This tale, told in the original French and a well-crafted English translation, tells the story of an old man looking back on his life. It is touching and melancholy, with complex themes about love and loss that reads more like a long poem than a book. The man's dog is actually a she-wolf, Nimis, who stays by his side through a hundred years of reclusive existence. Beautiful illustrations nicely augment the story, with ingenious animated and interactive elements that surprise and delight.
The story is nicely constructed in free verse, although many of the themes and much of the language used will be difficult for readers under age 12 (or even older - when I ran a page through the "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level" test for readability, I got grade 11, which is equivalent to age 16/17 for the US Educational System). The story is hauntingly beautiful at times, but technical and editing issues make it challenging to get through. The font is readable, but quite small and stylized in a way that makes reading a struggle on the iPad. I enjoyed it the most without narration, in English, although my husband, a native French speaker, found the version in French to be especially beautiful with the native voice-over.
Unfortunately, in the 'read to me' mode, all the text disappears and then reappears in short segments as it is narrated. This style of narration would be fine, however the pacing is so slow and done is short chunks that are difficult to follow for such a long and complex storyline. The narration feels like it was recorded in pieces, losing some of the flow of the story in the process. The lovely illustrations, light interactive and animated elements are otherwise well integrated into the narrative, but are simply not enough to hold the story together well, in the narrated mode at least.
I would recommend a more readable and larger font and narration that flows more naturally with the cadence and pitch changes that might make the plot more accessible to listeners. A 'halting' quality to the text does set the mood, along with exceptional background music, but it feels more 'broken' than something intentional. Many of the words used in the story are also not likely to be in young readers vocabularies, but would be great 'challenge' words in a high-school setting (e.g. ostensibly, tribulations, etc.).
Overall, though, this is an exceptional and original title that is worth a bit of work on the part of older readers to access its full meaning. Hints of teen angst, depression, isolation, plus references to The Picture of Dorian Gray, and other subtle literary jewels emerge with careful study of the text. The illustrations and enhancements are divine, especially when paired with such lovely music. Not for amateurs, but worth a look for ambitious readers, aged 12 and over. Recommended.
Note to readers: This review was expedited by the developer for a fee. The review's content is the same, but timing of publication has been prioritized.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Severine Vidal/Claire Fauche
SARL La souris qui raconte
18 - 25 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 10 - 18 +
English • French •
Ari Allistair Arx-Sorensen is a hundred years old…Just a little over a hundred years old. As he watches a fire burn his family home, The Dove, to the ground, Ari tells us the story of his life and his childhood memories: Nimis, Flowing-Water, all of the love they shared and the big crazy parties they held in the grounds of the old family manor house. Ari, always with his she-wolf, Nimis, in tow, lives as a recluse in the manor. He spends his time dreaming and reading. His father, Otto, holds concerts of silence while his mother, Mercy, paints a portrait of Ari that captures him in the most minute detail, until the day this idle and fanciful life is turned upside down by the arrival of Flowing-Water.
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