The Wee Adventures of Shabu Shabu – Book 1 – The Jade Legend, by Steam Powered Productions, is a magnificent tome of a story app and the first in the series of eight books. Book 1 begins with a little Taiwanese rabbit who wants to follow her prestigious grandfather’s paw prints and be an inventor. The tinkering turns into many years, with the inspiration of getting to the moon to find the mysterious Jade Rabbit, similar to our version of the “Man in the Moon” concept. Shabu Shabu has always dreamed of joining her grandfather on his adventures, but instead spends her childhood cloistered in his lab because he is so overprotective of his granddaughter.
Eventually Shabu Shabu embarks on an amazing journey out of the safety of her familiar burrow. Grandfather is her role model, mentoring Shabu in the lab as he works for years on making a powerful telescope to see the surface of the moon. Mid story we see Shabu’s very own invention of a Wind-Guide Hover Tub. The adorable little rabbit, an inventor at heart, longs for adventure. She gets it in the form of an excursion in her grandfather’s hot air balloon when the weather turns bad on a dangerously stormy night. She and her best friend Chow are determined to solve the mystery of the Jade Legend on their journey.
The quest continues until they find a hidden workshop where her grandfather has been working on sophisticated long-distance launching machines. Before entering, the reader is challenged to solve a sliding tile puzzle to unlock this secret chamber. Can’t give the ending away, you will have to get this app yourself.
This wonderful tale is based on a real story from long, long ago. The illustrations, all masterpieces themselves, are what is called “steam punk” which I learned is a style born out of the English Victorian movement. This style involves design elements of filigree, gears, leather clothing and has the appearances of gadgets converted to clockwork or steam powered engines. The interactivity helps tell the story and guides the surprise mini game within the text. Readers are encouraged to explore the pages to find the surreptitious toggles to reveal the hidden animations. If a reader should get stuck, they can bring up the hints by tapping on one of the many buttons, hints are available on the bottom right. We did have some difficulty maneuvering the gears for a smooth navigation. It was a bit of a learning curve for us, as always students were able to pick up on much quicker.
Shabu Shabu is geared toward the slightly older child, the developer recommends it for ages 6 – 12 and we agree with this. The messages driven home in this book are perseverance, patience, humility, unconditional love and above all else, kindness. All of these priceless attributes are presented to the character and experienced as hardships endured on her quest. This book app has tremendous lessons to share with older students as well as younger children. The only constructive criticism would be to have less text on some of the pages, even if the same illustration was used several times.