This app gets so much right that it's a shame it ends up offering too much of a good thing.

READ REVIEW

AMELIA AND TERROR OF THE NIGHT

An attractively creepy-cute app gets bogged down in too many distracting extra features to tell a great story.

The world of Amelia—a sunken-eyed girl who hangs around with a kitten, a tortoise and a living, breathing teddy bear—is more than a bit overcrowded. On half the pages of her gorgeously gothic app, taps reveal a variety of critters below the surface. On alternating pages that resemble a traditional storybook, repulsive animals such as giant spiders or slimy caterpillars cross the screen as readers try to pay attention to the story. At first, it’s cool; the beautifully animated sequences are frequently funny. But the frenzied interactivity masks what could have been a perfectly entertaining narrative about friends banding together to save the stolen soul of the tortoise, Little Pencil, from a wicked-looking baddie named, deliciously, Whine. The moody, painterly artwork is stunning, and so is the production work all around. But it ends up an over-spiced stew. The bulk of the animated characters are just marginalia, and a star-collecting game is superfluous. These features sell the story short. The lack of storytelling confidence becomes clear in its pat, disappointing conclusion, which negates much of the experience. 

This app gets so much right that it's a shame it ends up offering too much of a good thing. (iPad storybook app. 4-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: OhNoo Studio

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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ROOM ON THE BROOM

Each time the witch loses something in the windy weather, she and her cat are introduced to a new friend who loves flying on her broom. The fluid rhyming and smooth rhythm work together with one repetitive plot element focusing young attention spans until the plot quickens. (“Is there room on the broom for a blank such as me?”) When the witch’s broom breaks, she is thrown in to danger and the plot flies to the finish. Her friends—cat, dog, frog, and bird—are not likely to scare the dragon who plans on eating the witch, but together they form a formidable, gooey, scary-sounding monster. The use of full-page or even page-and-a-half spreads for many of the illustrations will ensure its successful use in story times as well as individual readings. The wart-nosed witch and her passengers make magic that is sure to please. Effective use of brilliant colors set against well-conceived backgrounds detail the story without need for text—but with it, the story—and the broom—take off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2557-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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