Hildegard Sings is a really fun interactive storybook app from the developers at One Hundred Robots that includes a great story, some nice interactions and interesting extras. Options include narration or reading this book on one’s own, and it is nice that the sound effects and music used can still be enjoyed even with one reading this like a classic book, as well being able to turn on or off these sounds independently as well. Versions of this application are available for both iPad as well as iPhone.
I really enjoy this story about Hildegard Rhineheffer, a hippo who works at a restaurant by day, but whose great passion is the opera, singing in the chorus. Finally, after preparing herself for this very moment, she has gotten the break she has hoped for a very long time - to star in the opera, in a performance in front of the queen, no less! Unfortunately, stage
fright sets in, and Hildegard loses her voice. Many pages of this interesting story include what Hildegard does to try and reclaim her lost voice as she is helped by her opera friends, equally concerned by her predicament. She tries to relax in a bubble bath, eating and drinking comfort foods, getting a new hat, and even going to a fortune teller, but nothing helps. Without giving anything away, the ending of this tale is really fun, especially the great reveal to the secret antidote given to Hildegard, already on stage, by the opera’s tenor.
This story will be loved by kids, but adults will equally appreciate Hildegard's situation. My favorite term for her stress level getting the better of her is “The Yips,” commonly used as a golf or other sports term as a player suddenly loses their abilities. This can sometimes be attributed to physical reasons; other times the problem is similar to that of a baseball
player turned choke hitter, psyching himself out at the plate. I have used this term outside of sports for when a person lets nervousness, fear, or self-doubt get in the way of doing something he was once good at or enjoyed. It is uncomfortable to admit that upon occasion, one may fall into this self-sabotages, and I appreciate this being dealt with in such a light and fun book. I see this type of behavior as my son’s friends refuse to join the group in an activity inexplicably, and as in the story of Dumbo and the use of the "magic” feather, these kids are already know how to "fly," and I love the ending of this book as a way I can touch upon this when I see my son acting like he has “The Yips” in social situations where his nerves can feel like stage fright.
This book is not only a very funny story, but interactions are also included which are nice as well, and I like that there is a subtle use of hints, pointing the reader in the direction of what is interactive, very well-done.
My favorite interactive moment in this application is when a stagehand is trying to lure Hildegard out of her dressing room. Each tap is answered by a line spoken by this stagehand. They are very witty and numerous, sounding like a never-ending supply of one-liners to get Hildegard to open the door, and I can honestly feel her discomfort. This scene, along with her expression and tears, really conveys her feelings, including how the one-liners are funny but the situation is also kind of sad. Other nice moments include popping balloons in Hildegard’s bath as well as the tossing of tomatoes at the stage as she worries about what will happen when she is performs.
Parents will greatly enjoy that this opera is none other than Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, made famous in the Bugs Bunny cartoon, What's Opera, Doc? commonly referred to as “kill the rabbit.” The costume of breastplate, blond braids and horned helmet that Hildegard wears is unmistakable, as is the music which adds a nice sense of drama even for children who are not familiar with the cartoon.
This application can and will be enjoyed by the entire family. One does not need to use this story as a platform to talk about stage fright or "The Yips" as I would call it, but it is nice that one can reference this tale in this way if the situation arises.
Readers will also enjoy the extras included: a memory game where one turns cards over to make pairs, a wonderful series of opera posters staring Hildegard with sly humor parents will appreciate, as well as a nicely written epilogue, something I wish I saw more often in storybooks. A glossary of opera terms will also be added, something I am excited about.
I am happy that Hildegard Sings, a story based on a book now out of print, is available to iPhone and iPad users. I really enjoy this app. I have been a big fan of each of One Hundred Robot's applications, I am excited to see what they come up with in the future.