Although the story of a woman founding a university in Morocco in 859 has fascinating possibilities, this app is little more than a picture book with one touch-activated feature per page.
Fatima used her wealth to build a great mosque and school, which some say is the world’s oldest university. The creators cite one major historical account for the basic story of Fatima’s youth and maturation, but they do not make such claims for the visual details, which are painterly but simple. Tapping a white star initiates such simple actions as a door opening onto a garden and a curtain closing to symbolize the heroine’s father’s death, with the best feature being the call to prayer on the first page. By touching three golden stars on each page, users can select French, English or Arabic text, request reading aloud, see definitions of selected words, switch easily to other pages, play games, change fonts or hear sound effects. While the male English-language reader has a voice reminiscent of old educational films, the French and Arabic readers sound less forced. As the narrators speak, pink rectangles highlight each word, creating a very busy page. Music and other sound effects are loud and distracting. Games include four puzzles, each with three levels of difficulty and four coloring pages with a link to buy additional ones. The finished pages can be emailed or sent to Facebook. While not heavily interactive, this picture-book biography of a Muslim woman known for her devotion to both religion and education may be useful for audiences interested in Islam and women’s history. (iPad storybook app. 6-9)