It’s no secret children love learning about animals, and picture books about them are some of the most popular titles in libraries. Three apps combining story and facts about animals have recently been made available. “Touch and Go’s” reviewers took at look at them.
With a clear, informative text and colorful illustrations, Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s Ladybug at Orchard Avenue (Oceanhouse Media/Soundprints; $2.99; PreS-Gr 2) explores the dangers a beetle encounters foraging for food as winter approaches: “The bristly jaws of an ant gape over Ladybug’s head like a giant pair of pliers.” The descriptive text notes the protective body parts and defensive mechanisms that the creature has at its disposal, from rigid forewings to malodorous secretions that ooze from its leg-joints. A final section provides information about ladybug development and hibernation.
Throughout, sounds of crickets, birds, and flapping wings can be heard. There’s no animation, but the story progresses smoothly as panning and zooming effectively focus viewers’ attention on the action.
The clear illustrations by Thomas Buchs offer great text support for new readers. In addition, in the “Read to Me” and “Autoplay” modes, words are highlighted along with the narration. In the “Read it Myself” option, children can tap a word to hear it read aloud. When a particular image is touched, a label zooms to the forefront of the screen and the word is spoken. In some cases, the specific animal parts named in the story, such as the ant’s jaws, are identified as such, but too often it’s generic term— and a missed opportunity to deliver the information that kids deserve in an informational text.—Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books
Hibernation is also on the mind of one Franklin Frog (Nosy Crow, PreS-Gr 2; $4.99) in Barry and Emma Tranter’s interactive, animated introduction to the habits and life cycle of this amphibian. Users meet the mature fellow resting on a lily pad. From there they direct him through his habitat and day as he hops to land, snares a tasty snail and worm, and swims in a pond, carefully avoiding predators. As time passes and seasons change, the frog hibernates (viewers help locate a likely spot), awakens in the spring, and eventually finds a mate. From one of the eggs laid by the female, a frogspawn hatches and the story begins anew—now focused on the tadpole. With its simple activities and circular format, this colorful app is bound to keep young children engaged through several frog generations.
Children can read the story independently or listen to a winning child narrator. There are occasional verbal and visual (glowing dots, blinking arrows) prompts. The background music is soothing and the sounds of pond life, realistic. Franklin Frog strikes a delightful balance between educational and entertaining.—Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middletown, DE
After discovering a bone in the sand a young girl ponders what life might have been life for a pterosaur in Claire Ewart’s Fossil (Auracle, $2.99; PreS-Gr 2) Rich, watercolor illustrations add to the informative rhyming text that traces the creature’s millennium-long path from flight to fossilization.
Along with the clear narration, children can tap scenery and animals to listen to labels and learn a few words not found in the text. Readers have the added option of personalizing the book by scripting their own story or recording their own audio. The original text can be reset at any time.
An added feature is a bibliography that can be accessed from the home screen. To note: the most recent date on any listing is 2002, while most hover around 1989. Appended to the poem is an article on fossil evidence and theories about prehistoric life. Young dino fans and those looking for an introduction to fossils won’t be disappointed.—Wayne R. Cherry, Jr., First Baptist Academy, Houston, TX