The Artifacts is a superb universal interactive storybook app that will appeal to many ages of children, especially older children in late grade school, middle school and even high school as well as beyond.
Meet Asaf, a collector of just about everything, from art to antiques, caterpillars to flora as well as anything and everything else that interests him, much to the dismay of his parents who do not share his passion for collecting.
One day, much to Asaf’s dismay, he arrives home to see his room bare and his collections removed. It is only now that he finds out that he is moving with his parents to a new house, and that collections are not permitted in his new home. Although his parents may be able to control what is allowed inside their house, they cannot control Asaf’s mind, and it is here that he creates vast new collections of fantasy, daydreams and facts all his own.
Asaf is a character after my own heart as I too am a collector of things far and wide, luckily having never been asked to get rid of my collections as my parents share this same trait to some degree, and I confess that we have gotten rid of very few of my son’s toys throughout the years, ever increasing the storage areas of our home to accommodate such belongings and effects.
The story itself is striking, with the emotions of isolation and alienation expressed as simple text and rich imagery that stick in my mind in places typically reserved for favorite passages of literature, film or other forms of art.
The treatment of Asaf and the behavior of his parents are extreme, yet surreal and dreamlike, allowing myself to be drawn into this story without judgment, yet creating an emotional experience which children need to be ready for, making it perfect for kids in upper grade school and up if not older, through adulthood.
My mind races to nuances depicting bleak moments from Roald Dahl stories - lonely, austere moments from the animated film “Coraline,” or surreal moments from the live action feature “Where the Wild Things Are” if for nothing more that the tones and emotions found within moments of storytelling that are bouncing around in my mind after finishing this app.
I have seen few such well-realized interactive app with older kids in mind. The majority of interactions are wonderful, imaginative and poetic as are the wonderfully stylized artwork found among these pages. The style of writing is quite minimalist, creating a wonderful dichotomy with the illustrations which can be lush with detail or minimal themselves for a great effect.
Although a large part of me wants to go into great detail about my favorite scenes or elements of this app, it is my gift to readers not to ruin these moments for themselves as words will not fully express or explain the emotion felt when experiencing this app for the first time.
As strongly as I feel about this app, I have decided not to share this story with my son, as I think the idea that parents - who presumably understand their children and want the best for them - would take away everything that they hold dear quite heartbreaking - especially for a kid like mine who really enjoys a lot of stuff around him.
There are also moments of heavy language with use of such words as “The Offense,” The Betrayal,” “The Dearth,” or “The Crime” in reference to moving away from home with all one’s worldly possessions gone, which adds a lot of melancholy to this app quite effectively in ways that may burden younger children such as my son.
There is little that I would change about this storybook.The one note I would like to make is that there is a witty moment when Asaf collects his thoughts while in the bathroom, with the tubes, creams and other items commonly found there and that have labels such as “concepts,” “Inferences,” or “Notion Potion,” yet the hand-written text is very small and hard to read, even on the larger screen of the iPad. This is unfortunate, especially for iPhone users who will be looking at these words on an even smaller screen - a real missed opportunity for readers but in no way a reason to bypass this otherwise wonderful app.
I do hope I have done this app justice as I would typically write in more detail my favorite moments within, but I don’t think these details would be doing readers any favors.
It is also worth noting that this app includes an interracial family, which has no real bearing on the story at hand, but it is just nice to see as I am hard-pressed to think of many other apps which include other interracial family units - refreshing to see, to be sure.
I hope this review has encouraged readers, both parents as well as teachers, to download this app for their children as well as for themselves. I am happy to see an app of such quality with a very reasonable price tag, especially for being a universal app - something I hope other developers will take notice of as the price for iPad and universal apps keeps creeping up.