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Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book brings a new twist to the genre

David Winograd

Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book (US$3.99) from Game Collage LLC brings something new to interactive children's books on iOS. The original book was published in 1904 and illustrated by L. Leslie Brooke, a popular illustrator of the time. Along with the usual wheels, tabs and spring loaded animated objects that move things around, they included X-Ray Goggles (really a tappable button), which let you see the gears, clockwork, springs and pulleys that make the animations work on most of the pages. This fits in well with the tone of the book since it was originally published during the second Industrial Revolution.

Just when I thought that publishers had run out of new ideas for this genre, this wrinkle arrives with a lot of fun. Outside of the well-known story, you are given a faux backstage peek of how it all works. Sure, it's a gimmick, but it's exceptionally entertaining, even for "older kids." Often seeing how items are affixed to a gear gives you a good idea of what the page can do, providing a better experience playing with the movable objects after viewing the schematics. There are a lot of objects that can be manipulated either by pushing them around or tilting the screen and having the accelerometer do it.

There is a lot to see. On one screen, instead of a few objects, there are 20 apples, all connected to strings and a tab that feeds out or pulls in the brightly colored strings. Looking at the X-Ray, you'll find pulleys and gears that raise and lower the apples when you push a tab up or down. Another tap brings you back to the story. I would consider this a real benefit for kids who invariably ask "why." You can compare the graphics and the X-Rays in the gallery below, and then hit the "Read More" link to read the rest of the review and see a whimsical video of how the book was developed.

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Gallery: Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book Gallery | 15 Photos

Not all pages use the X-Ray technique, but there are some other tricks at play. One page is full of doorbells and tapping on them plays sounds of just about every doorbell you've ever heard. Breaking up the clockwork with other features affords a variety to the book that is quite welcome.

The illustrations are perfect for the book. Since the original book is out of copyright and can even be seen in its entirety on the Web, the developers had free reign to use just about every picture in the book, some just line drawings and some fully colored, and then bring them to life as they saw fit.

I only found one technical problem, which is that a drop-down menu that claims to enable swipe turning didn't work. But there are curlicue arrows at the bottom of the page that let you navigate the book anyway. There is also no narration, which narrows the market to either those old enough to read or who have parents willing to read it to them. Adding narration would be most welcome. But perhaps the book was meant for slightly older children who would appreciate the X-Ray effect.

This is a very well done universal app that runs perfectly on any iOS device. However, the specificity of looking behind the curtain is much more easily seen, and more fun, on an iPad. I liked this app quite a lot and recommend it most highly. It's something that you haven't seen before no matter how well you know the story of the Three Little Pigs.

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