The Chalk Box Story is an interactive app by Auryn based on the lesser known story by Don Freeman, best known for writing the Corduroy series of picture books.
My son loves the Corduroy books, as did I as a child, but I was unaware of how prodigious a writer Auryn was until he began developing his works into storybook applications.
The Chalk Box Story is another such title, adapted nicely from the original 1976 version.
Although the text remains the same, the story of cooperation and imagination is told as crayons work together to draw a picture which takes shape among the pages of this book.
Here, the reader focuses on a single screen consisting of the paper that one draws on, as the box of crayons is seen at the corner of the blank drawing area instead of being part of a two page spread as it is found in the book.
A window opens on this page that delivers the text, also including highlighted narration if the reader chooses it.
The narration can be forwarded with a tap as can the interactive elements of children choosing a crayon with a prompt, then coloring in the elements of the picture being drawn.
I like the level of interactivity here. A child opens the box of crayons, selects the crayon the story asks for and then colors in details of this image without the concern of coloring outside the lines, making children who can only scribble still successful at assisting in this drawing.
I did find it a little problematic with the first crayon one draws with, as although readers are asked to draw the sky and ocean as the entire background is to be filled, there is less of an outline for one to stay in the confines of, making this first section almost seem like a free-play drawing app. The intent of this story becomes clearer as the picture develops, however, and I enjoy how the text is an excellent prompt to children into the story and these interactions. It is also possible to go back and fix any drawings at a later time if children wish - a nice touch.
I do enjoy this creative interaction, but it is interesting how the interactions of children dragging each crayon to the page to color do change the story as originally the crayons come alive and become anthropomorphized instead of a child creating these images. Because of this, I wonder if the magic is changed to have the children participate in the way that they do.
Also of note is how the final drawing comes alive with animation in a way that works wonderfully in the story, really popping off the page. Of course, in the book, these images do not move. Instead, children use their own imagination to see these changes take place.
When adapting a book into an application, the experience of the printed book and the app is often different, and I do not consider these differences to be flaws.
Although my own mind is not used to imagine the end of this story, I do enjoy watching it unfold, listening to the ambient sound effects as well and allowing my mind to relate moments of other stories similar to it. This did not happen for me when reading this book to myself.
It is also worth noting that there is a bonus feature allowing children to interact with bonus animal objects, adding them to the drawing to see additional moments of animation which all work well within the story while maintaining the subtle 1970’s look that I found charming.
I was lucky enough to find a copy of The Chalk Box Story from my local library, but because it is out of print, many children will never come across a copy of this book. Because of this, I am happy that this app as well as the other Don Freeman apps exist for children to appreciate. The narration in these apps is uniformly excellent - always a nice inclusion for young pre-readers.