March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stardust and a ‘Ship of Dreams’ | Touch and Go

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What do the digital versions of Dean Morrissey’s Ship of Dreams and Elin Kelsey’s You Are Stardust have in common? A soothing cadence, subtle animations, exquisite artwork, and both offer us an opportunity to let our imaginations soar.

In Dean Morrissey’s Ship of Dreams (readImagine, Inc., $4.99; PreS-Gr 4) readers take off on a fantastical nighttime adventure with a young boy named Joey as he accompanies the legendary Sandman on his rounds in this bedtime story. Based on the book of the same title (Abrams,1994), the app features the same oil paintings that illustrate the award-winning book. However, here the art is brightened for tablet screens and animated.

Some of the interactive animations are fairly subtle, such as the crescent moon that can be pulled across the sky; others are more elaborate, such as the ship that glides off into the distance trailing twinkling stars. Navigation is always easy and intuitive, with clear visual cues indicating the spots that children must tap to trigger movements, to engage in a particular activity, or to advance the plot. There are also a few embedded games within the story, including one that challenges readers to count the squirrels that the cheeky author has hidden throughout his illustrations.

Users can navigate between the “Read to Me” and “Read it Myself” modes, and enable background music that enhances the story’s magical feel. As an aid to vocabulary building, some of the more difficult words are highlighted, inviting readers to touch for definitions and pronunciations. Taking further advantage of the interactive platform, users can select one of three reading levels: second-, third-, or fourth-grade. The language of the story and sentence structure are adjusted accordingly.

By tailoring the content to appeal to children of different ages and abilities, this production allows a broad audience to share in Joey’s wondrous journey, while enjoying Morrissey’s imaginative storytelling and striking artwork along the way.—Sharon Breslow, Bridgeport Public Library, Bridgeport, CT

Screen shot from ‘You Are Stardust’ (Kelsey) Think Thirty-Three. illus. by Soyeon Kim

How often do we take the time to stop and observe the world around us with the children in our lives? You Are Stardust (Think Thirty-Three/Owlkids Books, $4.99; PreS-Gr 3) based on the picture book of the same title (Owlkids Books, 2012), encourages us to do just that. Written by environmentalist Elin Kelsey, the text is rooted in science, yet surprisingly poetic.

A comforting female voice narrates the text, accompanied by melodic tones, chimes, and sounds from nature. The book provides a springboard from which to see the interconnectedness of things, to imagine, and to ask questions. It reminds readers to “Be still. Listen,” and suggests that, “We are all connected. We are all nature. We are all stardust.”

Soyeon Kim’s diorama artwork was created using linen fabric; Japanese paper; dried flowers; and color-washed, 2D line drawings suspended inside wooden boxes. It’s extraordinary. The whimsy and 3D feeling of the original dioramas successfully transfers to the digital version and the subtle animations of wings flapping, falling stardust, and floating whales further help to enliven the text.

The app opens with three options: “Read me the story” (narrated text; automatic page-turns); “I’ll read the story” (no narration; swipe for page-turns); and “Make your own diorama” (users can build their own artwork from a selection of scene elements). “More about Stardust” can be accessed to discover how Kim created her dioramas, to read a note from the author, to see credits and navigational information, and more.

If it’s been a while since you’ve marveled with your kids about how the electricity in our brains is similar to lightning, or the way baby birds learn to sing, You Are Stardust is a great place to start.–Kathleen S. Wilson, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, New York, NY

Eds. note: A trailer for You Are Stardust is available for viewing.

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.