Review by: Carisa Kluver
The Digital Media Diet
Loose Strands, by DarnedSocks Productions, is a choose-your-own-adventure style story app with dozens of different possible adventures. This imaginative tale is about a boy who is trapped in the world where he can never go outside and everything (and I do mean everything) is made of hair from the family's barber shop. Tween readers can be picky about what they want to read and difficult to motivate, so you can try out this app for free (for iPad), with a sample chapter. The rest of the book can be unlocked to the full storybook by an in-app purchase, which is very worthwhile for a title that has nearly 2000 pages. The full storybook app is also available separately as a paid app for iOS, Kindle Fire, and Goolgle-Play.
And don't be alarmed at the number of pages; this is the perfect app for reluctant readers, because each time you read, the story takes a different path through a visual map that you can reference from the bookmark menu. And each 'page' of text is usually only a few sentences, presented in a large, easy-to-read font. A strand of hair emerges from the edge of each page and is lightly animated as the luscious locks spread toward the side of the screen that the reader needs to swipe for the next page turn. Roland, his parents and the friends he meets along the way help guide readers as they unravel this harrowing and hairy tale.
Young Roland explores his spooky old home, the barber shop and beyond, through a series of travails and enchanting dreams. Light animation appears periodically on interactive pages, but the primary experience in this app is reading. This story is not narrated, which is the only real downside to this otherwise amazing digital book. With the amount of text in this particular title, it would be a big investment to include professional voice-over, however, it would be a useful addition in the future or as an in-app purchase. It would make the book more accessible to a wider audience (especially kids with learning disabilities) and flexible for a variety of uses in classroom and library settings.
When I was in middle school, I used to read the print Choose Your Own Adventure series avidly, paper-clipping or dog-earing the corners of the pages where each decision was made, so I could go back and read the story from each point with a different trajectory. Eventually, I could read the book in its entirety by exhaustively returning to every decision-point and starting over. This digital book has a similar appeal, including a way to 'save' your progress (perhaps right before making a decision), so you can return later to any particular version of the story and start over. This makes for a book app with nearly endless possibilities that will keep a young tween-aged reader happy for a very long time. My only hope is that there are more titles like this in a series, similar to the print titles that were so popular in the 1980s & 90s. For 21st century young readers, Loose Strands set the gold-standard for nonlinear and user-controlled storytelling. It's engaging, educational and above-all entertaining for the target audience of 8-12+. Highly Recommended!
- See more at digital-storytime.com