Reviews in this column first appeared in SLJ ’s Touch and Go . After each review, you’ll find the date it appeared online. Online, there are links to related resources, a trailer (if one exists), and a “purchase” button. Please note that later versions of some of these titles may now be available. Visit Touch and Go at slj.com for additional reviews, commentary, and interviews with people in the field.— Daryl Grabarek
Frankenstein. Dave Morris (based on the novel by Mary Shelley). Profile Books.inkle Ltd. 2012.iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version: 1.0.6. $4.99.
Gr 8 Up–The ideal audience for this app would be readers who couldn’t get enough of Darren Shan’s horror series, moved on to Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor, were drawn to Rick Yancy’s “Monstrumologist” books, and plan to read that classic horror touchstone, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Morris has created an interactive companion story to Shelley’s talewith a sophisticated take–asking readers to decide in which direction the story advances. Tapping the book cover on the first screen causes a title page to slide to the right and a table of contents to appear. Chapters are read from top to bottom on the right side of the screen; Chapter One begins with a first-person account of an evening walk, including enough detail to firmly situate readers in revolutionary Paris. The narrator directly addresses readers and offers two possible courses for the narrative to follow. Each subsequent short text section concludes with a question and with two or more choices as readers work through this version of the classic story (“We can cut through these back streets. It’s not even ten minutes’ walk from here. Or perhaps you would prefer the scenic route?”); options not selected slip gracefully off to the right and disappear. Part One is told by Victor Frankenstein and Part Two begins with the voice of the monster.
Orientation is landscape only, navigation is easy and elegant, and audio is minimal. The pen-and-ink-style graphics are delightfully atmospheric and include several detailed illustrations from centuries-old anatomical texts, along with period reproductions. “Extras” include “The Original Frankenstein,” “The Art of Frankenstein,” and information about the author.
Encourage readers to visit the inkle Studios website, which offers free web-based software for creating a their own book in same format.—Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle, WA (6/11/12)
Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy. Martin Clayton. illus. by Leonardo da Vinci. Touch Press with The Royal Collection. 2012. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version: 1.0.2. $13.99.
Gr 7 Up–Anyone who appreciates da Vinci’s artistic brilliance will enjoy this rare glimpse into his genius as a scientist. The app is a companion piece to an exhibit at The Queen’s Gallery in London and showcases 268 meticulous drawings from the Royal Collection, each a testament to how far ahead of his time the man truly was. Taking full advantage of the iPad’s high-resolution Retina display, the software allows users to zoom in for a closer look at the tiniest details of line and shading.
After a brief video introduction, the app opens on what looks like an ancient parchment paper portfolio divided into two parts: “The Story” and “The Drawings.” In the first section, viewers can watch as experts discuss da Vinci’s 28-year investigation into anatomy or browse through 11 artfully illustrated chapters of in-depth information about his life and work written by Martin Clayton, a curator at the Royal Collection.
In “Drawings,” da Vinci’s work can be accessed by time period and medium, or visually, by scrolling through thumbnails of the art or by body systems. Like an exploration into his mind, moving a special lens over da Vinci’s notes in his signature right-to-left mirror writing reverses the text, tapping an icon reveals English translations of the comments he made in Italian alongside his drawings, and rotating and swiping modern 3-D images of the body exposes various internal systems juxtaposed with the artist’s drawings of them. This is an outstanding learning experience, rich in information, jam-packed with interactive tools, and absolutely gorgeous to boot.—Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY, NY (6/1/12)
Minds of Modern Mathematics. Glen Fleck. MartianCraft in collaboration with IBM and the Eames Office. 2012. iOS, requires 3.2 or later. Version: 1.01. Free.
Gr 7 Up–In 1961, Charles and Ray Eames created an exhibit for IBM, Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond, which was seen by millions of people at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. That exhibit, a 50-foot timeline installation on the history of mathematicians and mathematics, has been reborn as an app.
The iPad is the perfect platform for this timeline as it allows users to interact with the exhibit in ways that weren’t possible before. The title is divided into three parts: a reproduction of the original timeline (here carefully retouched); an interactive history of mathematics from the year 1000 to 1950; and a collection of short films by Charles and Ray Eames. Several access points lead to the information, which also offers cultural context for the achievements
The interactive “Men of Modern Mathematics” is an illustrated chart. Tapping on a mathematician brings up information about the subject, including live links to Wikipedia pages or biographical sources. Touching an image provides an enlarged view and a caption.
The films, most of which were produced for IBM, come from the vaults of the Eames Office and cover a variety of related topics such as “Copernicus” and “Symmetry.” Many are narrated, but some aren’t; together they employ animation, reproductions of artwork, live-action sequences, and music to tell their stories. (Try using the one on the “powers of numbers” and “Exponents” when introducing a lesson on the topic.) This well-executed production will be of interest to students of math, science, and history and could be used as the basis for lively discussion in these classes.—Daniel Greene, U-32 School, Montpelier, VT (6/6/12)
Mini Monsters. illus. by Steve Gschmeissner, Eye of Science, Power and Syred. 3D4Medical.com Partners, LLC. 2012. iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version: 1.0.3. $2.99.
Gr 4 Up–Employing a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), photographer Steve Gschmeissner, Eye of Science, and Power and Syred present more than 500 captioned images of a variety of beetles, worms, spiders, and other minute creatures.
A number of hand-colored images of each of 53 animals featured are generally available and can be viewed full screen—one at a time or in a slideshow. A tap to an icon brings up the Latin name, common name, a picture credit, and some information about the creature and the image. Most of the animals are of the familiar variety: ticks, fleas, butterflies, mosquitoes, but a few more exotic species are introduced as well. The detail in the high-resolution magnified photos is extraordinary. There are many awe-inspiring shots of animals against a black or contrasting background, and many close-ups of parts: a tarantula’s fangs, a caterpillar’s spines, a soldier ant’s jaw, the scales on a moth’s wings, and the hooks of a tapeworm, for example. For an even closer look, there’s a zoom capability.
The alphabetical index and a visual index consisting of small images will guide viewers, as will the listings and subdivisions under carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, or detritivore. “Advance filter options” allow users to limit searches by number of legs, threat level (“safe,” “painful,” or “deadly”), and whether or not the creature can fly. The keyword search capability is of limited use.
While the captions would be difficult for a young elementary student, there’s no age limit on the appeal of this app. It’s guaranteed to mesmerize, and perhaps, change the way we think about these well-armed, fascinating species.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal (6/25/12)
Tate Modern Art Terms. Simon Wilson with Jessica Lack and the Tate Staff.Tate Publishing. Aimer Media. 2012. Version: 1.1. $2.99.
Gr 7 Up–Three hundred plus entries describe the media and movements of the past century and a half. An information page acts as an introduction, and on it is the author’s stated goal: to “define the meaning of some of the best known but also some of the more obscure of the myriad labels” assigned to the “varied phenomena…we call modern art.” While the scope is international, European and American works are the focus.
An A-to-Z list, a gallery of images, and a search bar, lead users to the app’s content. Within entries, influences (artistic and other) are noted, and plentiful quotes from critics, artists, and theorists add insight. The sharp color images of artwork from the Tate’s collection that accompany some of the articles can be enlarged to full screen and the app’s zoom capabilities allow for close-up views. With a tap to the screen, detailed captions appear. Highlighted links in entries act as cross-references, and fluid functionality permits readers to effortlessly follow a succession of influences, or a movement through its development. For example, from “postmodernism” readers can jump to articles on “pop art,” “conceptual art,” “neo-expressionism,” “feminist art,” and “Young British Artists.” In each of these entries, several more links appear. A few entries link to related web articles. Additional features include an index of (selective) categories and the ability to enlarge the font size, to create a favorites list, or to tweet or email information. From the beaux-arts and arts-and-crafts movements to “net art” and “stuckism,” this app offers students and museum goers solid information and hours of browsing. It’s a must for modern-art enthusiasts.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal (6/27/12)