Ansel & Clair’s Adventures in Africa. Cognitive Kid, Inc. 2013. iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version 1.1. $4.99.
Gr 1-5–The intergalactic duo is back on Earth to take photos and notes and explore three areas of the African continent: The Sahara Desert, the Nile Valley, and the Serengeti Plains. Unfortunately, on this trip to our planet, Ansel and Clair’s space vehicle has lost parts. In order to return home, they’ll need viewers’ help to locate various items scattered across the continent. The opening screen offers a tutorial and an opportunity for viewers to create up to four separate players.
Each realistically drawn locale offers narrated information about the flora and fauna and interactive scenarios, animations, quests, puzzles, and leveled games complete with original music and sound effects. Twenty-nine photographs can be collected and placed in Ansel’s journal. The dialogue, along with arrows and an information screen, help guide viewers who can choose their own level of interaction based on icons such as a lightbulb that activates “ClairVision” for more detailed information, or a puzzle piece to start a game that takes full advantage of the iPad’s retina display.
In keeping with the series’ proven strengths, this adventure informs and encourages questioning and synthesis on multiple levels while remaining entertaining and engaging. Younger elementary students can enjoy it with some assistance, while older elementary students will be able to navigate it independently.–Elisabeth LeBris, Director Library Tech Services, SD 38, Kenilworth, IL
Life and Death: Pompeii and Herculaneum. The British Museum. 2013. iOS, requires 5.0. Android, requires 4.2 – 4.2.2. $5.99.
Gr 9 Up–This companion piece to the museum’s exhibit of the same name incorporates sound effects, animation, video, and interactivity. A short, but dramatic, film sequence on the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, opens the production and leads to a map that serves as a table of contents. Pins mark Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other sites on the Bay of Naples. Tapping on one of these locations will bring viewers to a street map of the chosen area and a list, including such topics as “Urban context,” “Commerce,” and “Wealth and status.”
Under each topic, viewers will find narrated images, video commentary by scholars, photographs, and informative text. Listeners will hear Pliny the Younger’s eyewitness recollections of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 (narrated by Royce Cronin), learn that a significant number of Herculaneum’s residents were prosperous freedmen, and view more than 250 colorful photos of artwork and artifacts.
The images are clear and sharp. The valuable zoom capability allows for close-up views of jewelry, frescoes, mosaics, graffiti, carbonized furniture, and more. Also provided is a reading list with some live links. Purchase this production for students of history, art, and archaeology. For teachers looking for multimodal resources to support the Common Core State Standards, this app fits the bill.–Daniel Greene, U32 Middle/High School, Montpelier, VT
Little Red Riding Hood. Nosy Crow Limited. 2013. iOS requires 4.3 or later. Version 1.0.3. $5.99.
PreS-Gr 4–A classic fairy tale receives an invigorating update in a splendid new app. While the narrative remains the same—a little girl must avoid falling into the clutches of the Big Bad Wolf and save her grandparent—the reading experience is amplified by seamless interactivity and nonlinear storytelling.
As Little Red journeys through the woods, readers can choose from multiple routes to get her to Grandma’s house. Each path contains an interactive activity that requires readers to assist the girl as she gathers items that ultimately help her send the wolf on his way. Game play is wonderfully immersive; viewers can blow into the iPad’s microphone to disperse dandelions or tilt the screen to move a spider along.
Children can manage the length of time the text appears on screen, or see words highlighted as they are voiced. Touch points trigger additional dialogue and information. A pull-down graphic reveals a map, outlining all the roads to Grandma’s house.
Gorgeous illustrations in vibrant hues, along with a zoom feature that allows readers to explore scenes in detail, add depth and quality. As with previous Nosy Crow productions, the winsome narration by British child actors is thoroughly enchanting. With a touch of modernity, Little Red’s vermilion cape is now a practical hoodie, and the wolf sports a jaunty newsboy cap and snazzy plaid pants that belie his razor-sharp intentions. With broad appeal for a range of ages, this is a must-have production. If you don’t have an app collection at your library, Little Red Riding Hood might be the motivation to start one.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA
For more app reviews, visit Touch and Go’s webpage at SLJ.com.