The Adventures of Sophie the Sweater is a gem of an app, an interactive storybook which allows children to make choices that will affect the direction this tale takes, as this is the story of Sophie, a sweater who experiences many different lives with a varied group of people as they re-use and re-cycle her into other garments, craft ideas or other objects which illustrate how to use her material.
I did enjoy a great deal the Choose Your Own Adventure or Which Way books as a child, and I have begun to read these titles to my son as well. I do love this app as I think it brings an intuitiveness to these kinds of books, as my son can get confused as to why I am asking him questions while reading him these types of stories.
Children first meet Sophie in a shop and is then bought by an individual, one in a long line of people who will have an influence on Sophie’s life as they wear, share, and re-purpose her.
I admire how the majority of these characters are very much real people who work with Sophie in ways that are practical to their lives, reminding me of independent movies such as Twenty Bucks or even Crash, as although this story is kept light and fun, the plots revolve around an object that works its way through multiple subplots, as well as the intertwining of some of the characters that children will notice in different ways throughout these story lines. This is a subtle way of making the world seem smaller as well as the theme of no-waste and re-using of materials.
The first decision one needs to make is who first walks through the doors of the shop to buy Sophie. Choices include Fiona, a mother or “punky Meg” styled with the sides of her head shakes and piercings. I especially enjoy Meg’s character - a personality that is not often seen in children’s apps, who creates a studded vest that she makes out of Sophie, who at first is weary of this transformation but enjoys her new look.
There is a multitude of whimsical tangents that include other characters worthy of an ensemble cast as well as a few anthropomorphic animals. I did not mind the presence of a magician - not really an everyman but still a working man of sorts, but I had mixed feelings about the prince and princess found in a castle, possessing bad attitudes and feeling entitled enough to try to fake illnesses, also using Sophie to create a rope to “escape” their situation of a boring royal commitment. Although I kind of enjoy the fantasy that has brought Sophie to the castle, these characters pull me away from the realism of the other people met, from the homeless people thankful for clothing to wear to the small child fashioning Sophie into doll clothing or other creative objects. It is however possible that readers are not supposed to like these specific characters - an interesting choice.
Even with this note, I wholeheartedly recommend The Adventures of Sophie the Sweater. All the elements are top form, from the excellent optional narration to colorful and stylized illustrations to the 24 different options that one can choose from - great for re-reading.
It is worth noting that past the decision making, there is little to no other interactions to be found. I am actually happy for this choice on the part of the developers as I am now finding many apps that are littered with hot spots more distracting than helpful, and I am very glad this app does not fall into this pitfall in any way.
I also admire how this app can be so educational in terms of the environmental theme of conservation and re-use, getting the message home in a way that is not preachy.
I have never been one to throw away anything remotely re-useable, as there are charitable donation sites around our city that we take advantage of, so I was moved when it came time to possibly choose tossing Sophie into the trash - a choice that I had a hard time making, but did for testing purposes. I hope this message follows children with them as they too make choices like the ones seen in this book.
The only thing I would love to see in addition would be a menu of pages, not only to this story, but also highlighting the areas where decisions are made, making it easy for children to go back and change their mind as well as to seek out the different possibilities also included within this story.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this app by Gro Play. I sincerely hope that more apps with this same ability to select different outcomes will be developed in the future.