Obnoxious and tone-deaf, this mess of an app will leave readers cold.
An off-putting adaptation of a Russian fairy tale, this dismal story of an abused daughter, a weak-willed father and, of course, an evil stepmother, is ugly in nearly every way imaginable. When the stepmother demands that the father abandon his daughter, leaving her out in the cold to die, the family celebrates with a pancake dinner, and the stepmother beats the family dog. As if the generic, cheery-cartoon artwork and non-sequitur, sexist text weren’t bad enough (“A thunderstorm will pass, but a grumpy woman will torment you until she gets what she wants”), any hope of a somber tone is shattered by dozens of cutesy, anachronistic animations. The girl is eventually saved by a gift-bearing Father Frost. Very little about this tale makes sense; flaws in the adaptation and translation are compounded by illustrations that rarely match up with the text, which presents itself, one letter at a time, with maddening slowness. The writing is clunky, frequently missing punctuation, and the sound effects will give any parent reading along a deep migraine. The app’s greatest sin, however, is in turning every page, including the ones featuring child abandonment, into an extended seek-and-poke game, unlocking sometimes–glitch-y additional games that likewise do nothing to extend the story.
Freeze-dried awful on a stick. (iPad storybook app. 5-9)