In this deceptively solemn retelling of the Epiphany, the three kings not only travel with their wives to Bethlehem, but defer to their sensible suggestions for gifts.
Following a course traced by fingertip on a very generalized recurring map, Queen Hekima and King Balthazar travel from North Africa to pick up King Caspar and Queen Sophia in the Balkans and King Melchior and Queen Mingzhi in China. The party then makes its way to Bethlehem to kneel and worship at the manger—with the traditional gifts rather than, as the kings first impractically propose, a live lion, a heavy golden crown and a massive throne. Along with a tap-activated chorus of angels and occasional camel noises, snatches of “We Three Kings” and other music play in the background on short loops; touching the angel icon beside each block of text activates an even-toned audio reading. The cutout figures in Barlogh’s illustrations are dressed in richly colored if generic regional costumes. They drift or change position with a tap amid, in some scenes, tilt-sensitive showers of leaves or cherry blossoms. Handsome as it is, the art is a weak link; in one scene, book-loving Sophia points to a scroll of Latin that accompanies a picture of an infant baptism as she refers to the baby being “blessed at the Temple.”
Reverent for all its gently tweaked premise but careless with cultural markers. (iPad holiday app. 6-9)