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How Far is UP

September 8, 2014

By: Carisa Kluver

The Digital Media Diet

A lyrical storytelling experience about exploring our relationship with the stars ...

How Far is Up? is a new and mesmerizing storybook app about three friends who wonder how far it is to the moon, sun and even to the faraway galaxies beyond our own. Rusty, Buster and Ting explore the concept of "up" in a familiar, earth-bound world ... from the top of a cupboard to a tall tree, and then to the peak of a mountain. Soon they look farther, beyond the well-known to our greater universe, expanding their view by traveling in a rocketship. The reader is taken along on this exploration of the stars, planets and space, with a wonderful mix of facts and musings.

The story unfolds with perfect pacing alongside lyrical verses and some of the most beautiful piano music I've ever heard in an app. Educational concepts are woven expertly into this dramatic title, featuring facts about space. It takes 30 earths in a row to cover the distance between the earth and the moon, for instance. Then a row of 30 images appears slowly to demonstrate the distance across the screen. Simple concepts, expertly demonstrated, make this a book app that stands out for its narrative technique. Not surprisingly, it was created by a technology and design student, Betty Sargeant, with a clear eye on thoughtful storytelling.

The main downside of this otherwise lovely app is that there is very little flexibility about how it can be consumed. There is a setting to turn the music on and off, but the only way to 'read' the story is to listen to it. The narration is not available in text and the text that is on screen (primarily speech bubbles for the characters and factual tidbits about space) is not available narrated. Settings include a unique pageguide that shows the storyline visually with images from the three friends' journey, although it is more interesting looking than useful.

There is also is a film version (link to Vimeo) of the app and a lovely teacher's guide that includes themes in the story, questions for discussion & reading comprehension, along with many activities to extend the experience beyond the app. The visual presentation of the app is eclectic, with a mix of photography, drawings and other images. Interactive elements show a 'hand' to indicate where you should tap, which is a nice hint, although it interrupts the reverie of the storytelling.

Animations are also included but have an unpolished feel overall. The mix of media feels simultaneously hip and amateur to my eye. This visual quality, combined with the abrupt stop/start of the music as the pages turn and the lack of flexible reading options give me pause in recommending this app. Yet, this book is truly hypnotic, makes a gorgeous bedtime story and manages to capture something about our human frailty. The dancing galaxies alone make this app worth a visit. So, while far from perfect, How Far is Up? creates a sense of wonder in readers and is a joy to share.


This app has been thoroughly evaluated by our staff. Please click on the 'star ratings' tab above, to see how it fared in all nine of our rating categories. See synopsis tab for more details about the storyline.

Note to readers: This review was expedited by the developer for a fee. The review's content is the same, but timing of publication has been prioritized.

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All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.


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How Far is UP

September 8, 2014

By: Carisa Kluver

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Betty Sargeant

E Sargeant

Length (time):
10 - 12 Minutes

Based on non-digital book: No

Allows Own Narration:

Uses Motion: Yes

Age: 4 - 9 +

English •

Length (pages):
16 Pages


Story Synopsis - How Far is UP

From iTunes:

How Far is UP takes you on a fantastical journey to the outer reaches of our universe. This story weaves fact and fiction. Our three characters, Rusty, Buster and Ting are curious about distance and space and they embark on a bumbling escapade to outer galaxies. But when they find themselves in peril, can shy Buster lead the trio safely home to earth?  
With rich collaged illustrations this interactive story brings you the original photography and hand illustration of Betty Sargeant and combines this with factual imagery from NASA.
How Far is UP aims to entertain and educate audiences. Children can interact with and experience this app whilst alone. Yet we also encourage children to read this book together with adults - this combination of older and younger audiences can add to the richness of the reading experience.

Through this app we aim to help foster a love of books and reading. So we have designed a set of book-linked activities, discussions and more. These notes are freely available from within the app and they will assist teachers, librarians and guardians to explore and discuss the themes and ideas from How Far is UP. These notes focus on further developing young children’s literacy and numeracy skills as well as their understandings of science, geography and technology. These notes are aligned with U.S. curriculums and the Australian National Curriculum (K-2).

This application does not contain in-app purchasing, advertising, or links to social networking. The teachers' notes and the related video are accessed via a customised web-page. Yet this page does not contain links to any other websites or related Internet data. We do not actively collect, store nor share any personal information.


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Orientation: Landscape

Format: iPad


Read to Me, Pageguide, Home, Music On/Off, Links (under secondary gate): Web

App Release Date:


Size: 356.71 MB

Version: 1.1

Lite Version Available: No



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