A centenarian who has just lost everything—nearly everything—reflects on his childhood and his chief regret in a poignant but wonder-filled memoir.
Seeing his mansion and possessions burned to ashes, Ari Allistair Arx-Sorenson offers "the ashes of my memory." There are many, starting with a childhood rich in wonders: an encounter with a wolf who becomes a lifelong companion, uproarious parties with animal dinner guests and a portrait painted by his mother that never dries because she changes it every day as he grows. But then he falls in love with a woman from the sky and loses her by allowing his love to become obsession. Appearing phrase by phrase in English or French versions when read by a narrator (who sounds properly introspective, if too young) but in full in silent mode, Ari's monologue is printed in an angular typeface that complements Fauché's shadowy, equally stylized cartoon illustrations. Though the art tends to gather at the edges on most screens, touching figures and smaller details activates gestures, sounds, slow zooms or entire changes of view, small, scurrying creatures and other unpredictable effects that never fail to add drama or delight to each scene. Multiple background tracks of flowing orchestral music underscore the reflective tone. "I pulled from the fire everything that I wanted to keep," Ari concludes. "I ask you to believe me."
An outstanding, seamless combination of evocative art, poetic writing and ingeniously designed digital enhancements that mature audiences in particular (but not exclusively) will find profoundly moving. (thumbnail index) (iPad picture-book app. 8-10, adult)