App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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Bramble Berry Tales - The Story of Kalkalih is an important interactive storybook app as it incorporates the oral histories of Canadian indigenous people of many, many generations past. An app of undeniably high quality, I enjoy the palette of warm earth tones and stylized animation that include interactive hot spots that one can trigger with a swipe or a tap, as well as how the words to this story are highlighted when read by optional narration; always a nice touch.
This tale is a story within a story. First, siblings Lily and Thomas get dropped off to spend time at their Kookum and Mooshum’s house, which is Squamish for grandmother and grandfather. Lily can be a handful, however, as she is too excited to stay in her bed at night, sneaking into the kitchen to help herself to next morning’s homemade jam, and even turning on the radio and waking up the others who are sleeping.
Mooshum enters the kids' room and tells them a cautionary tale about why children should not leave their beds at night, as Kalkalih, an old woman with a taste for children, will collect them in a basket, take them home, and eat them if they do. This story does the trick, and the children no longer leave their beds after being tucked in.
It is worth noting that some sensitive children may be scared by the story of Kalkalih, which has elements in common with the witch from Hansel and Gretel; a story where for me, the real trauma is the treatment of the main characters by their stepmother and the father’s complicity - issues that are not present in The Story of Kalkalih as this intense tale ends with a happy ending as the children’s parents come to their aid, making it for me more palatable than Hansel and Gretel.
I was really blown away with the story section of this app, translated and read by Chief Ian Campbell, a masterful storyteller. This tale is also accompanied by a thoughtful use of atmospheric music to create a really foreboding mood; as do the illustrations of Kalkalih as she collects children, carrying them away to later feast on. This book can also be read to one's self, and Auto is an option, turning the pages of this book automatically as if the user is watching a video.
Although for me, the oral history section of this app is the highlight. I find the scenes that set up this tale - those of the children visiting their grandparents - to be nice as well, especially as Lily’s bad behavior sets up a situation where Mooshum would feel the need to tell such a scary bedtime story. My only reservation about this tale is that I still want my son to feel free to leave his bed in the middle of the night to use the toilet as he sometimes does, although if my child did anything other than use the bathroom and go back to bed, a story such as this might be warranted.
I am equally impressed with the montage of images used in the introduction to depict the travels of Lily and Thomas, from the city and finally at Kookum and Mooshum’s home out in the country. These images slowly take shape on what looks like hand-made paper, incorporating this texture with presumably computer-generated montages of drawings within this animated moment. I was mesmerized by this scene, watching as these images tell the story of a long car ride, complete with moody music, building to the story that lies ahead.
I appreciate how certain words that have important cultural significance are included throughout this story, as tapping these words will deliver more information about each topic as well as a chance to hear this word translated into Squamish - a lovely touch, but I do wish these more in-depth descriptions were narrated as well. Especially as they are written in the first person, making them almost beg to be read out loud. I would also love to have a passage about the history of the Squamish people to further educate young readers.
This is the first title in a series of Bramble Berry Tales. I do look forward to more of these stories, as I would love to hear more oral history of the Canadian indigenous people - tales that many children would be unaware of if it were not for these Bramble Berry Tales as the overall quality of every aspect of this app - from the illustrations to the music and narration - is wonderfully realized and makes this app an easy one to recommend. Although possibly scary for some, I am eager to see more such vivid and memorable storytelling.