War Horse

. Touch Press/Illuminations. 2012. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 1.0.2. $6.99.
Gr 5–9—Transforming a book into an app begins with a solid story and War Horse (Egmont, 1982) is that. Young Albert, a British citizen, lies about his age, enlists, and searches the Great War battlefields of France until he finds his beloved horse, Joey, which had been sold to the military. The two are on the front together for part of the the war, with the horse as the poignant narrator, puzzling over and accepting the brutality and senselessness of World War I.An attractive, clearly organized home screen provides multiple entry points into the story. Swiping the numbered 3-D watercolor illustrations across the top of the page lets readers select a chapter to open. In both portrait and landscape views the pages of text fade in at the top of the screen and fade out at the bottom as readers scroll down. It's easy to adjust text size and screen brightness, to move between chapters, and to switch Morpurgo's home-spun reading of the text on or off. Clicking on the time line link at the top of the screen opens a column of images and key words that can be tapped to provide information about the war concurrent with that section of the story.Touch Press developers are in tune with the Common Core State Standards; the time line connects readers to short, intriguing interviews, reproductions and maps, well-captioned archival photographs, and short informational text, much of which can be read aloud at the touch of an icon. "Insight" videos showcase the author discussing different aspects of his book and the war, and experts offering details about soldiers' uniforms, tanks, battlefields, German trenches, war songs, and more—all accompanied by visuals. From the home screen viewers can tap "Performance" to see the author stage an 80-minute, abridged version of the book with live music before an audience. Navigation is intuitive and elegant, with all the aspects of the app working smoothly together. So much to like!—Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Library Teacher, Seattle School District, WA

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