What child can resist a book or app about animals? Incorporating vocabulary-rich texts and gentle environmental lessons, these apps will also find favor with teachers and parents. In a reverse publishing trend, A Troop Is a Group of Monkeys is scheduled for print publication in the fall of 2013.
Pastel watercolor art invites viewers into Julie Hedlund’s A Shiver of Sharks and its companion, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys (Little Bahalia Publishing; PreS-Gr 3). From descriptions of a flamboyance of flamingos to a caravan of camels, the apps are designed to teach collective nouns. In both productions illustrations by Pamela Baron, jaunty music by Tim McCanna, and a variety of background sounds enliven the rhyming texts.
“Read to me” and “Read by myself” options are available with the music on or off. McCanna’s clear narration and enuciation of what may be unfamiliar terms for children will have them conversing with ease about about an ostentation (of peacocks) and an escargatoire (of snails). Each animal is animated and responds with text-based actions when touched. For example, in Shiver, “A screech of gulls snatches” picnic foods and “A bale of sea turtles lays eggs on the shore.” In Troop, the surfeit of skunks is sure to please the app’s audience with their “stinky, foul fumes” and accompanying sounds. Story progression and some sound effects require a swipe of the screen. Navigation and page selection is available from a tab accessible on each page.
Children are encouraged to “help keep the ocean clean” in Shiver by dragging detritus into a garbage pail on the final page. In both apps, reading strategies and discussion questions can be found behind the “Parents & Teachers” tabs on the title screens. Strategies and questions are included for each animal group, and a lists of the Common Core standards and Bloom’s Taxonomy objectives addressed are provided.
Both apps feature delightful, interactive pages and Baron’s frame-worthy illustrations are a delight. Children will enjoy finding a fish in a pelican’s mouth and helping a sleuth of bears scatter bees near a hive. Vocabulary-rich texts (“scuttles,” “pandemonium,” “plucks,” “vibrant,” “ambushes,” “scours,” “retracts”); quality illustrations; lively tunes; and an environmental message, should make these popular choices inside and outside the classroom. A trailer for Troop is available.—Morgan Doane, Kent District Library, East Grand Rapids, MI