All in all, it was an agreeable jumble.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is…. fantastic. It’s based on a book by William Joyce, and it was made into an animated short that won the Oscar for best animated short in 2011.
Moonbot’s website describes the story as follows:
Inspired in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor.
This app would be appreciated by kids older than our usual Little eLit offerings, but my almost 3-year old still enjoyed talking about the flying books and the librarian in the story. This would only work as a one-on-one app, too, not for a group. The animation and narration are movie-quality, though some of the interactivity seems a little hokey (drawing in a book, old school Paint style, tap the books and they flutter while everything else on the screen is motionless, play “pop goes the weasel” on the piano etc) and sometimes it’s a little unclear what you’re supposed to do. Nevertheless, the story is well written and the illustrations are gorgeous. You can even spell things in a bowl of Alpha-Bits cereal and take a photo of it!
Wow. Just…wow. Numberlys is a beautifully designed story app for iPhone and iPad, created by Moonbot Studios, makers of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It tells the story of the creation of the alphabet in a world that only has numbers. The black-and-white style is reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and the animation is worthy of Pixar. The story (which can be accompanied by narration or not) is interspersed with interactive games and tasks that show the creation of each letter of the alphabet.
This app definitely has appeal for children, although it’s probably most appropriate for the over-4 crowd. My three-year-old is taking some time to get into it. At first he lost interest pretty quickly, but every time he plays with it he gets a little farther into the story and seems to be paying more attention to the narrative and not just skipping ahead to the games. While he hasn’t gotten all the way through the story yet he’s moving in that direction, and seems utterly fascinated by the animation, even more so than the games.
Some of the games are quite simple, and some are a touch more challenging. My son has needed a little help to understand the instructions and complete some of the tasks. And while the story centers around the creation of the alphabet, I wouldn’t recommend this app as an educational tool for learning letters. It’s really about the story and about making full use of the capabilities of the technology. There are plenty of alphabet apps out there if your goal is to help your child learn his or her letters, but for style, whimsy and sheer imagination, you can’t beat Numberlys. As an added bonus, this is one of the few apps that Mom and Dad will enjoy as much or more than their children. There’s plenty for both adults and kids to appreciate, and I think this app was worth every penny of the $5.99 I spent. Gorgeous!