iBook Review: Oz by ArseyBee Productions Reviewed by Guy Dayen
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, finds a new home on the iPad this month. Illustrated with the original drawings by William Wallace Denslow; this abridged version of the story looks truly beautiful on the iPad?s screen. The shortened version is very true to the original story, and it will serve as a terrific introduction to the world of Oz for a new generation of readers. Parents can read the story to the very young, and more experienced readers will enjoy discovering the story for themselves.
Each page is bordered with clouds (presumably to remind us that we are indeed in Oz beyond the clouds) and many of the pages contain the beautiful illustrations that Denslow drew for the 1st edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz back in the late 1890s. Baum and Denslow worked together on a few other non-Oz books, but a financial quarrel over royalties of a stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz led to the two men falling out. Baum broke with Denslow, and Denslow never again illustrated the adventures of Dorothy and her friends.
Still, it remains that Denslow was the first and best of many illustrators who brought the Oz characters to life, and it is his vision that has remained iconic. His influence can still be seen forty years later, in the 1939 film version with Judy Garland, especially in the designs of the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and sundry other characters, from Munchkins to Flying Monkeys. This iPad edition looks stunning thanks to the use of Denslow?s works.
So, if you approach this new app as an illustrated book, rather than as an interactive book, you will not be disappointed. This is the area in which I found this new version lacking. Even though ArseyBee Productions stress the interactive elements in their description of the book on the iTunes store, I found these to be few and far between. The book clocks in at 112 pages, but only 25 of them are interactive, and of these, the only interaction to be had will be a sound or a slight movement of the illustration.
There is no music at all, and at first, I thought my copy was not working right. There is a toggle button to turn sound on and off at the top of each page, but it didn?t seem to do anything. Well, I soon found out it is because the book is mostly silent. Pity; it would have benefited greatly from added sound effects. Those that are included are very well-done indeed; so I wonder why there aren?t more of them.
The same goes for the interactive illustrations. Those few included in the book are engaging and reasonably well-done (although two or three of them are a bit difficult to maneuver correctly) and they will amuse the younger children in the family. But I can see the possibility for so many more of them. Unfortunately, the producers of this book fall short of the benchmark established by books like Alice for the iPad or The Little Mermaid. The impression I was left with was that of an unfinished work, or of a work still in progress. I hope this is the case, because adding more interactivity and sound to this beautiful book would bring it to the forefront of children?s books available on the iTunes store. I?ll be keeping an eye on it to see what the future brings for Dorothy and her companions.