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Review: Hildegard Sings for iOS

When evaluating a picture-book app one of the first questions we ask is, Do the interactive features add to the story?

Thomas Wharton’s Hildegard Sings is a perfect choice for the app format. When Hildegard, a flamboyant creature with operatic aspirations, loses her “voice,” listeners experience (the painful truth of) just what a “Tra La La Laaaaaaa” gone wrong means. The addition of song, orchestra music, applause, and flowers to throw onstage all enhance Wharton’s amusing story. After you read Barbara Auerbach’s review below, be sure to view the trailer; it, too, is lots of fun.   

Title: Hildegard Sings
Author: Thomas Wharton
Produced by: One Hundred Robots
Platform: iOS 4.0 or later
Version: 1.0
Price: .99 

K-Gr 3–Hildegard Rhinefeffer, singing waitress by day and aspiring opera star by night, loves to croon almost as much as she loves to eat in this delightful app based on Thomas Wharton’s out-of-print picture book (FSG, 1991). When Frau Hoopenholler gets sick, the corpulent hippo gets her big break–to sing in a performance for the Queen. Unfortunately, Hildegard can’t hit the high note; at rehearsal, her screeches break glass as well as a few eardrums…and nothing seems to work until tenor Bartholomew Bacon comes up with a solution.

The title page features the iconic fat lady singing on a cliff against a dark sky of flashing lightning and dramatic background music. Viewers have the option to turn music, narration, and sound effects on or off and to jump to any page. “Extras” features colorful posters of Hildegard in other operas, including Madame Butterball and Schnitzel & Strudel, and a matching game that varies with each new play.

Each page offers at least one interactive element. Youngsters will delight in feeding the insatiable soprano cupcakes or an entire turkey with all the trimmings, making Bartholomew burp after tea, and bursting bath bubbles. A cup of tea radiates steam, and a crystal ball glows. Children can raise and lower the theater curtain, and try four different fancy hats on the star; the stage manager utters numerous entreaties to coax her out of her dressing room. Hildegard hits all the right notes.—Barbara Auerbach, P.S. 217, Brooklyn, NY