Monday, April 8, 2013

A YA Book and a YA App. Or – Does having the accompanying soundtrack make the book better? - Part 2

Guest blogger - Janet Hutchinson

Janet has recently taken on learning about instructional technologies for the classroom.  Part of her time has been learning about iPads, their usefulness as a classroom tool and related apps.  We've gotten into a few discussions about some of the questions that arise when looking at some of these 'educational tools.'  Do these apps add anything to the reading experience?  Are they educational, entertaining, distracting or altogether off-putting? Do they replace the physical book?  What is lost without the physical book if anything? and so on.   

Janet's conclusions about the following book app has made me want to revisit Chopstick 'the app'.  My first time round with it didn't impress me and I found all the bits to click on rather distracting.  I didn't finish it.  I'll try again .

The second book that I bought was the YA book Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony. Not exactly a graphic novel (in the true sense of the word) but not a traditional “book with words”, nevertheless, it tells a compelling story through snippets of the lives of the main characters. It opens with a conglomeration of ‘talking heads” (news anchors, in other words) and then moves to one anchor, telling the breaking news-story of the missing world famous young pianist Glory Fleming.

We then move to 18 months earlier and the story of Gloria (or Glory) unfolds. From her parents meeting and marrying, through to her birth, her gradual development as a piano player and then her mother’s death, all stages are presented through photographs, cards and recital programs. Her continuing rise as a piano prodigy is shown through music programs at progressively bigger venues. Then Francisco moves in next door – and they meet and it is clear from the start they are a couple. But they are a star-crossed couple and through the next few chapters we learn of Glory’s obsession with the tune Chopsticks, Frank’s obsession with her and her decreasing touch with reality.

The app is exactly the same as the book – but this would be a case where I think the app for the book enhances and expands on the book. Throughout the iPad book, there are pages with moving musical notes. When you touch the notes, dialogue appears, pictures can be moved around, and applause is heard. But the theme of Chopsticks is where the true genius of this story comes through You see that it is Gloria’s first recital piece – you see a YouTube video of Joanne Castle playing The Chopsticks Rag – and at various points throughout the book, the theme appears in several ways and at different times and I began to really see the story through her eyes. (And it was in using the iPad version of the book that I realized that F for Francisco and G for Gloria start together in “Chopsticks” and then move further apart – foreshadowing what is to come perhaps?)

I think this iPad version works almost better than the physical book. The ability to connect to YouTube and hear the various versions of Chopsticks – or to actually hear the playlists that the two lovers make for each other really make the story alive (although you do need an internet connection to use the book in its’ entirety – otherwise, it is just a book on the iPad). I had read the physical book when it first came into the Doucette – and then I re-read the iPad version – maybe it was familiarity – or maybe not – but the story resonated with me (and raised more questions) than in the paper version.

Part 3 – Non-fiction books - Where book apps really take off!


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