Paul Bunyan, told by Jonathan Winters, is a fun new Read-Play-and-Record Along Rabbit Ears interactive storybook that delightfully re-tells the great American folklore of Paul Bunyan with wonderful narration and fun illustrations. Like the other apps from this series, this app is universal and can be watched like a video or read like a book, and one can make one’s own recording as well.
For those who do not know, Paul Bunyan is one of the most famous characters from North American folklore. Bunyan was said to be larger than life both in stature as well as in his logging abilities as a lumberjack. Here, with the aid of his animal companion, Babe, the blue ox, Bunyan tackles President Teddy Roosevelt’s request to clear the trees of the Dakotas for settlers to make new homes.
It is a wonderful choice to have Jonathan Winters narrate this tall tale, doing a terrific job, especially as this story is played for the most part, for laughs and includes some fun moments of action and adventure, more so than many of the other applications from this series that may have a melancholy tone. The music accompanying these apps have always been uniformly perfect, as is the case here with the music from acoustic guitarist, Leo Kottke.
True to the style of these Rabbit Ears interactive storybooks, the illustrations found within the storybook section are used throughout the video, as this artwork is panned and zoomed in to show details and other effects. Images from the storybook also fade into each other, creating a montage effect, moving along the video in what would be from one page to the next. Different from the other apps in this library that very literally use the same images found within the storybook section, many of the images here are more adaptations as they may vary from what is found within the storybook.
The illustrations found in the book section have a fun and charming look to them that is in contrast with the earnestly beautiful watercolors found other Rabbit Ears titles – here, oftentimes cartoony implied movement are included as some slapstick humor is incorporated nicely to complement the over-the-top antics which Paul Bunyan and the other loggers demonstrate.
In the video, mild but effective animations are simply used to make these movements more realized and less implied, and other simple animated moments are included as well, such as snow or rain falling, or Babe’s eyes opening as Bunyan warms this poor frozen creature back to life. Images found in the video do not always correspond to the illustrations found page by page within the book, making both watching the video and reading the storybook different experiences.
It is worth noting that here, a more modern ending has been included that some may call politically correct, giving Bunyan remorse for clearing all the forests of their trees in an ending that makes me think of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.
Although the text remains the same, the imagery used to tell the ending of this story in the video and storybook sections are different, as in the storybook, these lines of text displayed are on pages full of empty, blighted land with a peek of forests, either snow caped or only as tree tops used as end pages for this book.
On the other hand, the video has these last moments taking place in a lush, thick forest now inhabited by Bunyan as he has since quit logging and is now planting trees. Here, this moment also includes a nice visual effect in which this forest has a surprising three-dimensional look that I found very effective, also found in the beginning of this video, further creating two different experiences within this one app.
Although I understand that this ending is not a part of the mythology of Paul Bunyan, I appreciate this resolution as it changes the tone in an interesting way – from light-hearted and fun to somber and thoughtful.
However, I can also imagine parents uncomfortable with this ending if one is simply looking for a fun, feel-good story about Paul Bunyan. I can also imagine this ending may even be off-putting to some who believe the ecology theme included in some ways minimizes the hard work put forth by loggers of days past.
Some parents may also give pause at the idea of this classic character being simply changed, as fans of this application will be familiar with a Paul Bunyan different that the classic folklore, while others may appreciate this new environmentally friendly ending.
My son and I have enjoyed this tall tale turned application. I truly hope to see more Rabbit Ears interactive storybooks in the future. Although I am grateful that one’s page is held because these books tend to be lengthy, it would be nice to add a menu of pages as well to aid parents in finding specific moments that kids may especially enjoy – just a thought.
Please also note that today is the last day of the sale price of $1.99 for all Ruckus Media Group apps, and more importantly, that all the proceeds of the sales of these apps will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. If you have not already done so, you may want to check out what apps Ruckus Media Group has in iTunes to purchase for this worthy cause.Posted in: By Age Range, By App Feature, For Parents, High School +, Just For Fun, Language, Middle School, Parents and Kids, Preschool, Primary School, Reading, Reviews, Social, Stories, Toddlers
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