'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 14 April 2011

ebook Review: The Heart and the Bottle

It goes without saying that one should own every Oliver Jeffers book on the planet because he is truly a masterind of the picture book. I adore his work.

But now his cleverness has entered a whole other realm of beauty and delight (if that's at all possible).

In this stunning app (my favourite ebook app yet), we get to enjoy the beautiful and heartfelt story we've already experience in hardback form (read our review here), but with all the added interactive elements and audio components that make epicturebooks such a joy.

Firstly, The Heart and the Bottle is narrated by the incomparable Helena Bonham Carter, whose soothing, plum-English voice is astonishingly mesmerising and perfect for this story. If kids want to, they can read the text themselves or, by tapping on the audio symbol in the top right hand corner, they can swoon to Helena's dulcet tones (I like to swoon).

Jeffers' illustrations fill each page to the brim with their utter beauty. Interactive components are via swiping, tapping and shaking or moving the iPad so objects fall and tinkle against the sides of the iPad frame. Kids have a HINT button to use if they get a little lost along the way - or elements will begin to wobble (like the father's hat in the following snow scene) to encourage kids to swipe at it.

Pages are turned like a real life page, by swiping at the bottom right hand corner so the page flips over.

Favourite pages include tracing star patterns in the sky, drawing in the sand on the beach, creating one's very own artistic masterpiece for the wall (which later appears in an actual frame on the wall of the storybook) and the scene where the little girl discovers her father gone. By wiping a finger over the entire page, the initially bright scene turns to dark night, like a reverse-colouring-in page to sadness, with the little girl sitting forlornly on the floor.

I also love the pages where things fade away at the tap of a finger... It's clear the production team behind this book carefully thought out each and every the interactive elements to beautifully complement the story and add to the hauntingly deep sadness that creep through its pages - not to mention the delicate then rebounding hope that builds towards the end.

It's all good and well to add electronic tickles to an ebook page, but it's so much more powerful when interactive elements so perfectly enhance and deepen the messages and storylines of a book. The Heart and the Bottle app does this amazingly well.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of fun, beauty and cleverness along the way. Kids will love shaking the iPad until it snows, tipping it so the bottle clatters around the screen, and tapping it in an attempt to help or heroine remove her heart from the bottle. They'll also love making flowers pop, boats rock and lighthouses shine - whilst enjoying delicate, mesmerising music and sound effects, and exploring a storyline that truly warms the heart.

Beautiful. More, please.

The Heart and the Bottle is available at the iTunes store right here for just $7.99.