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Inside Touch and Go

‘Chasing Fireflies’ on the iPad

The digital age meets haiku. Who would have thought?

Title: Chasing Fireflies
Subtitle: A Haiku Collection
Translation: Peter Beilenson
Developed by: Honeybee Labs
Original Score by: Colin Wambsgans
Platform: iOS, requires 3.2 or later, an iPad exclusive
Version: 1.2
Price: $3.99

Gr 5 Up-A cherry tree, a winding stream, and a cozy house nestled under an ever-changing sky set the backdrop for an interactive collection more than 150 haiku. This stunning iPad app presents traditional 17-syllable poems by masters Basho, Issa, and others, and exemplifies the Japanese reverence for nature and the four seasons. For those who are unfamiliar with haiku, a two-page introduction offers information on this traditional form of expression and its themes.

A subtly animated background along with soft music and ambient sounds invite users to linger over each poem. For many, it’s often all too easy to breeze through a collection of haiku given the economy of the form, but the beauty of this app encourages a deeper, almost meditative reading experience, in keeping with the original intentions of the poets.

Each screen contains three selections and the accompanying animation and sounds evoke images brought to mind by the verses. For example, a grouping of poems that reference rainfall, twilight, and a temple bell are accompanied by a rainy evening sky and the occasional gong.

Navigation is simple and attractive. Users can select a starting point from a wheel representing a journey through the seasons, or simply press the “start” button. The app’s orientation works seamlessly in portrait or landscape. Interaction, such as turning the house’s lights on and off, is limited but elegant, ensuring that the haiku are the focus. Each screen provides the option to share the poetry on Twitter or Facebook, effectively bringing a centuries-old poetic form into the digital age. Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA