rather nicely, with plenty of fun if derivative play on Alfred Hitchcock, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Sword in the Stone.
A scary story, minus the terror, that will make readers squirm instead of scream. (iPad storybook app. 7-11)