Flip: Interactive Storybook takes kids on a magical journey of iOS integration. If you are looking for a tutorial on gesture controls, look no further. If you’d hoped Flip would enchant your kids with its storyline, then you might be disappointed.
This universal book app for kids, by Grids Interactive, sacrifices story for digital legerdemain. While it was very clever to use a tap gesture to push down a digital wall, for example, Flip’s protagonist Emma is (sadly) utterly forgettable.
Flips playful, interactive graphics, which borrow from pop-up books like Robert Sabuda’s Winter’s Tale, are the book’s most successful element. Cityscapes rise and fall like set pieces in a stage play. There are digital tabs to pull, and flowers to pick.
Flip also gives readers a choice in narration. The professional, emotive narrator can be muted, or the reader can record his own version of the story. The text is simple enough that many children will be able make their own recordings. The background music that accompanies the story syncs perfectly with the gestures the reader makes (ripping, pushing, flying).
If the story wasn’t marketed as an “enchanting life journey,” perhaps there would be more room to allow Flip to exist on its own merits. As a book app, Flip feels as if its creators set out to make a project that showed off all the neat things iOS can do, but neglected the story’s plot, which results in an unsatisfying reading experience. Calling the story Flip rather than Emma’s Magical Journey shows the title has more to do with the app’s mechanics than it does with its narrative.
What I liked: Flip’s remarkable graphics and integration of clever gesture controls deserve praise. The developer also donates a portion of the net proceeds from each app sale to the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute.
What I didn’t like: Emma’s story doesn’t make sense. She goes from 2D to 3D, leaves her home, returns by the skin of her teeth. Then she decides that she does belong in a place that we readers have learned nothing about, save for its dreariness, and she remains a 3D character in her 2D home. In Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Max returns from the kingdom of the wild things to find his supper waiting, “and it is still warm,” and its the implicit message — “you belong here” — that is very clear. Kids may love the wild things for gnashing their terrible teeth and roaring their terrible roars, but the story endures because of its ending. There is no “you belong” moment in Flip. Instead Emma returns to her home, and the only indication that we as readers have that she belongs is because she tells us it is so.
To buy or not to buy: Flip falls short because the narrative doesn’t live up to its own digital alchemy. This story is full of undelivered promises, and for the price it’s also a very quick read. Its brevity would be excusable if the final product gave readers more than just the chance to tap and swipe their way through its pages.