A Song for Miles, by Tiffany Simpkins Russell, PhD with illustrations by Raheli Scarborough is a born-digital title (published initially as an eBook and book app with no paper version) in August of 2011. It is available as a digital book without enhancements (as a Kindle eBook) in addition to this app version. At the time it was promoted as the "First Black Digital Storybook Available in the AppStore," by TheRoot.com. It is also a wonderful title for children from all backgrounds, for musical exploration and an understanding of the role of art history in our cultural experience. The app is not animated and only very lightly interactive, with a few sound 'sprites', but links for all the music are included for purchase via iTunes.
It begins with the story of young Miles, who is asking his dad about music, rhythm and song making. This begins a wonderful dialogue between father and son about the meaning of music. "Did you know that a song can help you tell someone how you feel about them?" asks Miles father, on a page with just this question featured (a great way to pause with your young reader for dialogic discussion). Music is not a mere artifact in the cultural landscape, but a powerful tool of cultural and personal expression. "Did you know that music can help you find strength when you do not feel strong?" Miles father asks him. What music, and this book app teaches, is that children can be anything (of all types, but especially "young, strong and full of feeling" - a powerful message for those reading who also happen to be African American).
The only criticisms of this app I have are technical and format-based, although these are some serious issues for a digital publication. First of all, the app has no page guide or easy way to navigate if you want to jump to a certain page or even gauge how long the book is overall, a big issue for new media publications in the ebook and app genre. More important concerns are regarding the links that leave the app, entirely inappropriate in a picture book (digital or otherwise). There are no gates for the many links that leave instantly for iTunes, the internet and even email. Since 2011, there have been significant changes in the way these links are regulated and this app is not in compliance with COPPA's 2013 guidelines (at time of review). Since apps can and should be regularly updated, this is a grave concern for an app directed at young children.
However, this app is still exceptional and with technical improvements that are entirely format-based, it makes a wonderful addition to any digital children's library. "Did you know that music can teach you about your history and how powerful you are?" the book asks towards the end. Of course we want storytelling of this high value on our digital bookshelves! With the device set to "airplane mode" or with wifi disabled at least, children in many settings - including the classroom, can be exposed to the valuable messages this book communicates well through traditional illustrations and text.
The message of this book is manyfold, including musical references that are rich and meaningful for further study. What young readers will likely remember, though, is at the crux of why #WeNeedDiverseBooks has been a popular hashtag on Twitter recently. A Song for Miles concludes with an important message, for one young boy and all of us, "music breaks down walls between us and music gives us hope in tomorrow. Music lets us be tender and brave. Music teaches us to be fair and generous. With music we are free." Brilliant storytelling, rich illustrations and a timeless message make this an easy app to recommend.
This app has been thoroughly evaluated by our staff. Please click on the 'star ratings' tab above, to see how it fared in all nine of our rating categories. See synopsis tab for more details about the storyline.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Tiffany Simpkins Russell/Raheli Scarborough
Diverse Mobile, LLC
8 - 12 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 4 - 9 +
What is Soul Music? A Song for Miles takes children on a colorful and musical journey. Through the lyrics of soul songs by artists like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Marvin Gaye, children learn the meaning of determination, kindness, and love. A Song for Miles nurtures children's inquisitive nature and love of music and sounds, all while teaching valuable lessons and the importance of having good character.
A Song for Miles is compatible with school-based character education curriculum. The story creatively aligns with character traits such as initiative, compassion, civility, respect, empathy, responsibility, and perseverance. Character development is an integral part of raising respectful and happy children and A Song for Miles will appeal to parents as it creates a platform for values discussions. Children will enjoy the colorful pages while parents and music lovers will appreciate the musical content and paying tribute to their favorite soul music artists.
- The first Storybook Application on the AppStore that showcases Black soul music artists who shaped and influenced the music we listen to today.
- Read To Me/Read To Myself and Music On/Off functionality
- Interactive links to iTunes to purchase music from the artists listed in the book on the Acknowledgments page.
- Illustrated using digital inks and acrylics that pop off the screen taking full advantage of the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch resolution.
- Whimsical animations sure to please readers of all ages.
- Storybook application narrated by WCLK's on air personality Jamal Ahmad and scored by Hip Hop artist c'beyohn
NOTE: Songs from the Artist are not included in the App, only references to their lyrics. [Source: iTunes]