A confusingly organized import with aural and visual appeal aplenty features a small bird on a long journey and an unusual hands-on project.
In harmonious woodcuts reminiscent of Marcia Brown’s grainy block prints, an oriole freed from a cage flies over a bridge, mountains and other features. As he flies, he pauses for philosophical exchanges with a cow (“Well, we should all at least know who we are, shouldn’t we?”) and a stone Buddha. At last, he nestles on a plum branch next to another oriole. The illustrations—some featuring small, restrained animations and others in which the colors appear a layer at a time as a multiblock woodcut would be printed—alternate with blank screens bearing single lines of text. The result is a measured, leisurely pacing reinforced by the deliberate narration (optional, and in English or Chinese), spare musical track and inconspicuous sound effects. Just getting to the story’s start, though, requires passing a customizable bookplate that turns out to be a beautifully designed tutorial in woodcut printing, followed by a sort of puzzle screen with draggable Chinese characters and analyses of three short poems.
Part story, part literary rumination, part introduction to an artistic technique, this is more a compendium than an integrated app. Still, there are rewards here for reflective readers. (author blurb) (iPad storybook app. 6-9)