November 17, 2017

Subscribe to SLJ

“Zoom” in on Animals and Biographies with Abdo | Reference Online

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

1609-ref-abdo

Brimming with videos and images and featuring a plethora of search options, these two resources for the youngest researchers, one on animals and one on biographies, are sure to appeal to beginning readers.

Abdo Zoom

Grade Level K-2

Cost For school libraries, a database costs $395. After the first one is purchased, the price for a second database drops to $295 (and $195 for a third and $95 for a fourth). Pricing varies for public libraries.

Overview Abdo Zoom consists of two research databases for beginning readers: one on animals and one on biographies. Animals is also available in Spanish. Each resource has about 160 entries.

Content The information on each subject is divided into tabbed files that contain a few sentences of relevant text. In Animals, they are labeled About, Body, Habitat, Food, and Life Cycle. In Biographies, for deceased subjects, the categories are Intro, Rise to Fame, Career, and Legacy, while for the living, topics are Intro, Early Rise, Rise to Fame, Superstar, and Today. Users can flip back and forth between the files by clicking on the appropriate tab.
The people featured in Biographies are mostly American and represent a wide range of ethnicities and backgrounds.
The writing style and reading level are on-target for new readers. Sentences are short, and the vocabulary is controlled (“Penguins are birds. They cannot fly. But they can slide on their stomachs. All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere.”). Words that are likely to be new to users appear in blue font; kids can click on those words for a concise pop-up definition. Also available are a read-along audio file and word-by-word highlighting.
Brief videos, of excellent sound and color quality, are included, too. In Animals, they capture the featured creature in its habitat, up close and in action; viewers will enjoy seeing an Arabian mare and foal trotting around a grassy pen or a Clydesdale grazing by a lake. These additions are particularly useful, illustrating key differences between similar animals, e.g., the Arabian horse’s delicate bone structure and long legs contrast with the Clydesdale’s squat, sturdy build.
In Biographies, each video describes through narration and moving and still images a particular aspect of the featured person’s life; however, they vary in usefulness. An eight-second clip of Beyoncé simply shows the singer and the other members of Destiny’s Child at a red carpet event. On the other hand, the 45-second video of Jesse Owens contains amazing footage of him running in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Ease of Use In Animals, there are four different ways to conduct searches, which allows users to approach research from the point that makes the most sense. The first approach (“Where Does the Animal Live?”) allows them to start their research from a broad perspective. A colorful world map invites users to narrow down their search by country (for example, South America) and then by habitat (grasslands). Next, they can choose among types of animals (birds, fish, mammals, insects) and then select a specific subject (for instance, ants, bees, beetles, or mosquitos). Users can also bypass the map and “Find by Habitat.” The sequence for finding an animal is the same as described above.
The third way is to “Find by Type.” This search, too, uses a narrower approach by omitting “Where Does the Animal Live?” and “Find by Habitat.” Here a user selects one of eight categories as described previously. Patrons can also use the search box at the top of the screen on the home page.
In Biographies, as in Animals, there are four different ways to conduct searches. The first is “Who Do You Want To Learn About?” In Biographies, content is divided into five broad categories: Athletes, Artists and Entertainers, World Leaders, Scientists and Innovators, and Women and Minorities. Each broad category is divided into half a dozen or so smaller topics.
The second way to explore is “Find by Birthdate.” On this search screen, the user is prompted to choose from among 17 time periods that cover “Before 1750” on up through “1990 to Today.” The third way to locate information is “Find by Name,” which features an alphabetized list of all the individuals featured. The fourth option is to enter a keyword into the search box at the top of the home page.

Drawbacks In Animals, the search box is of limited use. A keyword search for “birds” yields one hit: “hummingbirds.” A keyword search for “dogs” yields one hit: “bulldogs.” However, using the other search options leads to many more results.
In Biographies, there are no apparent limitations with using the search box, but the subjects are not well organized. The Actors and Actresses category has nine people; two are athletes (Jim Brown and Jim Thorpe), two are singers (Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake), two are more known for their political lives and not their acting careers (Nancy and Ronald Reagan), and one is famous more for her career in media (Oprah Winfrey). Only two people represented—Lucy Liu and Jennifer Lawrence—are primarily actors.
Two other problematic subcategories under Artists and Entertainers are Entertainers and Musicians. There is significant and needless overlapping. Entertainers features eight individuals: Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Harry Houdini, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Pharrell Williams, and Taylor Swift. The Musicians category offers the same people, except for Houdini, who is replaced by Yo-Yo Ma.

Student and Teacher Resources Clicking a green puzzle piece icon at the top of the screen leads to an assortment of appealing activities (for instance, matching games in Animals) and quizzes.
Always present at the bottom of each page is a link for resources that include two teacher-guided activities for kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders. These projects help students understand how pictures contribute to the meaning of text and provide an opportunity to compare and contrast between two similar animals or two similar people.

Verdict Educators searching for ways to introduce the younger set to online research will do well to start with the Animals portion, a user-friendly, attractive, and informative addition. At this point, Biographies is too messy to recommend.

Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Share