The Heart and the Bottle

We are big fans of Oliver Jeffers’ books in our house, although we hadn’t seen the Heart and the Bottle in book format. I was keen to download it as I had heard it was quite controversial for a picture book, with some saying it is too difficult a topic for young children. The story follows a young girl whose “head is filled with all the curiosities of the world”, encouraged by her grandfather who sits in his favourite chair and reads her book after book. One day, however, the chair is empty… and to protect herself, the girl puts her heart in a bottle around her neck. There it stays, becoming heavier and more awkward, until the girl, now grown up, meets a younger version of herself who might just be able to help her recover it again.

Mr Tall and Little Miss Chatterbox both loved the story. The theme didn’t seem to put them off. Mr Tall said simply “Ah, her Grandpa has died” when he came to the page with the empty chair, and Little Miss Chatterbox wasn’t too worried either. Perhaps we have seen the Lion King too many times. However, if your child is a more sensitive soul, be prepared for a few tears at this point. I do think though that the story could be a good starting point for discussions about death, if you are ready for that with your child.

The animation faithfully reproduces Jeffers’ lovely illustrations which work really well on the iPad.

The interactions on each page are nicely done, although we did have to make liberal use of the Hints button to find them all. There are some innovative ones, such as tracing star constellations with your finger, and some old chestnuts like a colouring book. Certainly the first few times, this is an app you will need to share with your child if under five as they could become frustrated without guidance.

The narration by Helena Bonham-Carter is also nicely judged and perfectly in keeping with the text.

There are only two points which made reading The Heart and the Bottle a slightly frustrating experience. Firstly, the text is broken up in a way which means you can lose the thread of the story in places, if you choose to play around with all the interactions before moving on. Secondly, there are no separate “Read to Me” and “Read by Myself” options. Instead, you have to press a button to activate the narration on each and every page. These two things did interrupt the flow of the story and it is a shame there is no “Read to Me” option to keep the story moving for younger readers.

However, overall, the strength of the story and animation means that my two children have come back to this app again and again since we downloaded it two weeks ago.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers, project created by Bold Creative and HarperCollins Children’s Books, compatible with iPad.