Chopsticks: An Interactive Reading Experience

Chopsticks
Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony
iPad App
Paperback, 272 pages

Chopsticks is the story of Glory and Frank… Glory a piano prodigy, and Frank, the Argentenian boy who moves in next door. Glory’s mother died when she was little, and because of this, she has a preoccupation with the song “Chopsticks” which kept finding its way into her piano performances. It’s a love story with a twist that, as long as you don’t read comments beforehand, you won’t see coming.

I’m channeling River Song here. SPOILERS! (Actually, there aren’t any. She said that when she wasn’t going to spoil things for The Doctor.)

My first experience with this text came in the format of the app. Many of my colleagues who read this book in the last few years seemed to all have read the physical book, which leaves me interested in the difference in experience. To have an interactive reading experience, wifi is necessary, as many of the interactions pull up YouTube videos. I spent a lot of time, while reading (which I imagine I was supposed to) listening to the music or watching the videos and trying to figure out what these texts have to do with the story arc as a whole.

As someone who is thinking about how media will be integrated into curriculum in more effective ways to teach students how to make connections between different text sources and challenge the intent of the media they consume, this book feels like it could be one resource that hits that mark.

I found two major drawbacks with the storytelling, however.  Because much of the media is reliant on YouTube videos, which the authors claim no control over, if the content is removed from or blocked by a content creator on a specific platform, then it also unavailable to tell part of the story the authors were intending to tell. This is in contrast to authors like Patrick Carman, (Skeleton Creek is very popular with my  8th graders) who contribute work to the growing collection of texts that integrate digital media, whose digital outputs come from PCStudios and are created specifically for the books. I imagine that obtaining rights to the archival footage would be expensive, but it would also ensure that this digitally enhanced text would not become obsolete.

The second is not so much a drawback as it is an aesthetic preference. My expectation with digitally enhanced texts is that the enhancements contribute to the telling of the story. I found clicking an enhancement just to hear applause, sirens, or nature sounds to be a let down. I’m sure some readers enjoy that part of the experience, but it didn’t work for me as a reader. I was irritated that these particular enhancements didn’t contribute to advancing the plot.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of reading this text and am looking forward to rereading it for the clues that lead up to the ending. I’ll edit this post once I’ve read the physical copy.

 

View all my reviews

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