School Library Journal » » App Reviews http://www.slj.com The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Mon, 26 Sep 2016 16:38:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.10 Boum! | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/boum-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/boum-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:53:44 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=195268 SLJ's reviewer describes this app as "...a seamless narrative experience...rich with interpretive possibility."]]> In a note, Paula Willey, the reviewer of Boum! (below) offered: I am currently making my way through the new edition of Picture This: How Pictures Work (Chronicle, 2016), illustrator Molly Bang’s meditative exploration of the ways color, composition, and shape can communicate emotion. I can’t recommend that book highly enough. I think we would be hard-pressed to find a better demonstration of the principles Bang describes than this wordless app.

Boum! (Les inéditeurs/CNL/Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse). Mikaël Cixous

Boum! (Les inéditeurs/CNL/Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse). Mikaël Cixous

 

Day breaks over a city viewed as heavy black shapes and right angles. An alarm clock rings—a blast of red circles. An anonymous man gets ready for his day, the only bright spot in his routine, a lovely yellow banana that he puts in his briefcase. Viewers get the feeling they’re going to see that piece of fruit again in Mikaël Cixous’s Boum! (Les inéditeurs/CNL/Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse, iOS, $2.99; Android, $3.40; Gr 3 Up). Repeated shapes, hard edges, and a limited palette indicate that this man’s life does not contain much joy or fun. Tension builds as he makes his way through the morning and viewers wonder: WHAT is going to happen?

Sound effects and truly interesting modern music by composer Jean-Jacques Birgé provide emotional cues and in some places stand in for dialogue. The app is not immensely interactive—the viewer’s role is to scroll horizontally and take it all in—but in this case, that is far from a criticism. Boum!‘s developers describe the app as a new way to experience story. The French term for “comic book” is bande dessinée, which literally translates to “strip cartoon.” By arranging the panels in a horizontal format, as Boum! does, readers are provided with a seamless narrative experience—one that is rich with interpretive possibility.–Paula Willey, @pwbalto, unadulterated.us

 

Boum! (Les inéditeurs/CNL/Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse).Mikaël Cixous

Boum! (Les inéditeurs/CNL/Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse).Mikaël Cixous

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

 

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Paul Klee, for Kids | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/paul-klee-for-kids-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/paul-klee-for-kids-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:54:20 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=194428 We don’t often see apps that introduce children to pictorial art. All the more reason to enjoy this one. Allison Tran reviews it below.

From ExplorArt Klee

From ExplorArt Klee  (Lapisly)

 

The beautifully designed ExplorArt Klee—The Art of Paul Klee, for Kids (Lapisly, iOS, $4.99; Gr 1-5)  introduces children to the dreamlike works of the 20th-century master. Upon opening the app, users are greeted by a young boy and a cat who serve as guides to this glimpse his life and art. Favoring discovery over instruction, the app intuitively invites viewers to tap  the screen to create their own experiences. Six significant Klee works are presented and users can interact with each selection in a different way. Some scenes emphasize shape and dimension, while others encourage awareness of music and motion. The gentle soundtrack provides a pleasant ambiance that encourages kids to linger and explore.

Children will love assembling a puzzle of Klee’s 1928 painting, “Castle and Sun.” Another highlight is the representation of “Dream Town” (1921), which allows users to push and pull the shapes in the painting, causing them to interact like machine parts. The app is not a full-fledged biography of Klee or complete catalog of his works—it is child-friendly and refrains from overwhelming young viewers with information. However, for those who appreciate a little more detail, the navigation menu at the bottom of each screen provides more information about the images.

The app can be enjoyed at multiple levels. Younger children will dive right into the artwork to discover surprises and hidden interactivity, while older children will be more likely to pause and read along with the friendly, British-accented narration that provides context about Klee and his work. The overall experience is soothing and whimsical—a thoroughly delightful introduction to a complex artist. This user-driven exploration of Klee’s works provides a good opportunity for discussions with parents or teachers, and will pair nicely with a unit on Klee or 20th-century art. A trailer is available.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

 

Screen from ExplorArt Klee

Screen from ExplorArt Klee (Lapisly)

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal’s dedicated app webpage.

 

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A Censorship Simulator and Lesson | “Westport Independent” http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/a-censorship-simulator-and-lesson-westport-independent/ http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/a-censorship-simulator-and-lesson-westport-independent/#respond Thu, 08 Sep 2016 13:25:42 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=193575 Westport Independent may be just the platform.]]> For educators looking for a multimedia approach to teaching about censorship, Westport Independent may be just the platform. Before incorporating this simulator into lesson plans, be sure to read Sara Lissa Paulson’s review; the app is not for the “politically squeamish.” A Game Guide to the Westport Independent is also available, as are a number of videos on how to play.

westpport

Westport Independent (Coffee Stain Studios, iOS, $4.99; Android, $4.99, PC, Mac, Steam, Linux; Gr 9 Up) is no longer an independent newspaper. The year is 1949. Players are informed by a flickering black-and-white newsreel that announces the Public Culture bill has just passed, requiring all independent newspapers to toe the Loyalist government’s line and diminish rebel sympathies. In this lo-fi, dot matrix–inspired post-war universe, the gamer’s role is that of a news editor in an economically stratified industrial city, who oversees a handful of journalists. Players operate from an aerial view of the editor’s desk: there is mail from both rebels and government, and a file of articles to choose from to assign to writers. Decisions involved include what articles to give to which journalists to copyedit, where to place the article in the paper, and what headlines to print to create different readership outcomes. Gamers can play by the rules and bolster the Loyalists’ regime, or support the rebels’ causes, or avoid politics altogether by focusing on movie star gossip, trying to please the various regions and populations in Westport (profiles available).

Consequences are dire. In deviation of the task, journalists are dismissed. The effects of the layout and popularity of the paper as consequences of player’s decisions are not entirely clear, though seemingly important, which does detract somewhat from the work at hand. Students will remember this experience, which is part of the pull for the gamification of educational content. While a compelling hook for discussing the past and prevailing assaults on access to accurate information, it is not for the politically squeamish: the most charged content is the image of a lynched policeman with the sign, “Censor this!” at one of the conclusions of the game. Though limited in scope to 12 weeks, it could be used in the classroom or library as a memorable one-day lesson in a unit on totalitarianism and propaganda and could be followed by the award-winning Papers, Please (Lucas Pope, 2013), a similarly toned game in which players become immigration inspectors. There is a trailer here.— Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School, New York City

 

Screen from Westport Independent (Coffee Stain)

Screen from Westport Independent (Coffee Stain Studios)

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

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A STEM App Round-Up | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/a-stem-app-round-up-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/a-stem-app-round-up-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 16:45:48 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=193189 Looking for apps to load onto your tablets at the start of the school year? Consider the beautifully designed, informative Namoo—Wonders of Plant Life, a new app from Crayon Box, Inc. Along with a review of that production, you’ll find a few others: a short list of some of our favorite apps and ebooks reviewed in Touch and Go during the past months. Last year’s list of “Outstanding STEM Apps” is still available online.

Screen from Namoo—Wonders of Plant Life (Crayon Box, Inc.)

Screen from Namoo—Wonders of Plant Life (Crayon Box, Inc.)

Exploring plants becomes an integrated sensory experience with NAMOO–Wonders of Plant Life (Crayon Box, Inc., iOS, $3.99, Android, $3.99; Gr 4-6). Viewers will learn about tree trunks and stems, plant cells, roots, root tips, leaf anatomy, photosynthesis, and flowers and fruits in the app’s interactive environment.

Each thorough description of the plant life cycle is introduced with relevant quotes from writers and poets including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Henry David Thoreau, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The interactive approach allows users to grow tree trunk rings, pollinate a flower, or water a tree root, among other options. Environmental conditions can also be manipulated to see what happens to a plant during ideal and less-than-ideal conditions. Close-up, animated diagrams in bright colors highlight plant parts and functions—visible and invisible to the human eye, while tapping on an icon adds clear, pop-up labels to the image on the screen.  A recent update allows the incorporation of virtual headsets when looking at the interior of the plant cell.

Returning to the homepage is the only way to navigate to other screens; some users may find this clunky when exploring the leaf chapters.  No options exist for switching off the music other than turning down the device volume, but most users will find the music both soothing and atmospheric. This app will enhance viewers’ understanding of the complexities of plant life. A trailer is available as are free, lite versions.—Erin Silva, Youth & Teen Services Librarian, North Liberty Community Library, IA

Screen from A Is for Amphibians (BrightWorld ebooks)

Screen from A Is for Amphibians (BrightWorld ebooks)

Targeting the interests and needs of nature lovers and STEM learners, Bright World eBooks has produced an app inviting young readers to explore the world of frogs. What sets A is for Amphibians (iOS, Free; Android, Free; K-Gr 3) apart from other apps is its use of spectacular 3-D imagery.

Three choices—narrated, self-paced, and recording—are available in the “Reading” mode, which provides an overview of the characteristics and life cycle of the frog. The first two options also offer opportunities to hear terms pronounced and access to a narrated dictionary. Kids will enjoy the chance to record their own narration.

The same environment seen in the text mode can then be explored with swipes and taps under “Exploring.” Here, two options are available, “3D Pond” and “3D World.” The first provides an immersive visual experience and facts about the many animals that live in and around the pond alongside frogs, extending the breadth of the base book. Users can travel through the habitat, zooming in for close-up views. A tap to one of the creatures encountered on this animated screen (dragonflies, golden shiner, Louisiana waterthrush, etc.) elicits its name in bold print and narrated information.

In “3D World” young herpetologists spin a globe and tap on a frog native to one of the different regions around the world. For each animal, a full-color, high-quality illustration of the creature is provided (above a ruler, for relative size) as well as photograph of its habitat. Narrated segments offer information about the frogs, and sometimes, an audio of their vocalizations.

“Gaming” presents a version of concentration and a role-playing adventure that requires players to avoid some of the dangers that a young frog might encounter. Both activities include several levels of increasingly difficult challenges that test viewers’ recall about what they have learned. Quality narration, sound effects, and music can be separately controlled, while clearly marked icons on the opening screen makes navigation easy.

Adults using the app with children can access the developer’s homepage, privacy policy, credits, and its extended learning options located behind a lock.—Elisabeth LeBris, LTC Director, Sears School, Kenilworth, IL

Screen/Image of the inner ear from My Incredible Body (     )

Screen/Image of the inner ear from My Incredible Body (Zybright)

 

Viewers will be fascinated by the digitally enhanced look inside the human body displayed in My Incredible Body (Zybright, iOS, $4.99; Android, $3.99; also available for Windows touch devices, $3.99, PCs and Macs; various in-app purchases, $.99; Gr 4-7). Pulmonary function, the digestive system, skeletal and muscular anatomy, the kidneys and waste processing, the heart and circulatory system, along with the brain and nervous system, all receive attention. One segment touches on sensory conception and autonomic functions such as breathing and swallowing. The lymphatic and endocrine systems are not covered.

Upon opening the app, students can choose from eight animated icons; an eye represents the senses, a pulsating heart, circulation, etc. A tap to any of these icons will bring students to a core, 3-D model of the specified organ or system and additional animated icons that lead to more 3-D perspectives, illustrations, and text features. A quiz feature/icon—is activated through an in-app purchase. The quizzes will add real value to those using the app for review or study purposes.

As students travel through the body part or system, stops along the way offer close-up views featuring colorful, detailed visuals with occasional labels, and text boxes offering basic anatomy information and vocabulary. Big- picture illustrations offer a silhouette of the body on the side with illuminated dot(s) indicating the of the body part(s) under discussion. The text boxes are narrated, but students can switch the narration off if they choose. An icon depicting a rocket allows users to literally travel through the organ or system—transported inside the arteries and veins in the case of the circulatory system, or through the nose, down the larynx and windpipe, and into the lung (then back out) for the respiratory system. The app utilizes a scalable model of the human body with zoom and pinch capabilities. On certain screens, digital overlays can be switched on or off.

The section on puberty is another in-app purchase. It includes 3-D images and brief, separate segments on the male and female reproductive systems, conception, the penis, and the uterus.

While large in file size, this introductory app is glitch-free and its images will stand out gloriously on a large display or projected screen. Students looking for a way to spruce up their anatomy science fair projects will gain extra points with this great, hands-on, interactive demonstration of the human body. A must-have for educators and students interested in the life sciences. Additional information, a tutorial, and a trailer are available on the Zybright website.—Krista Welz, North Bergen High School Media Center, NJ

Eds. note: For additional apps on the human body, see “The Human Body—Animated”

Screen from Ocean Forests (BrightWorld ebooks)

Screen from Ocean Forests (BrightWorld ebooks)

From its opening screen, Ocean Forests (Bright Worlds eBooks, iOS, Free; Android, Free; K-Gr 3) encourages kids to “dive” into its 3-D kelp forest where an aquatic adventure awaits them. The app’s dashboard offers access to three modes: “Reading,” “Exploring,” and “Gaming.” “Storybook” in “Reading” delivers information about the environment (the kelp forest, holdfasts, fronds, and the ocean’s canopy) and its denizens. In the narrated version, words are highlighted as they are read, and word pronunciation and an audiovisual dictionary are available. Each life-form described by the narrator is seen in an inset with 3-D interactive rotations—a great option for visual and ELL learners.

Users who prefer to read at their own pace can opt for the “Read By Myself “ mode, where arrows allow them to advance, or to return to a previous screen. Tapping a word generates a voicing of the term, enforcing the app’s rich vocabulary experience. The “Record My Voice” mode will aid students who want to enhance their fluency and read-aloud skills.

When they venture into “Exploring,” viewers will find themselves in a 3-D animated watery forest, where creatures, such as leopard sharks, harbor seals, green sea turtles, and bat rays swim among the fronds. A tap to any animal triggers narrated information about it. The animation is amazing: viewers will feel as if they swimming underwater in a luscious, green forest. The zoom feature allows for close-up and/or panoramic views, while the sound effects evoke the mysterious nature of this ocean world. A helpful flashlight icon button highlights the clickable sound options.

“Gaming” includes two activities that reinforce the information users have gleaned. One, “Retrieve Our Subs!” presents 10 multiple-choice questions, text instructions included (that may have to be read to the youngest users). In “Mind Match” a memory game, viewers pair words with images. Both activities become more challenging as children advance to the next level.

Bright World eBooks provides free classroom materials to accompany the app on the Teachers Pay Teachers website, including a teacher’s guide, story starters, award certificates, and a Bingo game. Ocean Forests is a great supplementary resource for primary classrooms studying marine biology. Consider sharing it before a trip to the beach, a marine wildlife park, or an aquarium. It should be noted that Bright World eBooks markets its other products in the app—behind locks.—Krista Welz, North Bergen High School Media Center, NJ

 

wizard schoolCheerfully designed with bright colors, and offering intuitive navigation and appealing sound effects, Wizard School (formerly WonderBox: Explore & Learn Science, Geography, Music, and Design, Duck Duck Moose, Inc./in partnership with Khan Academy, iOS Free; Android, Free;.PreS-Gr 5) is sure to be a hit with kids. The app presents learning opportunities across disciplines by combining informational videos (3000+) and images with content creation challenges that invite users to put their knowledge into action. There are activities based on animals, geography, math, art, music, and more.

The app is also a mini social network. After setting up a profile and creating an avatar, users are presented with a news feed showcasing activities that correspond to the season or current events. The feed features artwork created by other users, with an inviting “Do this!” link under each item. Children can create their own jack o’ lantern, draw the Taj Mahal, or supply a voiceover for a talking cat, and view all their handiwork and creations in a gallery linked to their profile. In addition, they can share their work with friends within the app, too, for the true social media experience—but to add a friend, kids will need that person’s Wizard Box code, ensuring that they’re adding someone they actually know—while parents can be assured that their child is learning to navigate social media safely.

In addition to motivating content creation and sharing, Wizard School rewards users with in-game currency. Users start with 1,000 coins, and can earn more coins for completing challenges. All challenges include free components, but children may spend coins on premium options. Choosing to spend or save coins helps kids develop essential financial skills, and parents will be relieved to know that there are no in-app purchases; Wizard School coins are strictly imaginary and cannot be bought with actual money.

The only potential drawback to the app is that it requires an active Internet connection. Additionally, some of the content is curated from YouTube, and if the original source video has been removed, it won’t show up in Wizard School. That aside, it’s a truly enriching app for kids and likely to become the go-to recommendation when parents ask for an app that’s both fun and educational. A trailer is available.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, California

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal’s dedicated app webpage.

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Taming First-Day Jitters—On the Tablet | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/taming-first-day-jitters-on-the-tablet-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/taming-first-day-jitters-on-the-tablet-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 01 Sep 2016 13:40:29 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=192867 It’s back-to-school for children around the country, and for those with first-day jitters books can provide comfort and reassurance, while the interactivity of the apps may offer a little bit of (playful) control as they work through the experience.

pandaLike the other productions in the “Dr. Panda” franchise, the play in Dr. Panda School (iOS, S2.99; Android, $2.99; PreS-K) is open-ended with no defined goals or winners or losers. As a result, youngsters play to learn.

To begin, the animal cast arrives at school on a bus. Users tap the bus doors to have them open  and drag and drop the critters into the building. Once inside, there are more characters(19 in all) to add to the scenes; clothing and hats to redress the creatures; and opportunities to move into different areas of the building. The classroom, art room, nurse’s office, and schoolyard come with a variety of activities, e.g., math equations to complete in the classroom, lunch to navigate in the cafeteria, temperatures to take in the nurse’s office, and a seesaw to ride in the schoolyard. The custodial closet and bathroom have less to offer but round out the school experience, and are sure to pique the interest of the curious. Users can assume the role of  teacher, student, nurse, or custodial staff and/or join the animal characters as his or her invisible hand draws on the blackboard, sculpts the clay, shovels the dirt, and so on. In the second situation, the user is not represented as a character, but this doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of the app. Dr. Panda School is available in multiple languages. A trailer is available.—Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library, CT

toca school

Children will enjoy creating their own stories in Toca Life: School (Toca Boca AB, iOS, $2.99,  Android, $2.99; also Kindle, Windows; PreS-K), the third entry in the “Toca Life” series. The wordless app encourages nonlinear storytelling as users move from scene to scene by tapping locations on an animated map.

Children can choose from a cast of multicultural characters to add to each scene as they attend chemistry class, eat in the cafeteria, play sports on the playground, and jam with a band in the “youth club.” They can also interact with the many props available in each location, and there are activities to engage in such as matching shapes, and creating a sandwich. Messy rooms can be tidied (reset) by tapping an icon on the home screen. Colorful cartoon-style artwork, along with a variety of sounds effects from ringing bells to band practice, and upbeat background music contribute to the playful atmosphere. A recording feature captures scenes for users who wish to narrate and save their stories. Design notes for parents offer tips on accessing characters, recording, and settings. An engaging app that encourages play and just may help alleviate some pre-school jitters. —Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal’s dedicated app webpage.

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Fallen London |Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/08/reviews/fallen-london-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/08/reviews/fallen-london-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 25 Aug 2016 14:05:57 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=191620 “Welcome. Delicious Friend” is the greeting visitors receive when entering this “dark and hilarious Victorian-Gothic underworld, where every choice has a consequence, from the style of your hat to the price of your soul.” The underworld is a London that was “stolen,” now located a mile below the Earth and…”waiting for you.” Consider the review below before proceeding into the iOS version of this originally browser-based game….

TG-Fallen-London

Fallen London (Failbetter Games. iOS, Free with IAP; Gr 7 Up) is a text-based adventure set in a Lovecraftian dream of Victorian London. Players build up qualities that will help them succeed, and their “dangerous,” “persuasive,” “shadowy,” and “watchful” scores will determine the likelihood of succeeding at various challenges. But many other variables can affect whether players will succeed or fail.

Screen from Fallen London (Failbetter Games)

Screen from Fallen London (Failbetter Games)

Is your behavior too scandalous? Are you wounded? Are you having recurring dreams that are so overwhelming that they start to blur the text on your screen? This is a single-player game (registration required via Twitter, Facebook, or email), but it also allows for social interaction with fellow players, which can open up even more adventures. The game is free to download, but players will need to pace themselves because only a limited amount of moves are available at one time. In-app purchases (some pricey) will unlock additional adventures, but there is plenty of play without them.

This is a compelling and complex game with a haunting soundtrack that will definitely engage players as they get more involved in the bizarre and twisted story. Some of the gameplay is obvious, while other aspects may take some trial-and-error until appsters learn to navigate this world consisting of such ominously named locations as The Shuttered Palace, Wolfstock Docks, and the Stolen River. Players will learn why they are locked out of some adventures but not others, which adventures will help them earn unusual currency (jade fragments, romantic notions, and appalling secrets), and how to buy and sell things in the Echo Bazaar. Fallen London is an excellent choice for fans of Welcome to Night Vale and other darkly surreal stories with a humorous edge. A trailer is available.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

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Reaching for the Sky: Tinybop, Inc. | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/08/reviews/apps/reaching-for-the-sky-tinybop-inc-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/08/reviews/apps/reaching-for-the-sky-tinybop-inc-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 16 Aug 2016 14:24:05 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=191116 Skyscrapers, the seventh volume in their "Explorer's Library" series.]]>  

skyscrapters

Sparking curiosity, diving into big ideas, and making connections to the world,” are design objectives of the innovative developer Tinybop, Inc., and all are in evidence in Skyscrapers (iOS, $2.99; K -Gr 5), the seventh volume in their “Explorer’s Library” series.

Like the other apps in the series (Plants, Homes, Human Body, Simple Machines, Weather, and The Earth), there are no instructions or directions; children are encouraged to dig in and play to discover how the app and the environment work. In Skyscrapers, the form and structure of the buildings can be altered and the water and electrical systems activated; a side panel allows for access to these and other functions.

A variety of facades (curtain walls) and spires are available along with a palette of colors as children customize their buildings and develop a skyline. As they do so, they’ll observe how adding floors (commercial or residential) causes the depth of a building’s foundation to increase and flights of stairs to be added, etc. Inside the buildings, they’ll be thrilled to discover they can move figures about to ride the elevators and use the lavatories. A tap to an icon allows for several up-close system views: in one, children can watch as an electricity meter rises and falls when they switch lights and appliances off and on. In another, they can observe how and where water drains and what  happens when a foreign object (a rubber ducky) clogs the plumbing. (They can also activate the repair.)

Monitoring the effect of weather on a skyscraper in Skyscrapers (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Mike Ellis

Monitoring the effect of weather on a skyscraper in Skyscrapers (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Mike Ellis

Equally fascinating is watching the environmental effects of lightning, wind, or an earthquake on a building. Wind will cause it to sway, an earthquake causes it to shake, while sparking an electrical storm will cause lightning to strike the lightning rod (and travel down the structure to a grounding rod beneath the building). In buildings 18 floors or taller, viewers can install a “mass damper” and see how it alleviates environmental effects on a building.

Ambient sounds (moving elevators, thunder, etc.) are heard as figures travel about the building and the weather outside changes. Whimsy enters, too: children can add elephants or massive rocks to the floors (the added weight impacts the building’s foundation) and hot-air balloons float across the sky, along with a small plane trailing the player’s name on a banner. As with other Tinybop apps, extended play rewards viewers, who will want to return again and again to add or subtract to their  skylines.

While there are no directions, there are labels with options for five languages. In addition, a free online PDF offers detailed background notes, including discussion questions—a boon to teachers and homeschooling parents. The Tinybop blog offers more information on the app’s design and an interview with the illustrator Mike Ellis A trailer is also available.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal’s dedicated app webpage.

]]> http://www.slj.com/2016/08/reviews/apps/reaching-for-the-sky-tinybop-inc-touch-and-go/feed/ 0 Lumino City | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/08/reviews/apps/lumino-city-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/08/reviews/apps/lumino-city-touch-and-go/#respond Mon, 08 Aug 2016 16:11:20 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=189864 SLJ's reviewer Cindy Wall. ]]>  

From the makers of Lume comes Lumino City, a beautifully designed puzzler, with an i0S 9 extra feature. For those curious about how it was built (a three-year project), a free app, The Making of Lumino City, explains.

lumino city

Lumino City (State of Play Games, iOS, $4.99; also Mac and Windows versions; Gr 2 Up) combines the best of handmade artistry with technology to create a breathtaking app experience. A young girl, Lumi, must undertake an adventure to find her kidnapped grandfather, the caretaker of eponymous city. Armed with a backpack to collect useful objects and a handy manual, she ventures forth through the city’s various locales toward her goal.

Each new site offers the opportunity for users to consult the all-important manual, solve puzzles, and work their way to the next location. The captivating adventure begins at the Gatehouse, where appsters help the girl use lemons to create electricity. In total, there are 14 sites to visit, each with an incredible variety of puzzles to be solved. Viewers must consider, experiment, and interpret the manual in order to help Lumi advance through the different locations or levels.

This BAFTA award-winning app’s intricate world was painstakingly created from paper, cardboard, metal, and thin sheets of plywood. The designers added wired circuits to create lighting and small motors to produce movement. Both motors and lighting combine with photography, animation, and computer code to create the app’s interactive elements.

There are no in-app purchases, and new with iOS 9, users may film their app experience to share with others. Those who enjoy musical background, while playing games will find the production’s soundtrack pleasing. Thought-provoking, aesthetically pleasing, and intellectually challenging. The app is available in a number of languages. A trailer is available.—Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library, CT

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

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Creative Play with “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/07/reviews/creative-play-with-the-very-hungry-caterpillar-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/07/reviews/creative-play-with-the-very-hungry-caterpillar-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 26 Jul 2016 12:22:09 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=188819 There are a number of “Eric Carle” apps for young children with a concept focus: in Eric Carle’s My Very First App (Philomel/Night & Day Studios), a matching game, children learn about animals and their homes, while Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar (Penguin/Night & Day Studios) offers levels of math activities. StoryToys has recently released an app with a creative focus, based on the artist’s books. Cathy Potter reviews it below.

hungryYoung children will have hours of fun experimenting with colors, textures, and shapes in The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Creative Play (StoryToys Entertainment, iOS, $2.99; PreS), the latest in the suite of apps inspired by Eric Carle’s iconic picture books. The app includes 20 templates featuring characters from Carle’s works including Brown Bear, Mr. Seahorse, and the Mixed-Up Chameleon.

Navigation is intuitive. A menu at the top of the screen provides users with options for drawing, painting, or creating collage art. Kids can tap the scissors for cut-paper collage mode, touch the brush to paint, or select the pencil for drawing. The menu includes an impressive array of textures, patterns, and colors from which to choose. Collage art in the style of Carle is created by tracing dotted lines on the template to add various patterns of paper to the page, an activity that also provides an opportunity for users to exercise their hand-eye coordination. Background music can be switched on and off; on, the music provides a soothing ambiance for young artists.

Children who wish to create their own pictures may choose a blank canvas instead of the templates. As they work, a curved arrow serves as an undo button allowing them to clear their work one step at a time in both drawing and painting modes. There’s also the option to save pictures to a gallery or the iPad’s camera roll.

Creative Play will encourage young children to imagine, illustrate, and possibly write as they create their own masterpieces; its simplicity belies its possibilities. And, after spending time with some of their favorite characters, children just may be inspired to revisit their favorite Carle books. Language options are available, as is a trailer.—Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

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Los Pollitos | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/07/reviews/apps/los-pollitos-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/07/reviews/apps/los-pollitos-touch-and-go/#respond Mon, 18 Jul 2016 14:16:31 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=187852 Los Pollitos/Little Chickies, Encantos Media Studio has released an app loaded with activities related to the traditional song.]]> Earlier this year we posted a few suggestions for those looking to start or enhance their collection of Spanish-language apps. Here’s one to add to that list.

App-Little-Chickies-screen

 

Los Pollitos/Little Chickies is a song familiar to many children whose first language is Spanish, and it’s a tune frequently taught to preschoolers in the United States. In conjunction with the recent publication of Susie Jarmillo’s flap-filled, accordian-shaped book by the same name (Encantos, 2016; PreS), Encantos Media Studio has released an app (iOS, $2.99; Android $.99; PreS) loaded with activities that relate to the traditional song.

Once viewers crack the eggs on the app’s opening screen (and watch the chicks hatch) they will be brought to a page with access to the activities. First, there’s the song. Tapping the picture of the radio on this screen allows children to listen to it in any one of eight languages: Italian, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, French, Portuguese, Spanish, or English. (Switching from one rendition to another is simple.) A touch to the guitar offers children an opportunity to strum along to the tune as the chicks join in on drums, tambourine, and maracas. Other interactive activities include decorating an egg (with a variety of facial features, colors, and patterns), and selecting flowers for a bouquet. The cheerful chicks respond to viewers’ creative endeavors with appreciative cheeps or “pios.” The app will be enjoyed by children who love music or know the song. Story programs that incorporate the classic tune or music will want to make sure this app is loaded onto their iPads.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

 

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The Voyages of Aladdin and Sinbad | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/07/reviews/the-voyages-of-aladdin-and-sinbad-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/07/reviews/the-voyages-of-aladdin-and-sinbad-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 05 Jul 2016 13:44:23 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=185826 A thieving villain, a stolen lamp, faraway worlds, and intrigue on the high seas—what more could adventure seekers desire? Here’s a tale that offers readers and listeners all of that—and introduces them to characters from classic literature. 

aladdin coverChildren will enter an enchanting world filled with danger and mystery on opening Jose Miguel Vilar-Bou and Matias Alinovi’s The Voyages of Aladdin and Sinbad (BelMontis, iOS, $3.99; Android, $2.99; Gr 3-6), a nonlinear storybook app by the creators of Rom and the Whale of Dreams. In this story, an evil Wizard-King has stolen and hidden Aladdin’s magic lamp containing the genie. The young Prince of Persia and Sinbad set sail in search of the lamp, traveling to magical lands including the Water Island, the Kingdom of Dreams, and the White Dome. In a soothing voice, a female narrator tells the story as words are highlighted on the page. The app is available in three languages; if English was selected on the title page, the Spanish or Chinese translation can be chosen to appear on the bottom of the screen.

Navigation is intuitive. A tap to the lower right corner of the screen turns the page; a tap on the map icon allows viewers to see where Aladdin’s ship has journeyed. Users may jump to the locations noted on the map to explore and move around within the story. Exotic string music and sound effects—waves crash, thunder booms, and seagulls squawk—add atmosphere. The descriptive language, rich vocabulary, and compelling dialogue will appeal to readers. Those who wish to read independently and/or without sound effects may switch off the narration and the music.

Alejandra Zuniga Cardenas’s intricate pencil, ink, and collage illustrations in earth tones capture the excitement of the story. During the voyage, Aladdin and Sinbad must defend themselves against terrifying serpents, giant birds, and sea creatures. Tapping the screen allows viewers to animate the scenes by moving objects and triggering weather. At various points, readers are asked to make decisions about where the characters should go and what they should do. Should they travel to Upside-Down Kingdom or drift away in the current? In the end, they must decide how to punish the Wizard-King.

The action-packed story line, original music, beautiful illustrations, and interactive format that allows readers to choose plot directions, make this a stellar choice sure to captivate middle grade readers.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

 

Screen from The Voyages of Aladdin and Sinbad (BelMontis) illus. by Alejandra Zuniga Cardenas

Screen from The Voyages of Aladdin and Sinbad (BelMontis) illus. by Alejandra Zuniga Cardenas

 

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Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” |Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/shakespeares-the-tempest-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/shakespeares-the-tempest-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 13:56:25 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=185666 Just when we thought we had seen nearly everything the app world has to offer on Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, along comes Heuristic Media’s The Tempest. Behind the app is the famed actor Ian McKellen, who along with professor Jonathan Bate, and business partner Richard Loncraine, has plans to release an app for each of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. For more on the project, which begins with Shakespeare’s last play, hear what McKellen has to say about it in a trailer produced by Heuristic Media or in this Empire Podcast (skip to minute 17:00). Chris Gustafson reviews the production for School Library Journal below.

 

Shakespeare_icon_bigOn opening The Tempest (Heuristic Media, iOS, $5.99; Gr 7 Up), viewers will be able to choose which of three levels they would like to approach the text (level l recommended to those new to Shakespeare). From there, it’s straight into the play. Those comfortable with the work of the Bard, are likely to begin reading, stopping occasionally to tap the underlined text to access the pop-up definitions of words and phrases. They’ll also see line number notations and thumbnail picture links to images or sets of images from art or theater productions of the play. In portrait mode, viewers can watch as actors (Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Frances Barber, etc.) recite lines while the text scrolls below.

To go deeper, students can tap the menu icon on the bottom of the screen, which pulls up the “Table of Contents,” offering several enticing options. There’s “Play at a Glance,” a summarizing feature. The “Character Map” organizes characters by scene, presents their individual lines in chronological order, and connects to images or videos. Another feature allows students to take notes as they read. Links to “Shakespeare’s World and Times” and “Essays and Videos.” With access to a First Folio, viewers can zoom in and look closely at the earliest version of the play. In addition to the reproductions, videos, and photos, the app is illustrated with distinctive, stylized pen-and-ink drawings washed in earth tones.

Readers may never get around to clicking on the question mark icon on the bottom of the screen when reading the play, which would be a shame, because it will take them to the most useful section of the app, “Navigating the Play.” This video tutorial is guaranteed to save students time as it explains and demonstrates how to get the most out of the production’s features and views. “Content Levels” can also be accessed here (support material changes with the level chosen). Just as valuable is the unassuming “Settings” link, which allows readers to customize many reading experience features.

Novice and experienced readers of Shakespeare can choose to skim the surface or to dig for a deeper understanding of the play, the playwright, and the historical context. App fans will be laying hopeful wagers on which play will be next. Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle Public Schools

"Nymphs, Reapers, Spirits" Photo of a production of "The Tempest." Scene from Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest

“Nymphs, Reapers, Spirits” Photo of a production of “The Tempest.” Scene from Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest

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“Moonbeeps” from Moonbot | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/apps/moonbeeps-from-moonbot-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/apps/moonbeeps-from-moonbot-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 16 Jun 2016 13:49:19 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=184907
Remember the days when children made their own fun, playing hide-and-seek, or catching fireflies on a summer evening? Maybe crafting a rocket ship from a cardboard carton? Moonbot Studios (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, The Numberlys) does. Their latest series of apps (“Moonbeeps”) celebrates that play—in digital, of course—perhaps for those rainy days? Paula Willey (@pwbalto, unadulterated.us) reviews the series below.
 TG-moonbeeps-hide-seek-screen
In Moonbeeps: Hide and Seek (Moonbot Studios, LLC, iOS, $2.99; PreS-Gr 3), a charming but fairly challenging version of the familiar neighborhood game, kids are tasked with finding four giggling, humming little friends. Taps lead viewers through a small grid of suburban houses, while swipes change the perspective to allow them to peer around trees or behind a shed. If a seeker seems stalled, a little hint pops up to prod them in the right direction. Once all the friends are found, they have a dance party, naturally.

Four different seasonal palettes are available, and children will quickly learn that the blobby fruit-colored pals are easiest to find in winter. It’s a simple app, yet repeated play reveals unexpected details. Each character, though largely pre-verbal, exhibits distinct personality and physical traits. There are 30 objects to find along with the friends, and once all those items are discovered, the kids get to wear party hats. Sound effects vary by season, with whistling winds in winter, twittering birds in spring, and a distant barking dog in autumn, among others. Reminiscent of Teletubbies in its wordless, gentle play, and Yo Gabba Gabba for its cheerful use of color and music. Elegant and warm, this is a winner, with a broad age appeal.

 

gizmo

 

WHIRRRRR! Wah-wah-wah-wah! Bzzzzzrtt! Kids make crazy noises during imaginative play all the time, and now—there’s an app for that! Gizmo (Moonbot Studios, LLC, iOS, $.99; PreS-Gr 1) works as a dashboard for imaginary spaceships of all types. Buttons, sliders, switches, and levers produce sound effects, flashing colored lights, and animations. Combinations of controls vary these effects—or don’t. There are no instructions, no tutorial—this is an app that rewards adventurous, experimental users with interesting results. Tapping a control does one thing—what happens when you press and hold? Since this works on the iPhone as well as the iPad, don’t be surprised to see a toddler reenacting the Kobayashi Maru simulation from her shopping cart cockpit next time you’re at the supermarket.

 

fireflies

Imagine a moonlit walk in the woods on a summer night, the stars above, a Mason jar clutched in your hand. Night sounds surround you—frogs,buzzing insects, an occasional owl, and the wind in the trees—or is that a rushing stream? Luckily, a multi-member symphonic pop band The Polyphonic Spree is accompanying you on your walk in Moonbeeps: Fireflies (Moonbot Studios, LLC iOS, $2.99; PreS-Gr 1), providing celestial synthesizer chords and a patter of percussion as a soothing soundtrack.

Catch the glowing orbs that represent fireflies, or leave them alone. Look around, and all you’ll see are more trees, more stars, maybe a little mist. The developers suggest using Fireflies as a nightlight—it switches off after 15 minutes of inactivity—but it would also do good service as a soporific cool-down after a busy day or stressful episode. One warning, however, those fireflies can be darned hard to catch, more difficult than real fireflies, in fact. The quick-draw reflexes it takes to chase them down (they practice avoidance strategies) are a bit at odds with the otherwise relaxing user experience.—Paula Willey. @pwbalto,
unadulterated.us

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.
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Apps for Nature Lovers | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/apps-for-nature-lovers-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/apps-for-nature-lovers-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 09 Jun 2016 13:27:12 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=184164 Nature lovers will delight in these two immersive, introductory apps from Bright World eBooks offering up-close and panoramic views of animals and environments. They’re free for a limited time, so download them today.

 

Screen from A is for Amphibian (Bright World ebooks)

Screen from A is for Amphibians (Bright World ebooks)

 

Targeting the interests and needs of nature lovers and STEM learners, Bright World eBooks has produced an app inviting young readers to explore the world of frogs. What sets A is for Amphibians (iOS, Free; K-Gr 3) apart from other apps is its use of spectacular 3D imagery.

Three choices—narrated, self-paced, and recording—are available in the “Reading” mode, which provides an overview of the characteristics and life cycle of the frog. The first two options also offer opportunities to hear words pronounced and access to a narrated dictionary. Kids will enjoy the chance to record their own narration.

The same environment seen in the text mode can then be explored with swipes and taps under “Exploring.” Here, two options are available, “3D Pond” and “3D World.” The first provides an immersive visual experience and facts about the many animals that live in and around the pond alongside frogs, extending the breadth of the base book. Users can travel through the habitat, zooming in for close-up views. A tap to one of the creatures encountered on this animated screen (dragonflies, golden shiner, Louisiana Waterthrush, etc.) elicits its name in bold print and narrated information.

In “3D World” young herpetologists spin a globe and tap on a frog native to one of the different regions around the world. For each animal, a full-color, high-quality illustration of the creature is provided (above a ruler, for relative size) as well as photograph of its habitat. Narrated segments offer information about the frogs, and sometimes, an audio of their vocalizations.

“Gaming” presents a version of concentration and a role-playing adventure that requires players to avoid some of the dangers that a young frog might encounter. Both activities include several levels of increasingly difficult challenges that test viewers’ recall about what they have learned. Quality narration, sound effects, and music can be separately controlled, while clearly marked icons on the opening screen makes navigation easy.

Adults using the app with children can access the developer’s home page, privacy policy, credits, and its extended learning options located behind a lock.—Elisabeth LeBris, LTC Director, Sears School, Kenilworth, IL

Screen from Ocean Forests (Bright World eBooks)

Screen from Ocean Forests (Bright World eBooks)

From its opening screen, Ocean Forests (Bright Worlds eBooks, iOS, Free; K-Gr 3) encourages kids to “dive” into its 3D kelp forest where an aquatic adventure awaits them. The app’s dashboard offers access to three modes: “Reading,” “Exploring,” and “Gaming.” “Storybook” in “Reading” delivers information about the environment (the kelp forest, holdfasts, fronds, and the ocean’s canopy) and its denizens. In the narrated version, words are highlighted as they are read, and word pronunciation and an audiovisual dictionary are available. Each life-form described by the narrator is seen in an inset with 3D interactive rotations—a great option for visual and ELL learners.

Users who prefer to read at their own pace can opt for the “Read By Myself “ mode, where arrows allow them to advance, or to return to a previous screen. Tapping a word generates a voicing, enforcing the app’s rich vocabulary experience. The “Record My Voice” mode will aid students who want to enhance their fluency and read-aloud skills.

When they venture into “Exploring,” viewers will find themselves in a 3D animated watery forest, where creatures, such as leopard sharks, harbor seals, green sea turtles, and bat rays swim among the fronds. A tap to any animal triggers narrated information about it. The animation is amazing: viewers will feel as if they swimming underwater in a luscious, green forest. The zoom feature allows for close-up and/or panoramic views, while the sound effects evoke the mysterious nature of this ocean world. A helpful flashlight icon button highlights the clickable sound options.

“Gaming” includes two activities that reinforce the information users have gleaned. One, “Retrieve Our Subs!” presents 10 multiple-choice questions, text instructions included (that may have to be read to the youngest users). In “Mind Match” a memory game, viewers pair words with images. Both activities become more challenging as children advance to the next level.

Bright World eBooks provides free classroom materials to accompany the app on the Teachers Pay Teachers website, including a teacher’s guide, story starters, award certificates, and a Bingo game. Ocean Forests is a great supplementary resource for primary classrooms studying marine biology. Consider sharing it before a trip to the beach, a marine wildlife park, or an aquarium. It should be noted that Bright World eBooks markets its other products in the app—behind locks.—Krista Welz, North Bergen High School Media Center, NJ

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app web page.

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Small in a Big World | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/small-in-a-big-world-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/small-in-a-big-world-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 02 Jun 2016 14:02:19 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=183583
Vibrant watercolor art and an empowering message make this app—and story—”worth sharing.”
Screen shot from Milli

Screen shot from Milli: A Small Snail in a Big World (MixlVision Digital/Honig Studios)

If any uneasiness remains at the thought of handing a child an iPad instead of a print book, here is an instance where it would be well worth the trade. While digital stories may not replace print materials entirely, the argument for their value is growing increasingly significant. With gorgeous illustrated frames and a vibrant palette of colors, Milli:A Small Snail in a Big World (MixtVision Digital/Honig Studios, iOS $2.99, Android, $2.71; PreS) is digital storytelling at it’s most successful. This Eric Carle-like world of creatures is gentle yet diverse, with a colorful cast of animals helping Milli discover what it is that snails do best.

The story evokes classic children’s literature, with myriad wise creatures and subtle lessons often found in fairy tales or folktales. The narration is pleasant and moves forward at a comfortable pace, keeping the text rhythmic and upbeat. In each frame, there is much more that meets the eye, offering young children plenty to uncover.  In various scenes, a tap to the screen will send butterflies into flight, pinwheels and flowers to twirl, creatures to pop up from a pond, ants to crawl across the page, and characters’ thoughts to become visible—elements often accompanied by sound effects or snippets of a tune. Several games add value to the story and give children focus on character and plot. Full of interactive delights, Milli is thoughtful story with great emotional depth. A story worth sharing.–Caroline Molnar, Delaware City Schools, OH

 

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CHOMP On This App | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/chomp-on-this-app-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/chomp-on-this-app-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 26 May 2016 13:22:17 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=182333 Petting Zooin novelty and engagement. There's now a contender. ]]>  

Christoph Niemann’s Petting Zoo featured 21 whimsical animals, each with the potential to morph into shapes and animations triggered by viewers. At the time, apps were something new for this author/illustrator/graphic designer, who, in a New Yorker article “The Story of My App, documented his path from artist with an inspiration to app creator who learned how “insanely difficult” it was to make the product he wanted. Petting Zoo was a huge success, no surprise given Niemann’s talent. It was hard to imagine another app that would rival the novelty and engagement of Zoo anytime soon. Well, there’s now a contender, and it’s titled CHOMP.

Christoph Niemann’s latest production, CHOMP (Fox and Sheep GmbH, iOS, $2.99; Android, PreS Up) is designed for children, but one that teens and adults will find as much fun—and as addictive—as youngsters.

The interface is simple and easy to navigate. Niemann has provided approximately 60 hand-drawn, clever templates, each featuring a cut-out paired with an amusing animation. Users position the device’s camera so that a face appears in the cut-out—either theirs or another person’s. By tapping the screen an animation will begin. For example, with faces in place, a drummer plays a set; a strongman, dripping with perspiration, lifts weights; a musician belts out a tune on a saxophone; a faucet drips a photo; the head of a robot springs a gasket, and a shark chases a swimmer around and around in the water, then dances on his or her head.

Christoph Niemann's CHOMP

Christoph Niemann’s CHOMP (Fox & Sheep GmbH/Jon Huang)

Children can move from template to template by swiping and viewing themselves in each drawing, or can create a video of the action with or without audio. Videos can be saved to the device and/or shared on social media.

One of the most winning features of the app is that children can play with it on their own or with a group of friends, creating silly animated selfies or a gallery of pictures. Its ease of use and high fun factor will make CHOMP in high demand in programming and perfect for makerspaces. A trailer is available.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA

 

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Wordplay on the iPad | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/apps/wordplay-on-the-ipad-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/apps/wordplay-on-the-ipad-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 19 May 2016 13:32:30 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=182085 In this column, Touch and Go reviewer MaryAnn Scheuer takes a look at three apps that offer children opportunities to experiment “with the way letters combine to form words” while helping them “identify common sight words and predict spelling patterns.”  How do they rate? Find out below.

TG-HangArtThe classic hangman game receives an update in HangArt (Literary Safari; iOS, $1.99; Android, $0.99; Gr 1-3), an app that weaves in several learning opportunities. Children can play a version of the game, draw pictures of the target words, and record their own stories. Visual clues set this version of hangman apart from others. As players guess a letter correctly, the drawing pad gradually reveals a picture of the word—providing visual clues. The illustrations feature a diverse cast, and the coloring options notably offer a wide range of skin tones. In a child-friendly twist, the chalkboard draws a stick figure hanging from a monkey bar when players make an incorrect guess,

Easily accessed options reveal first and last letter help, use uppercase or lowercase letters, and switch music and sound effects off and on. The “Word Gallery” allows readers to review terms and add their own drawings. The app is likely to appeal most to children who are already reading, can guess spelling patterns successfully, and build a collection of words. The “Story Studio” selects six picture cards of unlocked words, and lets children record their own short stories using these images. While the letter tracing activity offers fine-motor skill practice, it may not interest children who can already read proficiently enough to guess many of these words. However, recent app updates improve the ability to select or skip this feature.

TG-Planet-LettraThe multilingual Planet Lettra (Studio Goojaji; iOS; $1.99; Gr 2-5) encourages open-ended creativity and fun as children build words, choosing English, Spanish, or French. Appsters combine letter bubbles to create terms—play reminiscent of the game Boggle, without the competition. Letters fuse together to create silly combinations, invented terms, or actual words. The bubbles can be tricky to manipulate—-children will need to experiment with them to develop the best way to control them.

If the new word bubble is among the more than 100,000 words recognized by the app, it will be read aloud by the narrator and chomped on by the planet’s monsters. Children will be delighted to discover that double tapping on a bubble triggers the narrator to pronounce it, even if it is an invented word. This app supports word recognition as “smart” letter bubbles (when users hold down a bubble) hint at combinations that lead to real terms. The real joy here is in playfully discovering what letters can do. Viewing is best on the iPad screen.

TG-MysteryWordTownMystery Word Town (Artgig Studio; iOS, $2.99; Android, $2,99; Gr 1-3) provides a more focused word-building approach. Players exercise their spelling skills by filling in the blanks to complete terms from letters that they have collected. A Wild West theme sets the tone. Players choose an avatar to hunt for crooks to apprehend and hidden gold treasure to locate. In order to move from room to room, viewers must spell the target words correctly. Players can choose to play the game with or without audio hints as they try to solve the mystery words. Preset spelling lists allow for easy gameplay, and customizable lists are a useful feature encouraging flexible play. (Adults and children could easily enter weekly spelling lists for a twist on spelling drills.) Unfortunately, one of the avatar headgear choices is a Native American headdress, an item of spiritual significance earned by the wearer. Its use in this context is inappropriate, and mars an otherwise well-designed educational game.–Mary Ann Scheuer, Berkeley Unified School District,CA, and Great Kid Books

 

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

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Charlie and Lola: Back in Town | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/charlie-and-lola-back-in-town-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/charlie-and-lola-back-in-town-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 12 May 2016 13:23:42 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=181174 The beloved characters of Lauren Child and her distinctive line-and-collage art illustrations, can be found in books—both picture and easy chapter—on television, and now on digital devices.

From Charlie and Lola: M Little Town

A scene created in Charlie and Lola: My Little Town (BBC Worldwide/Scary Beasties) Lauren Child

Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola have made the leap from books to television to tablet with great success. Based on a game from a television episode, the Charlie and Lola: My Little Town app (BBC Worldwide/Scary Beasties, iOS, $3.99; Android, $4.61; PreS-K) features six creative activities that lets players personalize environments of their creation, including dressing up characters, composing jazzy songs, building houses with blocks, and painting critters and landscapes, all of which unlock decorative stickers.

A request to access the camera pops up when first opening the app, allowing players to use a photo for  the profiles, three of which are available, while external links and gameplay directions are locked behind a math problem in an adults-only section.

In this user-friendly app, Charlie provides verbal instructions, while Lola adds commentary and encouragement. The main menu and next game are always available, making navigation easy. The cheery collage art and British English narration (check marks are “ticks” and players can “rub out with the rubber”) will be familiar to children who have watched the television show.

Gameplay is simple and intuitive. The building blocks conform to physics, toppling if not balanced properly, and the birds each have their own musical phrase to arrange and rearrange to create new tunes. A variety of coloring tools are available for the artwork and decorative glitter can be added to the drawings. Towns can exist underwater, in space, in mountains, or in worlds of the players’ invention. While there is a finite number of stickers to be earned, everything can be edited and re-edited, making gameplay open-ended with no constraints other than imagination.–Shelley Harris, Oak Park Public Library, IL

Lola

Lola from Charlie and Lola (BBC Worldwide/Scary Beasties) Lauren Child

Following on the heels of Charlie and Lola: My Little Town, BBC Worldwide and Scary Beasties have released a second app featuring Laura Child’s irrepressible siblings of book and television fame. The latest app, subtitled I’ve Won! (iOS, $3.99, Android, $3.99; PreS-K), is a board game that can accommodate up to four players at a time. Player or players can choose to represent Charlie, Lola, or friends Lotta or Marvin, on the board. Three boards are available with the largest five by five squares.

Lotta from Charlie and Lola: I've Won (

Lotta from Charlie and Lola (BBC Worldwide/Scary Beasties) Lauren Child

Players advance by rolling (tapping) a die that appears on the screen and moving the corresponding number of spaces. The square that the character lands on presents a challenge in the form of a game or activity that involves matching, spelling (simple three-letter sight words with clues provided), spotting differences, a maze (which requires tilting the device to move through the maze), and so on. Counting and fine-motor skills come into play throughout the game. Missteps or errors are returned with encouragement to try again, and cheers are sounded as stars fill the screen after correct answers are offered or activities completed. The first character to make it to the final square wins, and confetti and balloons rain down on him or her. Board challenges change and rearrange after a game is completed.

Beloved characters, bright visuals, seamless functionality, musical accompaniment (with an on/off button) and the variety of challenges in this well-designed app will have children coming back for more.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Eds. note: Charlie and Lola: My Little Town and Charlie and Lola: I’ve Won can also be purchased as an iTunes bundle.

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Bison, Birds, & Bugs: Arty Apps from Labo Lado | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/bisons-birds-bugs-arty-apps-from-labo-lado-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/05/reviews/bisons-birds-bugs-arty-apps-from-labo-lado-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 05 May 2016 13:52:59 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=180202 Clean design, smooth functionality, delightful animation and gaming, and availability in multiple languages are just some of the attributes that recommend these Labo Lado apps.

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A completed creature in Labo Leaves (Labo Lado)

Perfect for young children, Labo Leaves (Labo Lado Inc. iOS S1.99, Android $.99; PreS-K) provides users with 18 design templates. Each screen in the app presents four to seven colorful leaves of various shapes, sizes, and colors that children can drag to the correct (outlined) spot to create a figure or a familiar creature such as a fish, pig, dog, chicken, or cow.  When the picture is completed correctly, users are rewarded with a short, humorous animation. There is no text or narration to this crisply designed app, but a soothing melody plays in the background and the animated sequences feature sound effects. Arrows direct users how and where to turn the page; the rest is intuitive.

Adults who work with children may want to use the app as a starting point for hands-on preschool art and science projects. For youngsters, hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skills come into play.  The app is user-friendly and no Internet connection is necessary once it is downloaded. A strong addition to the Labo Lado’s collection of creative apps. Available in several languages.–Amy Shepherd, Librarian, St. Anne’s Episcopal School 

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A clothesline of images to choose from in Labo’s Pebble Art (Labo Lado)

A clothesline row of 22 pictures greets children on opening Labo’s Pebble Art (Labo Lado, iOS, $1.99, Android, $2.06; PreS-Gr 1). After selecting an image with a tap, viewers are brought to a screen where the picture has been deconstructed. Their job is to reassemble the image puzzle fashion; a grey outline is provided. The shapes are large and few, so the task is not particularly difficult but it will call in young children’s visual discrimination and fine-motor skills.

Once the image is complete, a palette of bright colors becomes available (along with a thumbnail image of a painted image). Children can color the image by finger if they desire; a tap to a check mark icon indicates the painting is complete. Behind each finished painting is a related animated scene or game that incorporates the picture the appster has just completed. A blackbird walks along a grassy landscape seeking worms (some more dangerous than others), a caterpillar becomes a xylophone capable of creating a tune, and a screen floods with colorful beetles of different colors, sizes, and body types that when matched with its pair tallies into points discreetly noted in a corner of the screen. While most kids won’t even notice the points accumulating, the games are timed. At the end of each one, confetti drops and a final score is noted. The app contains no narration, but background music accompanies the activities and some of the games incorporate their own songs or tunes. Simple, clean images, smooth functionality, and a variety of charming animations and delightfully inventive activities will keep kids coming back for more. Available in six languages.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage

 

 

 

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Opera Notes: Apps | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/04/reviews/opera-notes-apps-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/04/reviews/opera-notes-apps-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 13:20:31 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=178772 Two apps from DADA Company introduce different aspects of the opera to children. School Library Journal reviewer Pam Schembri evaluates them below.

 

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Screen from Let’s Go to the Opera! (DADA Company) DADA Company Edutainment S.L.

There is much to learn about the opera before attending a performance and Let’s Go to the Opera! (DADA Company, iOS $2.99, Android $2.99; Gr 3-5) offers a basic understanding of the fundamentals. Children can hear how the stage director, set designer, costume designer, make-up artist, conductor, orchestral players, and singers work together to create a performance, but the information provided is a broad overview. Some of the best material is accessible while listening to singers perform in distinct vocal ranges, however, this page has functionality problems. While here, there is no navigation panel and users must turn the page or click a curling arrow (for the “next” singer). Each screen (selected from a visual index) reloads at the beginning, regardless of the number of viewings, and the app has no pause option.

When viewing the composer gallery, there are no names listed; users select one of six pictures to access the text behind it. How many 10-year-olds know what Rossini looked like? It’s slightly frustrating as a teaching tool. The short biographies require users to understand vocabulary such as preeminent and phenomenon, but this shouldn’t be too much of a deterrent. There are interesting facts to be gleaned and entertaining segments to tap and watch (the make-up artists can change wigs and face paint) but there isn’t any depth to the app. If paired DADA company’s Play Opera, the musical excerpts match, which is a plus, but the selections aren’t great. The final and strongest option in the app is a short video from a performance of Die Valkyrie, which shows the glory of a Wagner opera.

For an easy introduction to opera, this is an enjoyable, but limited, app. However, it’s not likely to inspire repeat visits. English and Spanish reading and listening options are available.—Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, Newburgh, NY

 

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Screen from Play Opera (DADA Company) DADA Company Edutainment S.L.

Introducing opera to a child can be daunting (if you consider the racy subject matter and typical length of productions) and Play Opera: Mozart, Puccini, Rossini, and Verdi Masterpieces for Kids (DADA Company, iOS, $2.99; Gr 4-6) delivers one option. Five short illustrated excerpts, each no longer than four minutes, might keep children interested, but the appreciation will be at surface level. The selections are random, and include the following: From Luisa Fernanda (which is not an opera, but a zarauela by Torroba) “Ay mi Morena, Morena clara!” “Pa pa pa” (the best of the selections for the obvious response it elicits) from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Rigoletto’s “Bella figlia dell’amore” (Verdi), Turandot’s “Nesson Dorma” (Puccini) and Rossini’s sextet, Siete Voi” from La Cenerentola.

None of the selections are titled within the app, and they are not consistently the most popular or entertaining of the operas. Short text introductions provide a paragraph of  information to each selection. Casual users, if curious about the musical excerpt, will need to map through the plot using an outside resource, search for the song, and correlate correctly. The excerpts do not include a pause button, and sometimes cut out in the midst of the piece.

The illustrators offer five different artistic styles, with “Siete Voi” providing the most meaning and the “Pa pa pa” birds of the Magic Flute offering lighthearted amusement. Viewers aren’t provided with instructions, but if they tap the screen, animations may occur. The illustrations either help or confuse, which makes the app difficult to recommend. The app may be suited as a jumping off point to spark a desire to listen and learn more about the art form. Available in English, French, and Spanish.—Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, Newburgh, NY

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