"On a very fine day, ratta tat ratta tat. With his drum and his hat, ratta tat ratta tat. He came into town and he walked down the street as he drummed out a beat ratta tat ratta tat," begins this enchanting musical storybook for the iPad. It captures the romance of a walled European city in its sepia pages with tidy narrow streets, people milling about, bicyclists and street vendors. Yet the whole book feels modern in its own way. If you tap the menu bar below any page, you can even see the whole book laid out, page against page. Look closely and you will see that it connects into a complete picture of the musician's walk through this lively little village.
This is not just a book for children, either. It has beautiful hand-drawn illustrations that made me immediately call my father (who is an artist) to get him to download it for his own enjoyment. It's just that unique and enchanting. The story itself is also a perfect fit for the illustrations, with the musician drawing people out of their homes, pied-piper-style, to follow along with his catchy beat. By the end of the story they are all following him onto the bridge ... and then, well, you'll have to read the synopsis if you want me to spoil it for you. :)
If you tap on the musician, on nearly every page, he will literally come dancing to life with delightful sounds of drumming (and other musical instruments - as the story progresses). As he journeys through the city, he adds more instruments to his one man band, including triangles on his head and bells on his knees. Tap on him a second time and he stops in whichever pose he was last in, making him fun to play with all by himself. Plus you can tap on any of the little red doors or white shuttered windows in the quaint village and out pop townsfolk to comment on the strange man. There are also quite a few kitty-cats in those windows, too.
Additional interactivity includes buses that rumble (like they are bopping to the beat), children laughing, vendors selling their wares, bicycles tinkling bells and so much more. There are also several pages that take advantage of the motion capacity of the iPad, so you can tilt the screen to see the bicycling grannies drop their balls of knitting yarn and bounce them around the page (lock your screen first).
The best part of this book, though, is that none of its many features ever overwhelm the story. I do recommend waiting for the narration to stop before tapping, though. Not that you can't hear both at the same time, but it is much more enjoyable to wait and explore more slowly (almost as if you are timing the doors and windows to open in a row as the villagers come out to see what all the clatter is about). You can even tap on the balloons and pop them. While the story itself will be engaging even to adults, almost anyone of any age, young and old, could enjoy some aspect of this storybook.
The book's animation is not of the 'Wow!' variety, but it has a subtle elegance to it that I really appreciated. And I loved that you could stop the musician in lots of cool poses as he beat on his drum, ratta tat ratta tat. But beware, this fine little musician could capture you with his catchy song. It has been stuck in my head all day.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
The Trustee for the Tokeru Trust
10 - 15 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: Yes
Age: 4 - 10
[4/27/11 - iPhone version available separately through iTunes.]
A Fine Musician begins with a man walking through a little European village beating on his drum. As he walks through the town he begins to have a following of townsfolk who are caught up in his little ditty. He even rouses 'cranky old Smithy' who gets up with his cane and starts dancing.
Soon the musician adds cymbals on his back and the clatter disrupts passengers on the bus who get all mixed up and 'muddled and cafuddled' by the disturbingly catchy beat. Then he adds tinkling triangles to his head and this brings babies, grannies, and all the other townspeople through the streets after him as if he is the pied-piper. Soon he is adding bells to his knees. Now no one can resist and all follow him onto the bridge leading out of town over a river.
[SPOILER ALERT] Tap the people on the bridge to complete the story ... they all fall in! As the townspeople swim to the shore, all unharmed and the spell broken, we see the musician's instruments all sink to the 'depths down below'. The musician stands quietly looking sad and then turns to leave, tipping his hat as he walks out of town never to return again. The End.