As I read Space Dog Books' Treasure Island app, I kept thinking of one of the many wonderful lines that Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), utters on Downton Abbey: "Electricity in the kitchen? Whatever for?"
So an enhanced Treasure Island for the iPad at first begs the same question, "Whatever for?" Well the answer, simply put, is for the sake of young readers.
Artist Matthew Cruickshank's illustrations are superb and immediately draw readers in with their playful, sly style and vivid colors. They are sophisticated without being adult, yet there is no whiff of kindergarten either. The look and feel of this Treasure Island is solidly for the independent readers.
So why an app and not just a well-illustrated e-book? There are many reasons why this version of Treasure Island is so appealing. The story has obviously stood the test of time, and this abridged version is no exception. But what has changed is the reader.
Treasure Island's interactivity is amusing and meant to provide a pause in the 34-chapters of action. And frankly, who wouldn't want to hear a pirate sing, "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest. . ."? A lush illustration accompanies the start of almost every chapter, sometimes providing opportunities for readers to swipe or tap the image to move a character or hear a bit of dialogue, other times just as animations that beautifully capture the scene. When interacting with the animations, readers will hear sound effects like chirping birds, clip-clopping horse hooves, snarling pirates, and occasional dramatic music. And since this is a book clearly geared for boys, there are burps. Many burps. In glorious variety.
Small illustrations within chapters offer simple interactivity like tilting the iPad and seeing the rum inside a corked bottle slosh around, sliding a key into a lock and clicking it open, and flicking the tiny ship at sea and having it bob in the ocean. And gorgeous full-page animations capture big scenes in clever detail.
I don't think young readers are too different from the grownup kind. Sometimes they want to stretch out on the couch with a good book and few distractions. With this digital updating of a wonderful children's classic, Space Dog's gorgeous Treasure Island provides just that.