School Library Journal » » App Reviews http://www.slj.com The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Fri, 20 Jan 2017 22:33:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.11 Boldly Venturing into “Space” with Tinybop | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2017/01/reviews/boldly-venturing-into-space-with-tinybop-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2017/01/reviews/boldly-venturing-into-space-with-tinybop-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 17:49:32 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=207892 APP-Tinybob-Space

 

Space, the most recent addition to Tinybop’s “Explorer’s Library,” was released last month, and like the other titles in the series, exploration is the name of the game. Learn more about the company’s philosophy and sandbox approach to learning, and designer Jessie Sattler’s inspirations and challenges creating the app.

Space (Tinybop Inc., iOS, $2.99; Gr 2 Up) introduces children to our solar system through a number of activities. To begin, kids are prompted to select a rocket and enter their name. Menu icons are situated to the left of the screen, where users can choose from various options and settings, including language. They then set their rocket on course to visit a particular celestial body, and interact with it through multiple drag-and-drop activities.

For example, users can deduce what a planet’s temperature is by tossing a snowperson toward it. Does the snowperson melt, remain solid, or sink below the surface when it lands? On gravitational pull and atmosphere: what happens to the boulders tossed toward a planet ? Will they encounter an atmospheric layer and burn? How about a rock thrown toward Uranus’s rings? Kids can also observe planets’ orbits, trigger sunspot flares, watch Curiosity search for water on Mars, create footprints on the Moon’s surface, and compare and contrast the weight of the planets and/or Sun using a virtual balance scale.

Through the app’s dynamic color art— including 3-D images/animations—labels, and play, children learn basic information about the planets and the Sun. (The labeling of the planets’ interior layers, makes it a fantastic resource for those interested in designing science fair dioramas.) However, without in-app instructions, it may take users time to figure out what all the available options are, how to use them, and possibly, the purpose of the activity. For example, children may not understand that the ruler measures each planet’s astronomical unit, or what that unit is. Sounds effects add atmosphere and interest.

For additional information and to extend the learning, parents and teachers can download the extensive Space Handbook on Tinybop’s website. The guide offers information on astronomy and astronomers, definitions, suggestions on what to look for and try in the app, discussion questions, images, and resources. It’s available for free in multiple languages including English. A trailer is also available.Krista Welz, North Bergen High School Media Center, NJ

From Space (Tinybop) Design by Jessica Sattler

From Space (Tinybop) Design by Jessie Sattler

 

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

 

 

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A Fiete Fiesta | Touch and Go: Best of Apps and Enhanced Books http://www.slj.com/2017/01/reviews/apps/a-fiete-fiesta-touch-and-go-best-of-apps-and-enhanced-books/ http://www.slj.com/2017/01/reviews/apps/a-fiete-fiesta-touch-and-go-best-of-apps-and-enhanced-books/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2017 17:39:39 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=206933 Ahoiii Entertainment has produced a number of engaging, skill-building apps for young children, including Fiete Math, which made School Library Journal‘s Top 10 Apps of 2016. Two more apps by this company are reviewed below. The first one is free.

 

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From Fiete KinderZoo (Ahoiii Entertainment)

If Fiete KinderZoo (Ahoiii Entertainment, iOS, Free; Android, Free; PreS-K) is your first foray into the world of Sailor Fiete, don’t be discouraged. While the app is delightful, there isn’t much to it. In this “made-for-kids-by-kids” zoo adventure, users simply walk through a hand-drawn zoo and feed the animals. The collage-art creatures were created by children, and the sounds, recorded by them, are hilarious and worth multiple listens. A tap to an icon drops food onto the screen, which viewers can then drag and pop into the animals’ mouths. At some point, children may wonder “Is this it?” as they search for something to distract their hands, but they will have fun getting there. 

Do consider Fiete Farm  (Ahoiii Entertainment, iOS, $2.99; Android, 2.99; PreS-K). Gorgeous textured scenery accompanies plenty of interactions and tasks to complete. The rolling hills and quaint houses of the farm landscape are both angular and serene. Rumbling tractors and slowly rotating windmills evoke a sense of simplicity and calm. The animations are wry and clever—Sailor Fiete and his friends do not get out of bed easily. Users will follow them from sunup to sundown as they take care of the animals, tend to the crops, and complete other farm chores. Tossing the milk, eggs, and wares into the delivery truck is a hoot, while cleaning the ever-muddy pigs is nothing short of silly. And at the end of the day, the farmhands have an opportunity to relax in front of a crackling fire. The app is easy to navigate and does not contain in-app purchases. Instead, like life on a farm, the work is right in front of you. A scenic, engaging production that delivers a sense of accomplishment and purpose.—Caroline Molnar, Worthington City Schools, OH

From Fiete Farm (   )

From Fiete Farm (Ahoiii Entertainment)

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Raising the Curtain on Nosy Crow’s “Fairytale Theater” | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/12/reviews/raising-the-curtain-on-nosy-crows-fairytale-theater-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/12/reviews/raising-the-curtain-on-nosy-crows-fairytale-theater-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 21 Dec 2016 17:11:30 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=205523  

Nosy Crow has been entertaining kids with their playful digital updates of classic fairy tales— and have consistently made our Top 10 Apps of the Year lists—for a while.  Recently the developer released The Complete Fairytale Theater.  For more on this app, read Cathy Potter’s review below and take a peek at the trailer. Did we mention there is a free “lite” version?

The Complete Fairy Tale Theater (Nosy Crow)

The Complete Fairy Tale Theater (Nosy Crow)

 

Fans of Nosy Crow can now create stories featuring the developer’s characters with The Complete Fairytale Play Theater (iOS, $4.99; Free, PreS-Gr 4). After selecting one of the six stories from the list of tales the company has produced (Goldilocks and Little Bear, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, or The Three Little Pigs), children choose a setting from a menu bar.

The 10 settings include a castle, cottages, a beanstalk, and a forest, among others; all are illustrated in vibrant colors. To add figures, viewers tap and drag from the developer’s cast of cartoon characters. Mixing and matching figures and creatures from different stories is possible, allowing kids to create fractured fairytales. An array of props provide story accessories, and 11 options for background music set the mood. The app is easy to navigate (preschoolers shouldn’t have a problem), but short tutorials on setting the stage, moving the camera, recording and playing, etc., are available.

Once the scene, characters, and music have been selected, children may choose to narrate and record the story, moving the characters about as they do so. In the finished product, the characters’ mouths move to the recorded words, providing a cinematic feel to the tale. Older children may want to add multiple scenes to create more complex stories. Completed tales are saved within the app, but currently there is no way to share the stories outside the environment.

The Complete Fairytale Play Theater is a superb storytelling tool that encourages children to express themselves, and it’s likely to draw repeat visits from children who love to create, imagine, and perform.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

For additional reviews and a list of SLJ‘s Top 10 Apps of 2016, visit SLJ‘s dedicated app webpage.

 

 

 

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Top 10 Apps | 2016 http://www.slj.com/2016/12/reviews/best-of/top-10-apps-2016/ http://www.slj.com/2016/12/reviews/best-of/top-10-apps-2016/#respond Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=202863 2016-top10-appsOver the course of the year, SLJ’s Touch and Go column examines informational, skill-building, and story apps for children and teens. Our annual Top 10 list features some of those reviewed during the last 12 months, while highlighting the quality and range of material available in this format. This year brought fewer book-to-app productions, but a definite uptick in game content and sandbox play was noticed, as evidenced in our selections below. For the full reviews and information on platforms and pricing, follow the links.


app-fiete-mathIn its whimsical, multilevel approach to manipulatives, Fiete Math (Ahoiii Entertainment; PreS–Gr 1) meets all the criteria of a quality app that introduces mathematical concepts. Children add and subtract as they combine the required units of cargo to load onto ships of varying sizes and shapes, while animated cartoon figures leisurely pass by to music. There’s no clock ticking as appsters move unhurriedly toward more challenging operations. Pleasurable and picturesque, with plentiful praise for successful problem-solvers.


app-the-tempest-heuristic-shakespeareFrom Ian McKellan and Heuristic Shakespeare comes a stunning production of The Bard’s The Tempest (Gr 7 Up), offering students three levels of text to choose from, along with pop-up definitions of words and phrases, character maps, and access to photos, videos of distinguished actors reciting Shakespeare’s lines, and the First Folio. Essays and additional film clips provide background on the playwright and his era, while stylized pen-and-ink drawings washed in earth tones add élan.


app-chompFor sheer enjoyment, it’s hard to beat a Christoph Niemann app, and his latest, CHOMP (Fox and Sheep GmbH; PreS Up), is totally addictive. Positioning the iPad’s camera just so, kids can insert a photo of a face (theirs or someone else’s) in one of 60 hand-drawn templates, tap the screen, and watch as the image becomes animated: a faucet drips an all-too-familiar visage, an acquaintance belts out a tune, and a recognizable strongman lifts weights. Zany.


app-somme100Film clips of historical events can create immediacy and foster an understanding that text alone may not do for some students. Somme 100 (Ballista Media; Gr 8 Up) offers an overview of the 1916 World War I offensive staged by the British and French against the German Empire, the magnitude of which continues to shock 100 years later. A cogent text, abundant archival images and audio recordings, animated maps, and the splendid on-site video narratives by Dan Snow of battles, interspersed with period footage, will provide students with invaluable perspectives.


app-goldilocksandlittlebearUnquestionably, there are two sides to every story, and Nosy Crow delivers those of Goldilocks and Little Bear (PreS-Gr 2) in a production featuring original music, seamless animation, and abundant opportunities to engage in the (mis)adventure that brought this familiar duo together. Delicious wit, splendid graphics, and the full use of the tablet’s features—all characteristics of the developer’s rollicking, modern retellings of classic tales—are once again on full display. Not-to-be-missed frothy fun.


app-namooA detailed text, clearly labeled diagrams, and edifying animations highlight aspects of the natural world and its processes in NAMOO—Wonders of Plant Life (Crayon Box Inc.; Gr 4-9). Soothing music, ambient sounds, and color-infused artwork produce an integrated sensory and learning experience. Viewers examine 3-D simulations of a tree’s root systems, its trunk, flowers and fruits, and photosynthesis and explore how environmental conditions can impact them. Quotes from such diverse thinkers and writers as Samuel Johnson and Stephen King will heighten viewers’ appreciation of the beauty and complexity of the life forms around us.


app-boum-tnIn its stunning design and arresting use of color, nothing we have seen this year beats Mikaël Cixous’s mesmerizing Boum! (Les inéditeurs/CNL/Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse; Gr 3 Up). Both story orientation and perspectives change as viewers scroll down and across this nearly wordless story about a corporate man whose colorless daily existence is upended when he chances to glance upward one day. Sound effects and a musical score provide extra notes, adding to the tension and the interpretation of the tale.


app-skyscrapers“Sparking curiosity, diving into big ideas, and making connections to the world” are objectives of the innovative developer Tinybop Inc., and all are in evidence in Skyscrapers (Gr 1-5), the seventh volume in the “Explorer’s Library” series. Here, the form and structure of buildings can be altered, water and electrical systems can be activated, and so much more. No instructions or directions are given, but children will discover as they build how their choices impact the inner workings of their designs. Experiential learning infused with fun, with online notes in multiple languages for parents and educators.


app-luminocityIntriguing puzzles and a resourceful child greet viewers in the Lumino City (State of Play Games; Gr 2 Up), as Lumi ventures forth to find her grandfather, the gatekeeper to the eponymous city, who has been kidnapped. Fellow travelers assist the girl as they interpret a manual, experiment with a variety of mechanisms, and advance through challenges in 14 locations. A spellbinding, animated world meticulously created with paper, cardboard, plywood, pieces of metal, circuitry, and a bit of engineering. Absolutely captivating.


app-timeline-battle-castlesHours of videos, 500-plus images, and well-written commentary are offered in Ballista Media’s updated, interactive Timeline Battle Castles (Gr 6 Up). Fascinating details about the Middle Ages and its key figures, along with facts on the battles associated with the mighty fortresses of Europe and the Middle East, are provided. Multiple search and access points, maps, high-resolution photos, 360-degree views, footage of siege weapons in action, and clips demonstrating how to catch a rat or make a pen out of a goose feather medieval-style, and other topics make this app superb edutainment.

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On the Map | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/11/reviews/on-the-map-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/11/reviews/on-the-map-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:41:16 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=201605  

Injecting game play or interactive quizzes into classroom lessons can help them go down more smoothly. There are a number of apps that quiz children on geography; Wayne Cherry reviews two today.

Screen from

Screen from GeoExpert HD-World Geography (Nerea Sanchez Dominguez)

GeoExpert HDWorld Geography (Nerea Sanchez Dominguez , iOS, $4.99, Android, $4.49; Gr 4 Up) and Seterra (Marianne Wartoft AB, iOS, $1.99, $ Android, $1.99; Gr 4 Up) are apps for learning world geography. GeoExpert offers users several levels of play covering the countries and rivers of six regions of the world, however, the only difference between the “easy” and “expert” levels are the number of countries that need to be identified. Clues given can include the capital, shape/outline of the country/state, and the national flag. While in “play” mode, viewers have two guesses before the correct answer is displayed. Facts and figures about each nation, including population statistics and area, are included. Under “North and Central America” users will find a map to learn the 50 United States (and/or their capitals and flags). The developers have updated and added content since the original version was released, and more is promised. A free lite version of GeoExpertHD—World Geography is available (iOS only), as are as a number of “GeoExpert” country-specific apps.

Screen from

Screen from Seterra (Marianne Wartoff AB)

Under seven geographic regions and “learn” or “play” modes, students can choose specific maps to explore in Seterra. For example, under South America, they will find five map quizzes: countries, capitals, Argentina: Provinces, Brazil: Cities, and Brazil: States. Under the “play” feature users are asked to identify specific locals (identified with circle on a blank map) with a tap as a clock ticks. A final score is noted.

Using the “learn” feature users can access a map that displays borders—and place names when the specific locale is tapped. Coverage is Eurocentric with 46 maps available under “Europe,” including “Bodies of Water,” “Rivers,” etc. Occasionally, a number of maps of one country are available. In the “flag” mode students also choose to “learn” them (maps are labeled by country when tapped) or quiz themselves by tapping on the flag when the country name is displayed. After multiple incorrect guesses a player’s score will drop and the correct answer is provided. No additional information or statistics are displayed. Given that this is a geography app, some may wonder why specificity is eschewed at times. For example, under the “World Map,” the labels for the North and South Islands of New Zealand do not include the country name.

In the classroom, GeoExpert is better suited for most students because it offers a richer graphic environment, more information, and leveled game play. For older students or those working on a geography bee, Seterra may be the better alternative for its straightforward approach to identifying countries on the map, but it lacks the detail and specificity of GeoExpert HD. Both apps are available in multiple languages.—Wayne R. Cherry, Jr.,St. Pius X High School, Houston, TX

 

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A Sobering Centennial: The Somme Offensive | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/11/reviews/apps/a-sobering-centennial-the-somme-offensive-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/11/reviews/apps/a-sobering-centennial-the-somme-offensive-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 09 Nov 2016 20:49:54 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=200767  

Ballista Media has produced a number of  informative nonfiction apps for middle and high school students. Like its Timeline Battle Castle app, Somme 100 is based on a British television series hosted by Dan Snow.  Celeste Steward reviews it below.

sommeThe Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive is commemorated in an app marking its centennial. Fought by the British and French troops against the German Empire, the Somme Offensive launched on July 1, 1916. British armies lost nearly 60,000 men on the first day alone, making it the bloodiest battle of First World War. By the end of the five-month campaign, the Allied and Central Forces suffered more than one million casualties.

Ballista Media’sSomme 100 (iOS; Android; both Free; Gr 9 Up) contains more than 200 archival black-and-white labeled photos, fascinating period film clips, videos, historical and contemporary commentary, and map entries. This compelling package, commissioned by the Royal British Legion, features videos of television historian Dan Snow’s discussing the key battles of the campaign (and related topics) from the sites, interspersed with period film footage.

While the app is an overview of the offensive, it packs a significant amount of information into a well-organized framework. From the home page, a three-tiered, illustrated “Battle Timeline” lays the groundwork for the events leading up to the event along with a multimedia sections on  the “Voices of War” and the “Battle Day by Day.” Viewers can switch between levels using the navigation menu. The “Map of the Somme” offers a geographical view of battles by date while the “Battle of the Somme” provides background information in a multilayered arrangement. Users may browse information there by events, battles, or dates or topic. An Internet connection is required for the audio and video portions.

“Animated Battle Maps” provides an illustrated view of the largest movements of the campaign by the hour(s), day, or month, while the “Pals Battalions” page offers information on a selection of the many British volunteer soldier brigades. Of particular note are the diary entries and audio recordings of the men who fought in the trenches, making this a truly superb resource for students.The Somme 100 app is a must-have for military history buffs and an excellent springboard for further research on the Great War.Celeste Steward, San Leandro Public Library, CA

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To Panama with a Tiger and a Bear | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/11/reviews/apps/to-panama-with-a-tiger-and-a-bear-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/11/reviews/apps/to-panama-with-a-tiger-and-a-bear-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 03 Nov 2016 13:42:53 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=199483 This originally German publication also saw life as a picture book in the United States. It was published here in 1981 by Little, Brown, and featured a translation by Anthea Bell. Caroline Molnar considers the digital version below.

Bear and Tiger in The Trip to Panama (Mixtvision Digital GmbH) Janosch

Bear and Tiger in The Trip to Panama (Mixtvision Digital GmbH) Janosch

Originally published in Germany as a picture book, The Trip to Panama  (Mixtvision Digital GmbH, iOS, $3.99; Android, $3.62; PreS-Gr 1) immediately intrigues in a digital format. The story follows the adventures of best friends who embark on a journey seeking the land of their dreams, only to find it closer than they ever imagined.

Children may choose to read the story or listen to a narration. Serene music opens the app and ambient sound effects (birds chirping, water flowing, etc.) are heard throughout. Renowned illustrator Janosch’s images feature muted tones and soft, layered lines. Clever animations adorn the pages and games are built into the story; for example, when Bear goes fishing on the river, a tap to one of the jumping fish will land it in his bucket, while a touch to a rusty can or a shoe produces a red “x.” The games were surprisingly fun. The production is easy to navigate, unfolding in seven succinct chapters with the touch of an arrow. For those viewers who are unsure what to do, a narrator offers help.

There are a few minor stumbles in the story. When a parcel with balloons arrives after completing a game, it is unclear if it is part of the story or not. Some of the scenarios are silly, but most young children won’t notice. It’s a gentle story with no real villains, but peppered with great vocabulary words.

A sweet, if strange story about what is truly important in life. Tiger and Bear are kind creatures that navigate a mostly soft, simple world of animal friends. Despite any minor hiccups, it is easy to see why these characters are beloved around the world. Ad free and has no in app purchase options.—Caroline Molnar, Worthington City Schools, OH

 

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

 

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A Mathemagician’s Playbook | Apps http://www.slj.com/2016/10/reviews/apps/a-mathemagicans-playbook-apps/ http://www.slj.com/2016/10/reviews/apps/a-mathemagicans-playbook-apps/#respond Tue, 11 Oct 2016 13:58:19 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=197132  

mathsymbols-tn

I have loved math for as long as I can remember, in part because my dad made math fun. A mathematician, he would share puzzles or riddles with me that we would solve together. I felt joy in finding a solution along with deep wonder and a sense of mastery when I could pick apart what made a puzzle or problem work. The process yielded a solution that worked in the same way again and again.

These games quietly introduced me to mathematical concepts I would not encounter until years later in my classes. (I met my old friend, the Königsberg Bridge Problem, in eighth grade geometry during a unit on graph theory.) By the time teachers and textbooks introduced these ideas and topics, they felt familiar and enjoyable.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a self-proclaimed “mathemagician” in their lives early on, so math is often the stuff of endless workbooks and frustrating confusion. Luckily, there are apps out there to help learners explore concepts, test their understandings, and practice their skills in an entertaining, rewarding manner.

What makes a good math app? Like any app, it should be well-designed, thoughtfully created, and appealing to its target audience. The content should also reinforce sound concepts via solid pedagogical practices. Teacher and writer Tracy Zager puts forth these three criteria:

 

  1. “No time pressure.” Time restraints foster math anxiety, which causes decline in performance.
  2. “Conceptual basis for the operations.” Avoid apps with drills and flashcards. Zager states “mathematical models like arrays, groups, hundreds charts, and number lines” should do the illustrating.
  3. “Mistakes must be handled productively.” Apps should help kids learn from incorrect responses, not force them to try again without feedback or deduct points from a score and move them along.

 

Based on Zager’s short list of criteria and a conviction that math can inspire wonder and delight, here are some apps worth checking out.

Screen from Fiete Math

Screen from Fiete Math (Ahoiii)

Fiete Math (Ahoiii Entertainment, iOS, $3.99; Gr PreK–1)

After introducing users to the units of building blocks employed in the app (one square block equals a unit of one) users experiment with a tangible addition and subtraction system as they load cargo onto a boat. Cargo blocks arrive in different sizes and shapes, along with a ship, but for them to be successfully loaded, the units must match the numeral displayed on the top of the tablet’s screen. Viewers can fuse and slice apart conjoined units until they arrive at the correct number. As the player assembles and disassembles blocks, mellow music plays as different characters from around town walk by, lending a leisurely vibe to the task at hand. If the assembled units do not correspond to the number required, they simply won’t load on the boat, while successful strings of completed are rewarded with a “stunning” “great,” ‘well-done,” or other praise.

This whimsical take on math manipulatives includes a special animation that plays when viewers create a 1 x 5 block or a 2 x 5 block (to make 10) but does not allow subdivision of special blocks that are shaped like animals. While these indivisible animal cargo units may be understandable from a design standpoint and present an additional challenge they may be confusing for users who are still learning basic number composition. Overall, though, this is an appealing way to experiment with the concepts, and it offers plenty of levels and stages to do so.

Screen from More or Less (Marbotic)

Screen from More or Less (Marbotic)

More or Less (Marbotic, iOS, $2.99; Android, $2.99; Gr PreK-1)

More or Less allows learners who are ready for purely symbolic representations of addition and subtraction to practice with simple single-digit, two-operand equations. A difficulty toggle allows users to switch between choosing two numbers to be added or subtracted, with or without the solution. Another setting requires children to determine the missing operand in a problem, but provides the sum or difference (for example, 4 + ? = 8). Small dots appear below each number. These dots either flow or can be flicked across to the other side of the equation where will they will string themselves into a group to help reinforce the connection between a quantity and its numerical symbol. Individual numbers are consistently one particular color, as are the equal number of dots. A set of physical wooden numbers can be purchased separately; when placed on the screen, the tablet recognizes them as input, blending a physical and digital understanding of abstract concepts.

The app supports 11 European languages (although the American English sometimes sounds like a digitally-altered British English) and features music that combines simple instrumentals with narration. The narration, pleasing music, and brightly-colored visuals combine to create a simple but charming package.

Screen from Math Doodles

Screen from Math Doodles (Carstens Studios Inc)

Math Doodles (Carstens Studios Inc., iOS, $2.99; Gr 1-5)

In four different minigames, each with two difficulty levels, users practice addition and subtraction. It’s a simple idea, but three of the four games have an additional dimension: values can be expressed not just with familiar Arabic numerals but with dice; hands showing different numbers of fingers; tally marks (including Spanish tally marks); Roman numerals; Chinese, Gurmukhi, Hebrew, Hindi, and Braille numbers; binary notation; English or Spanish words; scientific prefixes; polygons; American coins and bills; area or bar or numerical fractions; or a mix of all of these at once. Similarly, the fourth game, which explores addition via segments of a circle, can be set to use time notation, fractions, percentages, angles, or radians. As a result, this app can be used with younger learners who are still mastering addition and subtraction, or with older learners who are practicing using new symbols or even other languages to express quantities.

In an introductory animation, Daren Carstens, the app creator, explains how he found math boring as a kid and mostly doodled in his notebook. As an adult, he sees math as engaging and fun. He still doodles, which establishes the aesthetic for this app. While sometimes busy, but the artwork does set it apart. Audio effects are a little cheesy, but not distracting or repetitive. A webpage offers printables and demos. Overall, an app with surprising breadth.

Slice Fractions

Slice Fractions (Ululab)

Slice Fractions (Ululab, iOS, $3.99; Android, $5.99; Gr 3-5)

Among all the apps mentioned here, this one has the strongest storyline: a young woolly mammoth is trying to go about his day when an angry volcano spews chunks of molten lava across the landscape, leaving it up to players to strategically split and drop blocks of ice onto the lava to clear the way.

While at first this may appear to be a gimmick, the app is an introduction to fractions that progressively builds on concepts, as ice blocks must be split to counteract varying sizes of lava chunks. First, those ice blocks are simply split into parts; next, the parts are depicted as portions of a whole (e.g., four small squares making a larger square representing quartering the block); then numerical symbols are superimposed on the chunks of ice; until finally, the chunks are obscured by steam with the numerical symbols still showing. Quantities must be compared and ordered, light puzzle-platforming must be accomplished, and fractions added and subtracted for the woolly mammoth to complete his journey.

Choices in app design support learning. Users can jump right in to the appropriate concept-based level without having to complete earlier levels. There is no clock ticking, and levels can be restarted as many times as necessary. While finishing a level yields a new hat for the mammoth, these rewards never feel like the deluge of pointless trinkets found in some games. Errors are handled particularly deftly: if unequal quantities of ice or lava meet, some quantity of one will be left over, giving a clue as to what went wrong. Of the apps examined here, this one has the longest playtime to fully complete. Both fun and instructive: take a peek.

Screen from Attributes

Screen from Attributes

Attributes by Math Doodles (Carstens Studios Inc., iOS, $2.99; Gr 3-8)

Similar to Math Doodles, Attributes’s seven hand-drawn minigames provide a relaxed framework in which to explore different concepts. The overarching theme here is patterns. (Explains the creator: “Math is greater than numbers.”) The games require users to notice different qualities objects might have (color, shape, design, and so on) and to move, select, or sort them (into tables or Venn diagrams, for example) accordingly, as multiple difficulty levels become unlocked. The most advanced game serves as an introduction to coding concepts via if-else sorting, and a Mathathon Challenge bundles together 10 rounds of all seven activities.

Appsters are likely to feel like they are puzzle-solving rather than problem-solving. Early levels of some games can be completed by elementary school users, but later levels of the same game are complex enough to be challenging and fun for older players.

While there are more comprehensive or overtly educational apps (such as Khan Academy) on the market, the selections featured above combine sound underlying concepts with engaging gameplay, solid design, and appealing visuals that learners and players of many ages will enjoy.

Gretchen Kolderup (@librarified) is the Youth Librarian at the St. Helens (OR) Public Library. She has a bachelor’s degree in math and once thought she wanted to be a math professor before coming to her senses and becoming a librarian instead.

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Portable and Practical: A Guide for Budding Birders | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/10/reviews/portable-and-practical-a-guide-for-budding-birders-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/10/reviews/portable-and-practical-a-guide-for-budding-birders-touch-and-go/#comments Thu, 06 Oct 2016 13:54:58 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=196642 We’ve reviewed  both general guides to birds and others specific to species in this column, but here’s one that the youngest children will be able to enjoy.

 

Screen from RSPB Birds

Screen from RSPB First Birds (Bloomsbury/Aimer Media)

The superbly portable field guide from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, RSPB First Birds (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc/, Aimer Media Ltd., iOS, $4.99; PreS-Gr 2) is chock-full of information and activities for children and their families to explore. Featured in the app are common birds found in five distinct habitats: garden, river, seaside, park, and countryside. Each bird has it’s own page containing a selection of facts, a video clip, a recording of the bird’s sounds and songs, a picture to color, options for users to tag favorites and/or species they have spotted in the wild, and more.

The habitat depicted for each set of birds is cartoonish and quaint. Kids can drag and drop an endless stream of birds onto backgrounds to construct their own flock. But beware: even Mute Swans make quite a bit of noise en masse!

The app is not without glitches: the screen freezes on occasion. Not all species include videos, but the plethora of audio options (including read aloud) make this a particularly good choice for visually impaired students and beginning readers, among others.

Novice bird watchers and nature fans will appreciate the app, which will also encourage others to look at the world around them. (It may even appeal to Pokémon fans looking for a more educational interactive excursion). The UK-based RSPB focuses on quality content that aligns with their mission. Their cause is one that is worthy of support and the return is a terrific app for the home or classroom.—Caroline Molner, Worthington City Schools, OH

Screen from RSPB First Birds

Screen from RSPB First Birds (Bloomsbury/Aimer Media)

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From Pop-Up to App, “With a Few Bricks” | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/from-pop-up-to-app-with-a-few-bricks-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2016/09/reviews/apps/from-pop-up-to-app-with-a-few-bricks-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:35:09 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=196214 Pat the Bunny was one of the first interactive books to make the leap to the iPad; others have followed. Here's one from Vincent Godeau. ]]>  

SLJ‘s reviewer Chris Gustafson makes an excellent point in her review of Vincent Godeau’s With a Few Bricks: in many ways pop-ups are the ideal books to transform into apps. Godeau’s, of course, isn’t the only interactive book to become an app. Touch and Go’s first review was of the iPad version of Dorothy Kunhardt’s classic, Pat the Bunny. And David Carter, paper engineer extraordinaire, was one of the first to experiment with apps. But interactivity is only half of the story; does Godeau build one that will appeal to kids with his bricks?

bricks-cover

 

Vincent Godeau’s With a Few Bricks was originally published as a pop-up book (L’Agrume). It’s now an app (Cléa Dieudonné, iOS, Free; K-Gr 5), and it’s an elegant idea. Fragile pop-ups beg to be touched and are easily damaged by young readers, while apps are all about touching and transformation. Bright colors and simple shapes welcome users to this story and navigation is easy: children can choose to read it in a linear fashion or skip about. Each of the 10 chapters includes a few lines of text, an image, and a clear description of how to interact with the image, plus coaching should users make mistakes. Ambient sounds and a pulsating track enhances the experience and heightens the tension.

However, the story may be a hard one for children to grasp. It begins with a boy eating bricks, reveals a metaphorical castle inside the boy, which he floods with his tears, and includes a rather alarming section describing the boy’s heart growing so big that it becomes difficult for him to breathe. Translation of the story from the French original seems hurried; in the English language version incorrect grammar and misspelled words abound. (A Dutch versions is also available.)

The interactions on each screen vary in difficulty.  On the opening screen, viewers must draw a rectangle quite precisely; a four-year-old test user was quickly frustrated, although able to successfully complete all the other tasks in the app. A nine-year-old was intrigued only by all the ways that the bricks could be drawn incorrectly so that the story could not continue, while a six-year-old  managed all the tasks but did not connect them with the story.

Children may enjoy using this app a few times but it will not engage their interest for long.— Chris Gustafson, formerly of Whitman Middle School, Seattle School District, WA.

Screen from With a Few Bricks (Cléa Dieudonné ) Vincent Godeau

Screen from With a Few Bricks (Cléa Dieudonné) Vincent Godeau

 

 

 

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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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