November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Put a Little Spook On Your iPad | Apps for the Halloween Season

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Librarians who work with young children will tell you that it’s around the age of five that kids start asking for scary stories. Granted, there’s scary and then there’s not-so-scary, which is usually what those children are looking for. Last year’s Halloween app column featured productions for these youngsters. This year’s selection will be fun to share with the middle grades during any season, but especially fun as the holiday approaches.

ghosts coverGhosts: Encyclopedia of Phantoms and Afterlife (Terrylab, free download, $2.99 in-app purchase; Gr 4 and Up), a collection of tales about ghosts and ghostly phenomena, features high-quality graphics and animation and spooky mood music. If you’re looking for something to put kids in the Halloween mood, this app, billed as “an entertaining mystic interactive horror story book” is likely to do the trick.

To begin their journey, viewers must clear their way through the cobwebs, dust, and detritus on the opening screen to locate a skeleton key that will unlock the volume. Once inside, they can enter their name on the first page, which will personalize the entries. Chapters are selected by holding the heart-shaped planchette over the icons on a Ouija board, which offer information about “Ancient Ghosts,” “Ghosts of Cemeteries,” “Animals’ Ghosts,” “Poltergeists” and other topics.

Under each icon, text written in script appears on yellowed pages. Chapters provide stories about types of ghosts, legends of ghostly trains, ghost twins, and tales of ancient rituals. Readers will learn about the cat that lived in an ancient abbey in the county of Cheshire in England (tap the screen and paw prints pitter patter across the page), and other spirits, and have an opportunity to decode ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Once a chapter is finished, the page beings to burn, revealing the Ouija board where another topic can be selected.

Embedded in the sections are pop-up notes and animated maps and illustrations. Skeletons and messages emerge from behind shattered mirrors, specters appear in windows, insects crawl across pages, and shadows pass over screens as words and letters tumble off the page and haunting sound effects and music are heard in the background. An unnerving, but fun, interactive romp through the legends and lore of the spirit life. For a peek, take a look at the trailer.  Also available in Russian.—Danielle Farinacci, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, San Francisco, CA

Interior screen from  (HAAB )

Interior screen from  ‘Sherlock’ (HAAB) Doyle

While a free “lite” version of Sherlock: Interactive Adventure (HAAB Entertainment, free, lite download, $2.99 full, in-app purchase; Gr 5 Up) is available, in order to experience all the features of this a fully narrated, visually rich tale of Baker Street’s celebrated sleuth, viewers will want to own the complete version.

The app doesn’t come with instructions, but from page one (and “play”) Simon Vance’s narration will bring “The Red-Headed League’ to life. The audio is important; although some students may be familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s intelligent and amusing style, some may not understand the elevated vocabulary without Vance’s fluid narration creating the proper context. Timing is everything in storytelling and on auto-play, the music and sound effects flow seamlessly as the visuals unfold.

The humor of Holmes’s observations, his quirky investigative style, and the satisfying ending are seamlessly integrated. Once viewers understand the story, they can return to individual screens to reread the text and thoroughly examine the details that they may have missed. Objects, located with a magnifying glass, can be gathered in a “collection” that provides details about the items, the mystery, and Sherlock Holmes. A map of London highlights where events take place and a “dossier” collects profiles on the characters that appear in the story. The menu offers access to these files, while the slides and settings are found along the bottom of the screen. More titles in the series are promised. A great app to introduce the writing of Doyle. Available in English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish.—Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, Newburgh, NY

Eds. note: For additional Halloween apps, see our 2013 and 2012 selections.

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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.

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