Interactive Children's Books


(c) Ghost Hand Games
(c) Ghost Hand Games

We haven’t had our iPad for very long. We recently downloaded The Legend of Momotaro. “When are we finally going to watch the app with the beautiful blossom?” our eldest six-year-old daughter T asked a few hours later. Till then, she had only played a few Toca Boca games, which she really loves and with whose characters she identifies. (She even wanted to ban her brother from feeding “her” blue monster in Kitchen Monsters. But back to the “beautiful blossom”: This is actually a peach with a stem that looks like a blossoming bud – the Momotaro app icon has now taken its place next to the cheerful Toca Boca faces.

The Legend of Momotaro is a storybook app created by the Saratoga Springs, NY state-based gaming company Ghost Hand Games. It is one of the interactive books that came very close to our ideal in all the descriptions and reviews, as we searched for good book apps. We haven’t found anything comparable in German yet.The app recounts a well-known Japanese legend in English. The wish of an older couple is granted when a child appears in their lives. The boy’s specialness is already clear from the fact that he arrives on Earth in a giant peach that the old woman fishes from the river. They call him Momotaro – Peach Boy. He grows up to be a great fighter and frees the country from ogres.

The design incorporates many elements from traditional Japanese culture. The story opens up on a scroll that is unrolled sideways. Each part of text has its own scene or “stage”, on which different changes that correspond to the narrative flow take place. The reader is immersed in a Japanese landscape, in which many things, such as a plum tree, wooden shoes or paper fish, can be discovered. They are depicted in kanji characters in the bottom bar and can be found either when either the kanji or the identified object in the picture are tapped. Then a small flower unfolds into a piece of origami paper, on which the item is depicted and both the English and Japanese words for it are written. Users can also hear the pronunciation by tapping the word. The Japanese word is also available in hiragana signs which represent syllables. The kanji character can be copied by users with their finger. Traditional elements of Japanese society and culture such as carps, peaches or shrines are explained on a sheet of “paper”.

The Legend of Momotaro: Die alte Frau findet beim Wäschewaschen am Fluss einen Riesenpfirsich (c) Daktylos Media
The Legend of Momotaro: Die alte Frau findet beim Wäschewaschen am Fluss einen Riesenpfirsich (c) Daktylos Media
The Legend of Momotaro: Kanji für
The Legend of Momotaro: Kanji for “house” (c) Daktylos Media

When our 10-year-old son took a look at the app on his own, his first comment was “Boring!” He had hoped that by tapping on scenes reminiscent of Japanese woodcarvings, there would be more animations. But this is not an animated “playbook” like Alice for the iPad. Later on, before going to bed we finally had time to look at Momotaro’s story in peace. Our youngest daughter was already sleeping and the oldest one was cuddled up with me in bed. I started telling her the English story in German. Her brother sneaked in and cuddled up to us too. Children love fairy tales, at any time of day or night, in any situation.Apart from the clear, saturated and piercing sounds of a koto that begin the app, generally the sound is very discreet and meditative: There are a few summer sounds such as the murmur of the water and the wind, the chirping of crickets, the twittering of birds or the quiet and the homey bubbling of soup in a pot. The narrative conforms to traditional fairy-tales. We had plenty of time, so the children could listen to the story calmly and try out each interactive element after each episode. My daughter repeated the English and Japanese words enthusiastically and copied the kanjis with her finger. My son was interested in comparing the Japanese words with the English ones, many of which he already knew.

Both children had fallen asleep within about 40 minutes so we only got through two thirds. Maybe we’ll look at the rest tonight.

My conclusion: The Legend of Momotaro is a wonderful book app that can provide a great deal of pleasure, both for the mind and the senses. Adults should take a look at it with the children so that everyone can enjoy quality time together, but also so that that expectations and attention can be somewhat guided. Although, it’s impossible to tap about wildly and trigger cartoon-like experiences, it’s good if children can take their time to become curious about the story as well as the strange language and culture, so that they can have a lot of fun reading and watching.

The Legend of Momotaro
Ghost Hand Games LLC
Preis bei iTunes: 2,69 €
Size: 179 Mb