Reviews in this column first appeared in SLJ’s column Touch and Go. Please note that later versions of some of these titles may now be available. Visit Touch and Go at slj.com under “Blogs & Columns” for additional reviews, commentary, and interviews with people in the field.–Daryl Grabarek
Atlas by Collins. Harper Collins Publishers. 2012. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 1.0.3. $6.99.
Gr 6 Up–This expansive app contains seven globes: satellite, physical, political, population, environment, communications, and energy. For each thematic section text and illustrations combine to provide an overview of the subject.
“Living Earth” explores the natural world and a variety of landscapes, as well as changes in and threats to the planet, among other topics. “People and Power” considers where energy reserves are located, where energy is produced and consumed, how technology connects the world, and more. These and other subjects are addressed through questions and detailed answers are provided along with captioned photos, charts, and graphs (sources cited).
Viewers swipe to spin the 3-D globes; pinch and pull to zoom in and out. While zooming in the globe will switch to Google Maps with an Internet connection. A location bar at the top of each screen marks the city and country or region displayed. A tap on the information symbol opens a window that reveals country statistics and information on the nation’s land, climate, economy, demographics, and transportation, and a few images. Each entry also includes links to the country’s web site.
Menus below each globe provide readers with additional facts about our planet including birth rates, pollution hotspots, and Internet usage. Color-coded keys and symbols help readers interpret the information. (The app contains no narration or sound effects.)
The satellite globe is the only one that downloads when users purchase the app. The others must be installed individually, and the amount of time required to do so is considerable. While the breadth of information inAtlas is impressive, its tendency to shut down and the substantial amount of storage space required (1.3 GB) may prove problematic for some users.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME
Franklin Frog. Barry Tranter and Emma Tranter. Nosy Crow Ltd. 2012. iOS, requires 3.1.3 or later. Version 1.0.2. $4.99.
PreS-Gr 2–Hibernation is on the mind of an amphibian in this interactive, animated introduction to the habits and life cycle of a frog. 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 the 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. 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. A delightful balance between educational and entertaining.– Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middletown, DE
Goodnight Moon. Margaret Wise Brown. Loud Crow Interactive. 2012. iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version 1.1. $4.99; Android, requires 2.3.3 and Up. Version 1.2. $2.99
PreS-K–On the opening screen Brown’s classic title appears against pastel bed covers, a plush stuffed rabbit, and some not-too-subtle advertising for add-on purchases. A tap to the jacket and the book opens as the background becomes a deep-blue sky filled with twinkling stars. A double-page spread of the story covers only half the screen, so images and text are somewhat reduced in size.
The digital version retains the rich palette of Clement Hurd’s original illustrations, and there are loads of enchanting animations, sound effects, and interactive elements: flickering flames in the bedroom fireplace, a cow that jumps over the moon, stars that dissolve on touch, and the opportunity to inscribe the book with child’s name and/or photo. But there are also features and games that may not be intuitive, or of interest to kids: a mouse hunt, a sticker collection (more for purchase), and a spy glass that enlarges only a small portion of an image or the text while obscuring the rest of it.
The narration is evenly paced and soothing, and a gentle piano tune plays throughout (the volume is adjustable). To advance the text, a long swipe is best; a short one may trigger more interactivity, which can frustrate children.
Parents are likely to be turned off by the add-ons (though the pitch can be locked down), but kids who love this story will enjoy viewing it with animation. While the interactivity will engage them, the extras are just that.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal