Friday, August 26, 2011

Being a grown-up can be fun

In comedian Weird Al Yankovic's picture book debut, When I Grow Up, eight-year-old Billy enthusiastically discusses his many (mostly improbable) career options, from "snail trainer" to "friendly mortician" to "giraffe milker." The app adaptation (HarperCollins, June) takes this tale a step further—augmenting Weird Al's text and Wes Hargis's illustrations with simple, but effective animation and sound effects. Most screens include a few interactive extras (e.g., close-ups of Billy's homework assignments and imagined accolades, snails that slide back and forth along a tightrope) that come to life when users tap, swipe, or tilt their device. Games like "Xtreme Snail Race," "Gorilla Masseuse," and "Tarantula Shaver" allow the user to experience some of Billy's potential professions first-hand. You can play each game just as the associated job is mentioned; if you prefer to wait until the end of the story, all are easily accessible from the main menu.

What really makes the app is Al's own excellent narration. The litany of bizarre occupations can feel a little overly long when reading it yourself, but his perfectly timed, just-over-the-top-enough performance adds life and warmth to the wackiness. Weird Al fans will appreciate his cameo as Billy's classmate in the illustrations, emphasizing the message that any kid can grow up to live his wildest dreams.

The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch ($3.99 in the app store).

—Katie Bircher

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