iPad Book Review: This Too Shall Pass Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Editor's Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): A resounding 5
Storytelling may be the quintessential human activity. In fact, I might posit that the most elementary impulse to all creative activity is the simple need to tell a story. It is the best way for an idea to live on, isn't it? It may also be the only way Man has to achieve immortality. After all, who would know of Shakespeare, or Michelangelo, or Mozart, if they hadn't all told us great stories, each in their own way?
Moving Tales understands the importance of story very well, and they have demonstrated this yet again with the third book in their Classic World Tales series, entitled "This Too Shall Pass". On the heels of the first two stories, "The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross" and "The Unwanted Guest", comes this tale of a sad king who learns a most valuable lesson from a humble shoeshine man. Jacqueline O Rogers takes her inspiration from Persian, Buddhist and Jewish sources to weave her tale of a mighty king who somehow feels that something is missing from his life, and who wishes for a great and lasting truth to comfort him. His encounter with a very humble man in the market place will lead to the bestowal of a truly precious gift.
The message of this very ?moving? tale is timeless, and it is particularly ? propos in these fast and mutable times in which we live. I don?t want to give too much away, as it is a great pleasure to discover for one?s self the unfolding of events in the story. Suffice it to say that I found an idea with great resonance for our times, and our fast-paced lives. It is a story that has moral and meaning for young and old, and that crosses the boundaries of culture and of place.
One of the most impressive aspects of the editorial choices that have been made by the people at Moving Tales is how each of their stories has such a universal feel; one of the mark of great literature. I believe these apps are, without a doubt, examples of great literature. Length and age do not great stories make; a modern short story can be as valid as Milton or Chaucer, if it touches the heart and soul of the reader, and if it leaves us with a bit of truth that we can hold onto, and cherish. For me, ?This Too Shall Pass? did just that.
From the very beginning of this series, I was blown away by the artwork. The animation is some of the most fluid I have seen on the iPad, and the choice of keeping the same style of animation from one story to the next was an inspiration. These tales seem more like chapters in a great book of stories than they do individual apps. All of them have a place of honor together on one screen of my iPad. I keep them with all the other storytelling apps I own, such as ?Dracula? or ?Christmas Carol?.
No longer must a good library be only books; the Moving Tales series move us in a new direction, where the story is wonderfully supported by beautiful graphics. What could be a simple one-trick pony if done incorrectly has become an integral part of telling the story. I was fascinated by the way the animators made the narrative come alive, and the little boy I was reading the story with was equally enchanted. Proof that you don?t need constant frenetic movement to keep one?s attention. The quality of the art in ?This Too Shall Pass?, as well as in the other two stories in the series, is reason enough on its own to buy these books. The fact that it marries so well to the storyline is so much added value to these wonderful tales. Another fun aspect is that the text can be animated with the use of the iPad?s accelerometer. The little boy I was reading with loved to see the letters tumble around on the page.
The controls for the book are simple, and they work flawlessly. You can swipe or tap to move from page to page, and you can also set for automatic page turning. Going back and forth in the story was a breeze.
Another thing that should be noted here is that the book is randomized, so that you will see a few different things each time you read the book. Ask your children if they can tell you what has changed. It?s a good way to keep the story fresh, and it?s a neat game to play with children to develop their observational skills.
The opening sequence speaks volumes as to the delights that are in store for the reader. It is a stunning tracking shot that brings us from far outside the city all the way to the palace of the king. It is as good as anything I?ve seen in animated movies on the big screen this year. The rest of the book lives up to the promise of this first scene, and I?ve gone back to the book two or three times, just for the pleasure of watching the visuals.
A word about the vocabulary; it is not elementary, but it is absolutely beautiful. It does not talk down to the reader, which is a blessing for me, in these times of ?young adult literature?. Give me words, glorious words, that show a real love for the language, and for the narrative that is being told. Of course, children may not understand every word, but isn?t that why we, as adults, read along with them? So we can explain, and marvel with our children, at a new understanding, and at the acquisition of new and wonderful words? As a teacher of language, I?ve seen how delighted children and teenagers are when they can express themselves more fully than they could before, and this same elation comes from learning new words in one?s own language. A little challenge is not a bad thing when it comes to words; it fosters a sense of mystery, and if we are lucky, a sense of wonder and a love for words that will make our children better and more frequent readers. I know I remember with great fondness the times my dad and I read together, and I would love hearing my father explain things to me. I suspect it made him feel pretty good, too, since I thought he was the smartest man in the world. Today?s parents and children are no different, I?m sure, so get to reading with your children - it is one of the most rewarding things to be done together.
The story is appropriate for anyone older than five or six. Of course, the younger children won?t get the entire meaning of the moral, but it is one that they will grow to appreciate more as time goes by. Older children can certainly read the story by themselves, and adults will themselves find much to ponder in this simple tale.
In passing, I want to mention that the French translation of the story, and the narration of the tale done by a female native speaker, is simply excellent. I found the writing had been extremely well adapted. I?m sorry I can?t speak as to the Spanish version, but if it is done as well as the French version was, there will be no complaints. If anyone in the household is learning a second language, this will be a nice way to practice and acquire more vocabulary. I may bring the story in to my own French class as an extra treat, if the class has been good.
The narration in the Moving Tales books has always been of superior quality. I could listen to the narrator for hours. His cadence and accent are a pleasure for the ears, and suit the material perfectly. As I mentioned, the French narration is fine, as well. The sound effects and music are topnotch, too. It is evident that these books are a labor of love to the people at Moving Tales. The care lavished on every aspect of storytelling in these books was evident from the very first, and the quality has never wavered. It is good, good work.
If you wish, you can also record your own narration. I really like this feature in iPad books, as it lets parents read to their children even when they can?t physically be there. Kids love to hear their parents? voices, and it?s a nice way to end the day, as they get ready for bed. Later, as they learn to read themselves, children could record their own voice as narrator. What a great incentive to practice their reading!
I?m sure it is clear from these words that I think this book is simply brilliant. The Moving Tales series are among the most beautiful books on the iTunes store; they?re on a level vastly superior to much of what is available. Anyone that owns an iPad should own the entire series. iPad owners who are also parents should absolutely have these books. They are a joy to share with kids, and they can lead to very meaningful discussions, as is always the case with great literature and engaging stories.
I can?t wait for the next project from Moving Tales. It will be entitled ?The Crowded Caravan?. It promises to be another enchanting story. They have also announced collaboration with Nick Bantock, of ?Griffin and Sabine? fame. I?m curious indeed to see what will come of this new direction, and you can be sure both projects will find a place on my iPad.