San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker Interactive Storybook

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker Interactive Storybook App Poster Image
Step into the magic, but beware of some technical issues.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn all about the Nutcracker and about ballet, dance history, San Francisco history, music, and more. The storybook faithfully retells the classic story. Video interviews with the conductor of the San Francisco Ballet orchestra helps kids appreciate how the music works in tandem with the set and dancers to tell the story and convey emotion. Interviews with the dancers, including kids, can demonstrate what it's like to dance in a professional production, and dance-along videos may inspire kids to get moving themselves. Archival photos show what San Francisco was like at the turn of the century and explore the city's unique architecture. Though some technical glitches put a damper on its overall success, San Francisco Nutcracker Interactive Storybook is a great extension of the ballet for kid fans and peeks into the history and production details.

Ease of Play

The app is easy to navigate, though technical problems often get in the way.

Violence & Scariness

Light theatrical coverage of the nutcracker and his toy soldiers battling with the mice and their mouse king using swords and toy cannons. A large mousetrap brings down the mouse king.

Sexy Stuff

Extremely mild "romance" between Clara and her nutcracker-turned-prince.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker Interactive Storybook combines the classic nutcracker story with lots of supplemental tidbits about ballet, music, San Francisco during the time of the 1915 World's Fair, and more. Kids can read the story on their own, or they can be read to. The extras, however, are text-heavy. Tchaikovsky's famous musical score is always in the background but can be turned off. Kids can access the storybook offline but will need an Internet connection to take advantage of all the extras, which are also available for free on the Web at Discover SF Ballet. Be prepared for kids to tilt the device to use some of the interactive features. At the time of this review, there were several technical problems with the app that interfered with its normal functioning. Privacy information is available in the app; a general privacy policy is also available and details privacy while using the SF Ballet website.

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What's it about?

SAN FRANCISCO BALLET NUTCRACKER INTERACTIVE STORYBOOK tells of Clara's classic Christmas adventure. Kids read on their own or are read to, and Tchaikovsky's famous score accompanies all pages, though you can toggle it off. On many pages kids can tap shaking items or tilt the device to set short animations in motion. Tapping on stars brings kids to photos, videos, and text that explore in depth all elements of the San Francisco Ballet's production of the nutcracker from set and costume design to ballet technique and San Francisco history.

Is it any good?

Though this storybook is fun and engaging, parents and kids run the risk of being frustrated by technical issues and some text-heavy elements. In two distinct sections, kids are immersed in the magic of the nutcracker and learn about the less magical nitty-gritty of putting on a major ballet production. Illustrations are engaging and true to the theme, and the music -- timed to match the correct parts of the story -- is beautiful and invigorating. Interactive features are fun: Plug in the cord to turn on the lights on the Christmas tree, and tilt the device to send the Sugar Plum Fairy flitting across the screen. But there could be more of them, as there are quite a few pages that don't have any. Tap on stars on each page to access dance-along tutorials, history, music analysis, and more. With so much text, however, it may be hard for smaller kids to get into and impossible to follow without the help of a grown-up. While we reviewed this app on an iPad, the app crashed multiple times, though tapping back in always fixed the problem. Also, the supplemental tidbits didn't always load. If kids run into the same problems, they can tap on the Discover More button and will see essentially the same information.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Clara's adventure. What does the story mean to them? Did Clara really go to the land of the sweets, or was she just dreaming? Who is that strange Uncle Drosselmeyer? Which part of the dance or music do they like best, and why?

  • Explore the extra features together, and help your kids navigate the text explanations. Dance along with the tutorials, and help them learn more about topics that particularly interest them.

  • Watch the SF Ballet's Nutcracker DVD to see the full ballet or, better yet, go see it live! Attend a performance from your local dance company or school. 

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love holidays and dancing

Themes & Topics

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