A heavy-handed allegorical tale about consumerism, fair trade and social conscience.
Gluttonous and hedonistic Princess Occidiane is fat, selfish, demanding and completely unaware of what her piggishness costs others. Eventually, her appetite devours most of the planet’s resources, which wreaks serious economic and environmental havoc. What to do? A page appears with three “buttons,” which each leads to a different solution—and thus there’s a trio of different endings to the story. All three outcomes offer some scathing social commentary. It appears that Occidiane represents the ugly face of Western consumerism, things like entitlement, greed, oppression and ecological irresponsibility. Fair enough. But the story fails to offer anything but binary characters—perpetrator/victim, entitled/disadvantaged, consumers/laborers—and as such, it comes across as didactic and reductionist, even disparaging. Interactive features are plentiful but simple. Certain words or phrases function as “hyperlinks” that animate and/or advance the story, and some of the lovely illustrations also produce additional images when tapped. The magical background music—Saint Saëns’ “The Aquarium”—can be switched on or off, but narration (in French or English) is a page-by-page decision. This storybook app is technologically solid, and it brings up some important issues that kids would do well to contemplate and discuss as they develop social consciences.
Unfortunately, the worthy message is overshadowed by its single-minded, intense delivery, which feels more like propaganda than storytelling. (iPad storybook app. 6-10)