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October 1, 2014

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Best of Apps & Enhanced Books | May 2013

SLJ1305w APPs Antarctica Best of Apps & Enhanced Books | May 2013

Antarctica. Linda Scher. Art Direction & Design by Joe Zeff Design. Kids Discover. 2013. iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version 1.1. $2.99.
Gr 2-5–Kids learning about the continents are sure to appreciate this new production from Kids Discover. Jam packed with facts, figures, and stunning images (archival and contemporary), it’s both visually arresting and informative.

Separate sections delve into Antarctica’s geography, climate, and “cold critters,” expeditions to the frozen land (current and historical), and its importance to research scientists. There’s even an interview with a support staff member on her first trip to the McMurdo Station. Maps, quizzes, animations, and short video clips make it a valuable resource for a range of learners.

The app is user-friendly and navigation is easy from the visual table of contents to the discretely placed tabs and arrows. Images are crisp and bright. A five-question quiz culminates the story line. Children who choose incorrect answers are encouraged to try again and are rewarded with applause when they respond correctly.

One of the interactive highlights is the penguin egg that users can hatch by tapping the screen. Other in-app activities include a penguin word scramble and a cartoon figure to dress for the frigid environment (layers being key). A suggested extension activity involves making a glacier (with snow or shaved ice) in three quick steps. A short resource list of Web and print resources are appended.

All in all, an app that is sure to please parents and educators as well as youngsters.–Morgan Doane, Kent District Library, East Grand Rapids, MI

Rounds: Parker Penguin. Barry Tranter and Emma Tranter. Nosy Crow Ltd. 2012. iOS, requires 3.1.3 or later. Version 1.0.1. $4.99.
PreS-Gr 2–In this engaging app, a gregarious emperor penguin cheerily relates salient facts about his species and Antarctica. Readers first encounter Parker as a fledgling standing expectantly against the frigid backdrop of the South Pole, with snowflakes falling gently around him. Soft, lullaby-like music by award-winning composer Robin Beanland plays in the background and complements the crisp, wintery illustrations.

Viewers track the bird through various stages of his development as he glides and swims in his icy habitat, hunts food, avoids predators, meets his mate, Penelope, and helps hatch their chick, Percy. Per the “Rounds” series title, the life cycle story begins again with Percy, followed by his son, Peter.

The jocund narration is charmingly voiced by British child actors. In the “Read and Play” mode, words are highlighted as they are spoken; with the independent reading option, children can manage the length of time the text appears. In both modes, users tap pale blue dots that appear on the penguins and their surroundings to glean additional information about the animal’s habits and habitat.

Sweeping fingers across the screen will cause snowflakes to swirl; tilting the device propels Parker across the ice and into the water with a splash. Animation standouts include the lively penguin mating dance, and Parker’s age progression cleverly juxtaposed against the rising and setting of the sun. The app displays excellent sound design with realistic penguin vocalizations interspersed throughout the story.

Parker Penguin’s seamless presentation of nonfiction content in a captivating manner makes it an essential purchase for burgeoning digital collections.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA

Trucks. Byron Barton. illus. by author. Oceanhouse Media, Inc. 2012. iOS, requires 3.2 or later. Version 1.09. $1.99.
PreS-K–Dump trucks, delivery trucks, bucket trucks, and cement mixers—all sorts of oversize vehicles doing their jobs—rumble by cities and towns and through tunnels and over bridges in this app based on the book of the same title (Crowell, 1986). The vibrant colors and bold images outlined in black that generations of Barton’s fans have enthusiastically responded to are also here. In the app, kids can slide some of the trucks about and hear a range of background sounds from horns beeping to workers’ conversations.

Users tap different items on the screen to trigger labels to appear, such as “tree” or “road”—a useful feature for emergent readers. With the sound option switched “on,” the story is also narrated and words are highlighted as they are read. Large, directional arrows turn the pages and a home button on each screen will return viewers to the main menu. This app is sure to be a hit with the young truck-loving set.Kari Allen, National Writing Project in New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH

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