Sophisticated animation and understated music complement a poignant if truncated tale first published in 1964.
A little girl is consigned to an orphanage after her parents “went away when she was nine.” The “quite unattractive” child spits at other children and so misbehaves that the director wants to send her away. This established, the story ends abruptly with a message that she leaves in a tree: “Whoever finds this, I love you.” Even the print edition was more about Vanni’s design and illustrations than Siff's story. They featured thinly inked line drawings on variously shaped and decorated papers along with cutaway flaps and windows. Those pages are digitally reproduced here with automatic and touch-activated lifts, showers of figures or paper fragments, layers that move in different directions and other changes added—all with appropriate sound effects and short loops of wistful music in the background. Technically accomplished the special effects may be, but not only do they cause the screen to freeze while they’re loading, the slight twitches that cue active flaps and page turns are easy to miss. As are some of the scattered lines of small, hand-lettered text.
Visually distinctive and emotionally atmospheric, but the perfunctory storyline limits its audience appeal. (iPad storybook app. 6-8, adult)