Reviews in this column first appeared in SLJ’s column Touch and Go. After each review, you’ll find the date it appeared online. Online, there are links to related resources, a trailer (if one exists), and a link to purchase information. Please note that later versions of some of these titles may now be available. Visit Touch and Go for additional reviews, commentary, and interviews with people in the field.
Bottom of the Ninth. Ryan Woodward. illus. by author. Ryan Woodward Art and Animation. 2012. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 1.0.1. $3.99.
Gr 9 Up-Many graphic novelists and artists are grappling with how comics can be presented in a digital format. Professional animator Woodward offers a strong template with his app for iOS devices. The story takes place 200 years in the future and centers on Candy Cunningham, a teenager with a phenomenal pitching arm who wants to play “New Baseball.” While technology has made the game faster, more exciting, and somewhat dangerous, attitudes toward women on and off the field haven’t evolved. This first chapter of the story signals a promising start as the tale has both a retro and futuristic feel to it. More chapters are in the works, but it might be a while before the entire story is told.
Page layouts resemble those found in a comic book, and each page offers well-integrated, fluid animation. The sepia-toned artwork is stylish and appealing with baseball memorabilia (ticket stubs, scorecards, etc.) worked into the images. The sounds also evoke the game scene, including sports commentary and a cheering crowd. Some panels have a speaker icon that can be tapped for extra audio; a touch to any word balloon triggers audio dialog (sometimes enhanced). Both the narration and the music soundtrack are of high quality. Drawbacks include slow updates and the need to purchase on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Still, the app is a significant accomplishment artistically and technologically and will likely influence future graphic novelists moving into digital.–Mark Richardson, Cedar Mill Community Library, Portland, OR (9/13/12)
Imag.N.O.Tron: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Moonbot Studios LA, LLC. 2012. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 1.0.3. $.99
K Up-Author William Joyce and his creative partner, Brandon Oldenburg, aren’t exactly the kind of guys who play it by the book. Their wildly successful, Oscar-winning The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was first a film (“We wanted a calling card to prove we could animate at Moonbot Studios”), then an app, next a book, and now, in its “Imag.N.O.Tron” incarnation, an opportunity to experience some “augmented reality.” While that sounds like an experience that involves ingesting something, it’s a technology.
Here’s how it works: start with the print book (Atheneum, 2012), an ipad, and the Imag.N.O.Tron app. Turn the app on and position the iPad squarely above an illustrated page. When the app recognizes the image, the magic begins. Characters move; books flutter, fly, and whisper their lines aloud; shadows shift; and two-dimensional images expand into three-dimensional spaces. When prompted to “look around,” users can pick up their iPad and watch as the animation moves into their space (here’s where the camera feature comes in). A two-minute video, reminiscent of early, grainy black-and-white television shows, offers instuctions on how to use the app. It features a scientist in a lab coat and googles, dramatic gesturing, and an enthusiastic narration. Seeing is believing with this one, but take my word, this is a reality that viewers will want to experience.– Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal (8/13/12)