"Where do balloons go when you let them go free? It can happen by accident," begins this whimsical book app, told in the first person by a young child who says enticingly, "It's happened to me." My little boy fell in love instantly with this story, identifying with the subject matter ... what child hasn't wondered what happens when you let go of a balloon?
With exquisite illustrations by Laura Cornell, this app is based on a print picture book authored by Jamie Lee Curtis and published in 2000. Auryn has taken this well-crafted story, and made it into a digital delight; it is filled with dozens of tappable interactive elements on every page, superb animation, and engaging games bundled into the storyline. The only time I would hesitate recommending this book would be for bedtime reading with very young children. It's just way too much fun! There's even a chance for the reader to use the microphone to 'blow' up a balloon.
Other interactive elements include several pages where you use a small fan to trigger cool effects. My favorite page has you move the balloons close to each of their owners ... the characters then reach up and grab the string when the right balloon 'blows' past them. There is also a page where you can personalize a postcard (Note: This feature does access email to send your creation to a friend). Another very cool activity, called the 'Balloon Theatre', allows the reader to create their own unique balloon characters, place them on a stage and then record their own play, to store and share.
This is a truly packed app with hours of playtime, way beyond the story itself. There are even nice hints and instructions in a video at the beginning from Jamie Lee Curtis herself. The only difficulty I had was with the page scroll. Nearly every page is actually a double page that needs to be tapped or swiped to see the second half of the image, and often additional text for the story. At first I didn't even realize the extra text was there (you can use the page turn arrows too early and then miss part of the book). The easiest way to get it to scroll, by the way, is to touch and hold your finger at the edge of the page when you see the arrows, but this was a bit frustrating and interrupted the reading experience. A technical fix for this in a future update is recommended (this is the only reason we rated the app under 5 stars overall).
Otherwise, this is one very solidly made book with thoughtful interactive elements and beautiful production values. There is a lot to play with in this app, which can distract some children from the text (especially on the first read through), but most of the enhancements do reinforce the storyline nicely. The narration is even a special treat, since it's from the author herself. Text highlights word-for-word and the settings, including a page guide, are intuitive and easy to use. Overall, this is truly a gem of an app, including opportunities for children to read, explore, play and create. Highly Recommended!
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Jamie Lee Curtis/Laura Cornell
8 - 15 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 4 - 8
When you let a balloon go, where does it end up? A young child tells this story, wondering what happens to the escaped balloons. "Do they catch cold?" he wonders, and do they ever want to "write postcards, email or fax?" Found all over the world, balloons that float away are a mystery for children ...