Have you ever wondered what happen to balloons that fly away? How far would they go? It was this question that a young girl named Rachel asked Jamie Lee Curtis at a birthday party over a decade ago. As though struck by a lightning, Jamie went on and wrote a book entitled Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery to explore the imagination and creativity of young minds. The hardcover book was released in August 2000, and now it's been republished as an interactive iPad app by Auryn Apps.
Up, Up, and Away
Even though the app takes the form of a storybook, it is not your typical storybook app. Illustrated by Laura Cornell, the book contains 17 pages filled with imaginations of how a young mind would envision where balloons could go.
Many children have watched balloons fly away to the sky. They know that if you release the air from a balloon, it would fly in random directions until it runs out of air. Some children probably have inhaled some of the helium inside the balloons by accident and witnessed how their voices change in a funny way.
But that is not all that the book covers. In the second part, it cleverly explores the creative questions that kids might ask regarding the fate of balloons.
For example, you will find questions such as “Do balloons have a place to stay?”, “Do they get sick?”, “Do they need to rest?”, “Do they get married and have heirs?”, “How do they communicate with each other?”, and “Do they go far enough to end up in outer space?”
These are all lovely questions, and if you think about it, you would really appreciate the author's motivations when she decide to write the book. Here is a video where Jamie Lee Curtis explained how she got her inspiration for the story:
Parents Need to Know
Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery has gorgeous illustrations and plenty of interactivity. Many of its pages include a fan icon that you can drag around the screen to blow the balloons away. But, what makes the app really interesting is the abundance of hidden mini games it includes.
On page 3, if you tap on the Coffee and Helium House illustration, you will find a red record button. With this special recorder, you can record your own voice and hear it played back as though you have inhaled some helium from the balloon.
On page 7, there is a pen and a postcard. When you tap on the pen, the app will let you write on the postcard and have it sent to an email address of your choice.
On page 9, when you scroll the screen to the right, you will find a clown at the center of the screen. Tap on the clown's nose to see a studio for creating your own animal balloons. You can blow the balloon using the microphone on your iPad, then perform cuts and joins to make various animal shapes.
Page 13 is entitled "Big Balloon Dance". On this page, you will find a total of 213 balloons of various sizes and colors. When you tap a balloon, it will start to move. The idea is to tap all 213 balloons and make them dance. It is quite a challenge to find them all, but it is fun.
Page 15 is probably the one page that you will want to revisit again and again. The page introduces a fun connect-the-dots game, where you can join a constellation of stars to form different shapes.
To give you some insight into the types of interactivity that you can find in the storybook, here's another video of Jamie Lee Curtis giving some highlights and a brief tutorial of how to play with the book:
Things I Like
Philip and I both spent a lot of time forming weird balloon shapes in the creative studio, but we also enjoyed the Balloon Theater. It is available as a separate feature located in the main menu. Inside the theater, you can create your own balloon characters, dress them up, and even use images from Camera Roll as your custom characters. Once the characters are ready, you can head on to the recording studio to record your own play. I think the app has exceeded my expectation of a typical storybook app.
Finally, even though this book has no storyline, I really love the message that the book tries to deliver. Instead of having a fixed storyline with a single ending, the book highlights how remarkable a young's mind really is, and how incredible it would be if we could nurture it.
Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery is an awesome interactive iPad book app that has exceeded my expectations. It has gorgeous illustrations, plenty of interactivity, hidden games, innovative gameplay, and a really strong message. I love the big idea. I love the excellent implementation. And I love the ending of the story, but I will not spoil it for you. You have to see it yourself to enjoy it!
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