App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
The Book of Holes is a unique, interactive storybook for iPad based on the award-winning children’s book from Denmark by artist Poul Lange.
It was easy for me to realize that The Book of Holes is something special as I was greatly impressed with the collage art found within these pages; here having been turned into interactive experiences as a tap to any element found on a page will trigger animated moments and a fascinating use of sound that may include musical elements, spoken moments, and other sound effects. This is a book about holes - an abstract story of sorts that touches upon theoretical topics such as the black hole related to the big bang theory and the birth of our universe as well as the holes found in the human body.
In dealing with the birth of babies, this app states that “it is certain that you entered this world through a hole” - a moment that gave me pause. I am not shy about explaining natural birth to my son, but as his birth was an unplanned, urgent C-section, I would hesitate to tell him that “It is certain” that he was born through a hole - presumably the birth canal - as this for him was not the case. I also find this page to be ambiguous as this could be a reference to conception as well, allowing parents to answer in any way they see fit and ready to talk about, especially with the sly addition of “But that’s a long story. Ask your Dad” found at the bottom of the related page of text.
I do admire these collages - wonderful artwork that may be appreciated more by adults than their children, as the topic of birth is illustrated here with a wonderful collection of varied references. There is an image of a baby being weighed in a sheet - presumably part of a vintage photograph. A stork can be seen as well as what, to me, would represent an umbilical cord. A man and woman dance together with a tap of a finger, and there is a diagram of a flower that at first glance looks like the cross-section of the female reproduction system, as well as are other reproduction-related elements as well.
Other holes found in people's heads are also included, demonstrated with a whimsical puzzle as children can re-arrange the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, complete with attached sinuses as a page is dedicated to these parts of the face as well as other varied, quirky, and fun interactions found throughout this app. Digestion is also mentioned, and I do find it uniquely charming how unused food comes out another hole as “This hole has many names. One of them is the anus.” My son has really enjoyed the over one hundred interactive hot spots included within, but has personal affection for tapping the dog butt to see poop excreted from his anus, as well as tapping a strawberry to see it travel through the vintage inspired diagram of the human digestive system; following it down the esophagus and down through the small and large intestines on its way out. Other pages include nice moments that cover objects that would not work without holes; such as a guitar or birdhouse, as well as bad places for holes as in teeth, a boat, or the bottom of a shoe.
This book, especially since the text and optional narration recommends that children ask their parents about the difficult topics such as black holes or a hole’s relationship to the birth of a child, can be used as a platform to engage children and adults in meaningful conversations. The Book of Holes, however, is that of an acquired taste as the talk of bodily holes is not everyone’s cup of tea. Yet personally I do find the look of this app sheer visual poetry.
Although I have not had a chance to check out the original Danish picture book that this app is based on, it is said to include a die-cut hole found in the middle of the book where one could place a finger or such. This hole is also incorporated into this app as well with some objects ultimately falling into these spaces. There is also a terrific use of shadow to make this hole appear tangible, and is also incorporated into this app during page-turning as the new page looks as though it is zoomed out of the previous center page hole as well.
Artists and graphic designers alike will find this app quite interesting as the included text is also placed through these pages in atypical and quite inspired ways. I feel fortunate to have been able to share with my son such an unusual storybook app, although I don’t expect every family to welcome a title with such wit and bodily references. Those that are not squeamish or shy will find a lot to appreciate here as well.
I do sincerely hope to see more from Chocolate Factory Publishing in the future. I am thrilled that they have included a special "Clues" page which enumerates all the hidden interactivity there is to find, as well as special hints to get the most out of these interactions. I will be keeping an eye out for more beautiful and bizarre apps. Please note that this app will be on sale for back to school for a limited time, do check it out.