October 15, 2017

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Apps for the Halloween Season | Touch and Go

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It’s the season and we’re adding to the list of Halloween apps we reviewed last year, which included classic (Frankenstein) and contemporary (Go Away, Big Green Monster!) stories, as well as a bit of augmented reality (Horrible Hauntings) guaranteed to raise the hair on anyone or anything’s neck. Here are some new selections.


In SlimCricket’s Little Witch at School  (iOS, $3.99, available in English and French; Android, $3.49; PreS-Gr 4) a young witchery student must complete three exercises to pass her exams. The tasks require viewers to use their number recognition and/or math skills (addition or multiplication) to assist the witch and her faithful friend Peepo color in Spidali’s web; letter recognition, to discover the magic word at Miss Oxford-Webster’s Well of Knowledge; and an understanding of sequencing to pass through a maze in an ogre’s belly. Three levels of difficulty allow a range of ages to play. The story has two modes, “Read to Me” and “Read by Myself.” Pleasant background music plays in both options, but listeners may find the character’s accents somewhat irritating in the narrated version.

On most pages in this long-playing story interactive animations can be triggered with a tap to hot spots causing birds to tweet, clouds to change color, and a grammaphone to play. Along with the three story challenges are bonus activities that will unlock additional games. Making use of a gyroscope effect gives pages further movement and depth, and a surprising camera effect literally puts users in the story.  During the course of her adventures the little witch passes her test but loses her name, ending her story with a question mark. Interested readers may choose to download The Witch with No Name to satisfy their curiosity.–Erin Silva, Kalona Public Library, Iowa


Just in time for Halloween, Magic Light Pictures has released the Room On the Broom ($4.99; PreS-Gr 3), a game app based on Julia Donaldson’s picture book of the same title (Dial, 2001). Young children will be pleased with these activities featuring characters from the familiar story.

Navigation is easy; viewers need only to swipe the screen to access the eight different games. Directions are basic, involving only a few words. (For example, “Find the hat” and “Join the stars.”) Creative juices will flow as players place stars in the night sky to create patterns for the witch to follow on her broom. Lively chamber music plays in the background as users search for the hat that’s lost in the forest, try to catch items blowing in the wind by tapping on the screen, or search for the wand hidden in a landscape featuring a pond and dotted with trees. Each activity offers three levels of challenge. Subtle sound effects such as rustling leaves, chirping birds, and scampering squirrels add to the whimsical atmosphere. Axel Scheffler’s vibrant illustrations translate well to the iPad.

A game that is sure to be a favorite with the preschool crowd involves feeding French fries to a dragon. Players who are up for a challenge may try earning medals for each game. More detailed directions about the games are available on the developer’s website. This simple, yet engaging app will entertain children and may even prompt them to pick up the book. A trailer is available for viewing.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME


Interior screen from ‘The Fall Festival’ (Oceanhouse Media) Mayer

With visual and audio enhancements that support the story, Mercer Mayer fans will enjoy The Fall Festival (Oceanhouse Media, $1.99; PreS-Gr 1), the latest addition to the library of Little Critter apps. Closely aligned to the print version (HarperCollins, 2009), this is a nicely narrated story of a family outing with opportunities to enjoy the autumn colors, eat apples, take hayrides, play games, select pumpkins, and other activities related to the harvest season. Well-placed, high-quality background sound effects add to the story. The app is easy to navigate and children will find the interactive elements enjoyable. The simple text (“I see so many apples. I try one. Mom pays the man.”) will engage emergent readers who can tap on objects or text to hear the labels or words voiced.

Of particular note is the opportunity for users to record their own narration. At the conclusion of the story, children are encouraged children to start it again to look for the images of mice and spiders found throughout, which will be tabulated automatically as they are located.Mary R. Voors, Children’s Services, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN


In Gina and Mercer Mayer’s Trick or Treat LIttle Critter (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $1.99; Android, $.99; PreS-K), Halloween preparations are in order sending the Critter family out shopping for candy, decorations, and costumes. Pumpkin selection at a local farm follows. Back home, jack-o’-lantern drama is averted (sister) when Father draws a face on the chosen pumpkin instead of carving one, but Little Critter does get to enjoy a jack-o’-lantern (and pumpkin seeds) at school. When Halloween night arrives, everyone dons their costumes for an evening of trick-or-treating on neighborhood streets filled with ghosts and goblins and a pirate or two. A hoard of candy is taken in (not without a few tears), and admired. Familiar symbols of the holiday are incorporated into the colorful scenes. Children can have the story’s text read to them, but beginning readers may want to give it a try on their own. Users also have an opportunity to record their own narration. A game–locating images of a mouse found throughout the text–is also embedded.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal



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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.