A child travels through a series of watercolor dreamscapes in a strikingly off-kilter stream-of-consciousness story.
Against a beautiful set of purple trees dwarfed by a great wall, a child begins a journey. It's unclear if it's a boy or girl; the child is always seen from behind, with straw-colored hair and black clothing. This land is populated by rabbits and birds but also “shadow hands,” and a gigantic border wall looms. If there's a story beyond the traditional hero's journey, it's not easy to find, as the app trades narrative for dream logic. Is the story a child's long, flowing dream or a metaphor? In a less visually arresting app, those questions would irk, but it's hard not to fall under the slow spell of this one, which sets a mood of both dread and wonder with gorgeous page transitions and memorable imagery, from bell lanterns to the detailed rainbow bricks of the giant, crumbling wall. The app is not easy to navigate. Readers may find themselves stabbing the screen in frustration until the page advances. But if that's a method to slow readers down and create a sense of entrapment, it works.
It's not a perfect story, and some will find the text ("The shadow at far is a giant / Bigger than the pines") too ephemeral, but the app sets a peculiar mood that is tough to shake. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad storybook app. 6-12)