School Library Journal» Apps http://www.slj.com The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:00:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Pierre et le loup | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/pierre-et-le-loup-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/pierre-et-le-loup-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:05:25 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=102969 For those lucky children who have the opportunity to attend musical performances, Sergueï Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is often their first introduction to the orchestra. Pierre et le loup, a delightful production of that musical story, can be enjoyed by those miles away from a concert hall, who speak any language. Read Leanne Bowler’s review below, and be sure to take a peek at the trailer. We think you’ll agree with the jurors of the BolgnaRagazzi Digital Award that this is a truly special production.

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Pierre et le loup (Camera Lucida/Radio France/France Télévisions)

One of the most prestigious prizes for children’s digital media is the BolgnaRagazzi Digital Award, presented each year at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The prize is awarded to apps that embody the state of the art in design and craftsmanship in narrative-driven children’s interactive media. An app based on Sergueï Prokofiev’s musical symphony for children Pierre et le loup (Peter and the Wolf; iOS, Gr 1 Up), produced by Camera Lucida and Radio France, with the participation of France Télévisions, won the nonfiction prize in 2014, and there is no doubt it is well deserved. Jurors noted that Pierre et le loup is a “complete app combining visual storytelling, information and play with music, translated into an extraordinary well-thought visual mix of motion media, animation, typography, and graphic design, full of perceptive details and surprising extras.”

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Screen from Pierre et le loup (Camera Lucida/Radio France/France Télévisions)

This beautiful and whimsical version of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf includes a 30-minute, mixed-media film and playful, music-oriented activities. The movie presents the story of Peter and the Wolf through a visually striking combination of animation intermixed with live-action scenes of Peter interacting with members of the L’Orchestre national de France and musical director Daniel Gatti. Throughout, scenes incorporate the use of colorful backgrounds and silhouettes and graphics of various fonts and musical notations. While the limited narration is in French, all can enjoy the movie.

The 10 interactive activities can be accessed in one of two ways: through the menu bar at the bottom of the screen or by swiping an arrow on the top right corner of the screen. The activities explore each of the characters (Peter, the Wolf, Bird, Cat, Duck, Grandfather, and Hunters) and their musical themes. Some screens incorporate Mativision technology; in one of the activities viewers must scan a nighttime scene by moving the iPad to try to snap of photo of le loup as it creeps through in the woods. In another scene, as viewers hold the iPad, they turn and get a 360-degree virtual “bird’s eye” view of the orchestra playing the musical theme for Peter. It should be noted that, although each activity is supported by brief spoken and written instructions in French, the activities are intuitive and viewers should have no difficulty determining how to play. A wonderful exploration of a classic symphony for children.—Leanne Bowler, School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh

photo1 300x225 Pierre et le loup | Touch and Go

Screen from Pierre et le loup (Camera Lucida/Radio France/France Télévisions)

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Tap & Touch: Recommended apps for early learning http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/tap-touch-recommended-apps-for-early-learning/ http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/tap-touch-recommended-apps-for-early-learning/#respond Wed, 02 Jul 2014 14:00:08 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=101855 SLJ1407w FT Apps TAPnTOUCH 1 Tap & Touch: Recommended apps for early learning

From left: Endless Alphabet (Originator) ©2013;
How Rocket Learned to Read (Random House Digital) Hills ©2010;
Go Away, Big Green Monster! (Night & Day) Emberly ©2011

When it comes to children under the age of two and screen time, early learning specialists and the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t recommend it. For ages two to five? Most experts agree that limited, “intentional and developmentally appropriate” use is acceptable.

In a joint position paper dated January 2012, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College state further that technology should be considered an additional, “active and creative tool…selected and used based on [its] potential to expand children’s access to new content and skills.” That paper also echoes the long-standing position of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop that co-engagement is an important component of media use with young children.

What do librarians need to consider when designing programs that incorporate technology and/or media? First, bear in mind the whole child’s (or group’s) needs, interests, developmental stage(s), and background—both social and cultural. Second, create balanced, integrated programming that ensures adult-child interaction. Third, look for dynamic, interactive, and where possible, open-ended productions.

Below you’ll find a select list of skill- and concept-building apps recommended by School Library Journal that we believe satisfy this last requirement.

“Playful” is a word often heard when it comes to app criteria for young children, and Endless Alphabet (Originator, Inc. iOS, $5.99; Android, $4.99), a letter-matching, speech-developing production, offers hours of fun. Entering the app, children encounter a bright blue monster that opens its mouth to reveal a carousel of alphabetically arranged cards, each one featuring a word and creature. Tapping the word scrambles its colorful letters, leaving their outlines in the center of the screen. It is up to viewers to drag the letters back into their proper spots. Touching a letter emits its sound; correctly returning it to its location within the word will cause it to be voiced; and when completed, the word is pronounced, defined, enacted, and celebrated. The word bank is updated when the app is reopened. The same developer tackles numbers and sight words with the same exuberance in Endless Numbers and Endless Reader.

Combining story with a lesson on the joys of the “wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet,” Tad Hills’s How Rocket Learned to Read (Random House Digital. iOS, $4.99), based on the book by the same title (Random, 2010), includes activities for pre- and emergent readers. Caught napping under a tree, Rocket, a reluctant canine student, is lured into the classroom of a little yellow bird who reads him stories, teaches him the alphabet, and later, how to sound out words. The app offers gamelike exercises (that vary each time it is viewed) and three- and four-letter sight words (enhanced by animation) to learn as Rocket comes to realize that words and stories can be “as delicious as the earthy smells of fall.”

Ed Emberly’s book Go Away, Big Green Monster! (Little, Brown, 1992) is popular—but fragile when its die-cut pages meet preschoolers’ fingers. The app version (Night & Day Studios. iOS,$2.99; Android, $1.99) eliminates the need for replacement copies, while adding show-stopping music by Adrian Carney. The monster’s face materializes before children’s eyes: first his “two big yellow eyes,” then “a long bluish-greenish nose,” until his complete “scary green face” is visible. What makes this story showcasing colors so satisfying is that children have total control over this innocuous creature with a titillating moniker. Once the full-featured monster appears and is told to “Go Away!” hair, eyes, and so on disappear, until he vanishes completely and is ordered not to return “Until I say so.” Most viewers will choose to play or read again (the vocabulary is suitable for emergent readers).

SLJ1407w FT Apps TAPnTOUCH 2 Tap & Touch: Recommended apps for early learning

From left: Ten Little Fish (CJ Educations) Kreloff ©2012;
Spot the Dot (Ruckus Media) Carter ©2011; Franklin Frog (Nosy Crow) Tranter ©2012

Harriet Ziefert’s Ten Little Fish (CJ Educations/Blue Apple Books. iOS, $1.99; Kindle, $8.99) offers listeners lessons in counting and opposites through text and song, reinforced with a fishing game. The concept is simple and the art bold and exciting. Elliot Kreloff’s colorful illustrations feature childlike art depicting fish of all shapes and sizes against a vibrant blue background. Watery gurgles, burbles, and splashes accompany the upbeat musical track. Counting opportunities abound, and voiced encouragements are heard throughout the game, which involves catching different numbers of fish each time it is played.

David A. Carter. The name conjures books featuring wildly imaginative paper engineering that send readers on seek-and-find missions. Spot the Dot (Ruckus Media Group. iOS, $2.99) does the same, with 10 activities that require children to locate dots of specific colors hidden among a variety of shapes against black backgrounds. Simple, clearly enunciated instructions begin the games, each one more challenging than the last (the dots begin to move). Success is rewarded with praise or a few notes of music, and gameplay changes when children revisit the app. In addition to practice in shape and color recognition, this production provides a fine motor skills workout. Tips for adults are included.

Franklin Frog (Nosy Crow. iOS, $4.99; Nook, $4.99) and Parker Penguin (iOS, $4.99) by Barry and Emma Tranter are interactive, circular stories that highlight the habits and life cycle of animals. Children follow the subject creatures, helping them as they search for food, avoid predators, and, in the case of Franklin, locate a spot to hibernate. After the animals find mates and their offspring arrive, the stories begin anew, with attention focused on the newly hatched critters. Hot spots lead viewers to more facts and definitions. Slightly older children who are fascinated with nature topics might want to follow these apps with Mary Kay Carson’s Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night (Bookerella/Story. iOS, $2.99), which offers layers of information and an opportunity to direct this mammal’s flight through the night sky.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the many Sesame Workshop apps featuring familiar, beloved Sesame Street characters. Developed with support from its research arm, this production company delivers number lessons in Elmo Loves 123s (iOS and Android, $4.99); Bert’s Bag (iOS, $1.99); and Grover’s Number Special (iOS, $1.99; Android, $2.99); and alphabet and word recognition opportunities in Elmo Loves ABCs (iOS and Android, $4.99); and Big Bird’s Words (iOS and Android, $.99); among others. Enthusiastic, encouraging characters; bright colors; measured interactivity; and humor are hallmarks of these widely popular, edifying apps.


For additional app reviews for all age levels, visit SLJ’s app column Touch and Go.

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The World of Plants | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-world-of-plants-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-world-of-plants-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:28:15 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=101082  

While a city dweller now, I still can’t resist the urge to plant in the spring. My Brooklyn, NY, garden consists of a few window boxes and several oversize planters, but every spring and summer I look forward to watching the flowers grow, blossom, and spill over the edges of their pots. The videos and animations in the app below, while not the dirt-under-the-fingernails experience, will bring viewers up close with these miracles of nature.

photo1 300x225 The World of Plants | Touch and GoReaders of Kids Discover magazine know that it is packed with fabulous photos, fascinating facts, and amusing activities; this app, which was adapted from an issue of the magazine, contains all those features, and more. Plants (Kids Discover; iOS, $3.99; Gr 4-7) covers plant growth (including photosynthesis); varieties; uses; and the relationship of plants to climate.

The text includes definitions and briefly introduces concepts such as plant groups, the food chain, biomes, and global warming. Almost every magazine page represented in the app has been animated or made interactive in some fashion. There are informational 3-D models, high-definition videos and audios, high-resolution photographs, and a number of animations (a flower unfolds, a fly buzzes from one screen to another, etc.). A few quick activities such as quizzes and puzzles are also included. The visual index lists eleven sections, addressing the topics noted above, as well as “Plants in Art” and “Unusual Plants.” From the opening screen, which features time-lapse photography of a sprouting seedling to the final activities, viewers will be engaged. A bibliography of websites and books is included.

Navigation is simple; readers can choose to swipe through pages, or select a sections from the visual index, through buttons at the top of the screen, or a slider at the bottom. A brief tutorial is available for those unfamiliar with apps. A terrific introduction and science resource for intermediate-grade students.—MaryAnn Karre, Teacher Librarian, West Middle School, Binghamton, New York

For additional app reviews, visit the Touch and Go webpage.

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Celebrating Dad and Mom | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/celebrating-dad-and-mom-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/celebrating-dad-and-mom-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:22:35 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=99642  

Parental love is celebrated in two apps for the preschool set from Snappyant. With Father’s Day on the horizon, these may be just the productions to download on the family iPad.

dad cover 300x225 Celebrating Dad and Mom | Touch and Go Anna Walker’s charming I Love My Dad (Snappyant/Demibooks, $2.99; PreS-K), based on her book by the same title (Scholastic, 2009), celebrates the activities a father and son share during the course of a day: they make banana bread, then morning tea for everyone, go to the park, play hide-and-seek, and so on, until evening falls and the two doze off in bed as dad reads a book. Throughout the story, the duo—depicted here as stuffed animals—are accompanied by a rambunctious brown-spotted dog. Small but delightful animations accompany the activities, e.g., at the park with Dad and dog at his side, Ollie twirls, swings, and slides on the playground equipment. Reflecting both the joyful tone of the app and the activity on the screen is the upbeat music that kicks up the tempo with each turn of page. Ambient sounds—giggling, chirping birds, and the barking dog—are also heard in the background.

mom cover 300x225 Celebrating Dad and Mom | Touch and Go In Rose Smith’s My Mom’s the Best (Snappyant/Demibooks, $3.99; PreS-K), illustrated by Bruce Whatley, a variety of mature animals express their love for their offspring through actions: a bear hugs her cub, a dog licks her puppy, a bird teaches her fledgling to sing, all depicted through animated scenes. The minimal text can be read or listened to in a linear fashion—the preferable approach the first time through—or particular scenes selected to view from a grid of colorful pastel images. (Page turns can be a bit clunky.) The story is best described as a series of affectionate, silly scenes, alternating with lines of text. Music opens the production and along with some background sounds—chirps, splashes, and squawks—accompanies the scenes. Children have the option of reading or listening to Mom in English, British English (swap the “Mom” for a “Mum” and a different accent), or Spanish.

These simple, reassuring stories that highlight the mutual love of parent and child are most appropriate for the very young, and will be most appreciated by them. In both, children trigger the animations through touch. Emergent readers may find it fun to try reading these texts (“I ride my bike. Dad, look at me!” “My mom’s the best because she gives me big hugs.”). In the narrated version of Dad, words are highlighted as they are read, providing additional support for new readers.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

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Incredible Numbers and iF Poetry | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books, June http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/incredible-numbers-and-if-poetry-best-of-apps-enhanced-books-june/ http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/incredible-numbers-and-if-poetry-best-of-apps-enhanced-books-june/#respond Tue, 10 Jun 2014 14:08:36 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=99558 SLJ1406w APP Inumbers Incredible Numbers and iF Poetry | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books, June

Incredible Numbers ©Touch Press/Profile Books.

Incredible Numbers. Ian Stewart, Theodore Gray, and Phil Ramsden. Touch Press/Profile Books. 2014. iOS, requires 7.0. Version 1.0.1. $9.99.

Gr 7 Up –“Math is Beautiful,” so the introduction to Touch Press’s latest app states–and Incredible Numbers delivers an elegant proof of that claim. Created by professor and pop-science writer Ian Stewart, Wolfram Research co-founder Theodore Gray, and Mathematica expert Phil Ramsden, the app guides users in a visual exploration of mathematical concepts such as pi, polygons, primes, factorials, and infinity as well as applications in cryptography, nature, and music.

The content serves a range of audiences: the text accompanying each section is fairly deep and assumes a basic familiarity with fundamentals of algebra and geometry as well as series, trigonometric functions, and irrational numbers, but selected in-text dictionary functionality (and brief biographies of famous mathematicians) may help. The visual and (70-plus) interactive elements are more welcoming to those who enjoy mathematical exploration but may not yet have the technical vocabulary or exposure to the connections between concepts. The nature and music sections are especially friendly to novices, and a collection of puzzles (answers included) round out the more enticing end of the spectrum for casual users.

Touch Press is known for its deep, immersive productions such as The Elements: A Visual Exploration, and while Numbers is perhaps not as rich an experience, its visuals are appealing and clean and colorful in the iOS 7 style. The interactive elements are occasionally a bit perfunctory, such as requiring a simple swipe or scroll to draw out a pattern, but being able to see data and patterns grow at one’s own pace (or multiple times) will help users grasp concepts. The code-breaking and music sections also allow users to play around, independently investigating the effect of different input.

While the app may not convert the truly math-averse, it will take enthusiasts deeper into the sanctum sanctorum of mathematical beauty.–Gretchen Kolderup, New York Public Library, NY

iF Poems. Allie Esiri and Rachel Kelly, eds. Clickworks Ltd./Chocolate Creative Ltd. 2013. iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version 1.6.2. $0.99.

PreS Up –A robust collection of more than 260 poems, many of which are narrated. There are a number of access points to the works including: categories, age level, author, title, first line, and sometimes, first word. In all, 102 poets are featured in 12 categories ranging from “Growing Up” and “Short and Sweet” to “War, History & Death” and “About Poetry.” Under each section the poems are sorted by age (0-6, 7-12, or 13+). While the focus is both classic and British (Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Brontës, Robert Lewis Stevenson, William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare), there are surprises (Tim Burton’s “Stick Boy And Match Girl In Love”); a bit of mischief (Mary Howitt’s “The Spider And The Fly”); and plenty of humor (13th century Saadi’s “Observe This Precept Whenever You Can”). A paragraph-length biographical note on the author of the poem precedes each selection, and Natasha Low’s image of a tree trunk filled with words and letters frames it.

The app’s repertoire of readers includes Helena Bonham Carter, Bill Nighy, Tom Hiddleston, and Harry Enfield, all of whom do a superb job evoking the emotional content of the works—and their timelessness. Carter carries many of the humorous selections (A. E. Housman’s “Amelia Mixed the Mustard”), Nighy some of the more serious (Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier”); all the readings are superbly delivered and will draw listeners deeper into the collection. They will also remind readers of the pleasures of listening to spoken poetry.

Users can choose to record their own readings of the works, and/or save, or share their favorite printed selections via email. In a reverse publishing trend, the poems are now also available in book form, iF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility (ipg Books, 2013).

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‘Shakespeare at Play’ | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/shakespeare-at-play-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/shakespeare-at-play-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 05 Jun 2014 15:00:36 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=98012 The plays, sonnets, and life of William Shakespeare have long fascinated scholars and thespians.  Recently, both of these groups have turned their attention to the production of digital resources for students. As our reviewer Kathleen Wilson notes, Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be seen, and these productions offer live performances for classroom or personal viewing.

EH140605 TG Shakespear Shakespeare at Play | Touch and GoImagine how different our experience of a film would be if all we had to go on was the written script; if we never viewed the film on the big screen. Without the actors, sets, lights, and music our experience would be completely different. The same can be said of Shakespeare’s plays, which were in many ways the films of his day, a time when literacy rates were extremely low and plays were written to be seen as live performances. The Bard’s words and phrasing were unfamiliar and confusing to many back then, and even today, it’s a rare student who doesn’t struggle with Shakespeare on first encounter.

Tim Chisholm, the founder of Shakespeare at Play (Free; Gr 9 Up), along with Rick Chisholm Productions, Ltd., the producer, have taken these lessons to heart in the design of their app, which allows students to watch custom video productions of Shakespeare’s plays and at the same time scroll through the complete texts, word for word, scene by scene, stopping, starting, and rewinding the video as needed or accessing definitions. What’s different, and so helpful, is that the video has been produced specifically to correspond to Shakespeare’s complete plays, unlike so many film versions that deviate from the original texts, often changing Shakespeare’s wording and eliminating scenes entirely.

Each play in the Shakespeare at Play series is organized into acts and scenes and the lines of the original texts are all numbered for easy reference. The video performances are professionally produced and the youthful actors will appeal to high school viewers. Costumes and sets are minimal, as they were in Shakespeare’s day, but the props, lighting, and fog effects are used to great advantage to help support the action and enhance the emotional tenor of the scenes.

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Duncan and Malcolm in Act 1, Scene 4, of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ (Shakespeare at Play) Rick Chisholm Productions

The app is clearly designed and easy to use, starting with the landing page, called My Library, which displays the available plays. Once a play is selected, the screen splits in two, with a wide, horizontal video window on top and a scrollable text window on the bottom. Both the video and the text windows can be expanded to full screen at any point.

Just under the video window, in the middle of the screen, three clickable icons indicate additional information that’s been designed to scaffold the viewing and reading experience for students each step of the way: a megaphone (for audio introductions to each scene by Noam Lior of the University of Toronto with plot highlights and other items of interest.); a feather (for text descriptions of scenes); and two theatrical masks (for text descriptions of characters). In addition, informative annotations, also by Lior, are ever-present in the bottom window. A custom glossary of words and phrases, Shakespeare FAQs, and options to download any or all of the video scenes are readily available in the index, which is accessed through an icon at the top left of the screen.

The basic app is free with text-only versions of eight of Shakespeare’s plays (as of this review). Currently, video versions for Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet  ($3.99 each) and Notes Editions, which include additional text information but no video, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet ($1.99 each) are also available from within the app.—Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY, NY

Eds. note: A trailer of Shakespeare at Play is available for viewing.

For additional digital resources on Shakespeare, see Shakespeare on the iPad and Starting Shakespeare. For additional app reviews for PreS-Gr 12, visit the Touch and Go webpage.

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Shaun Tan’s ‘Rules of Summer’ | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/shaun-tans-rules-of-summer-touch-and-go-2/ http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/shaun-tans-rules-of-summer-touch-and-go-2/#respond Tue, 27 May 2014 20:36:44 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=98112 rules of summer 170x170 Shaun Tans Rules of Summer | Touch and Go Scholastic, the publisher of The Arrival, The Bird King, and other titles by Shaun Tan, released his Rules of Summer late last month. The app, developed by We Are Wheelbarrow, offers 11 language options: English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.  Paula Willey reviews the app below.

Atmospheric, textured, surreal—the work of Shaun Tan is easily described as “cinematic.” His tableaux appear to be stills from a larger story, his settings hint at a larger world, fully imagined far beyond the frame. Music and other sounds are implied by objects and actions in the picture. And in fact, Tan is an animator as well as an illustrator, receiving an Academy Award in 2011 for Best Short Film (Animated) for his adaptation of his book The Lost Thing.

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Screen 1: “Never step on a snail.” (We are Wheelbarrow) Tan

So it seems quite natural—as natural as anything associated with the eerie, offbeat imagination of Tan could be—for him to create an app version (We Are Wheelbarrow, $4.99; Gr 3 Up) of his new book Rules of Summer. The title itself implies sunlit, child-governed anarchy, exploration, arbitrary tests of fearlessness—a world in the process of being interpreted anew through a child’s eyes. And in this app, what they see is mind-blowing.

The user is invited in with the words, “This is what I learned last summer.” Each page features a single line (“Never leave one red sock on the clothesline.” “Never step on a snail.” etc. ) and a hand-drawn icon. Tapping the icon pulls viewers into a painting, landing on a very small detail of the big picture. Subsequent pictures tell a story of two boys, perhaps brothers, adventuring with various robotic and/or monstrous friends through odd landscapes.

snail 2 170x170 Shaun Tans Rules of Summer | Touch and Go

Screen 2: “Never step on a snail.” (We Are Wheelbarrow) Tan

The print version of Rules of Summer (Scholastic, 2014) is easier to decipher, narrative-wise. But the oblique presentation of Tan’s paintings in the app, together with the muted clanks, birdsong, hums and tinkles of the sound track leaves more room for speculation. It’s a beautiful app that rewards repeat visits.—Paula Willey, Pink Me

Eds. note: To learn more about Rules of Summer and Shaun Tan, view this ABC RN video interview with the author.  

Visit the Touch and Go webpage for additional app reviews.

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Creepers & Peepers | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/creepers-peepers-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/creepers-peepers-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 15 May 2014 14:27:01 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=97225 Dawn Publications, known for children’s books on nature topics, has produced a number of apps based on its print titles, including Over in the Ocean, and Over in the Jungle. Featured below are three additional apps carrying the same titles as their print versions.

mouse and meadow 300x225 Creepers & Peepers | Touch and GoLuminous illustrations, a rhyming text, and rich vocabulary combine to make Chad Wallace’s The Mouse and the Meadow (Dawn Publications, $3.99; PreS-Gr 2) a treat for youngsters. The story, featuring anthropomorphized creatures, realistically portrays the dangers predators, such as the hungry snake that pops out of hiding, or the swooping owl after a meal, pose to a field mouse. Other encounters with animals such as a spider and a box turtle are less threatening to this small creature.

The wonder and natural beauty of the meadow and the characteristics of its distinct inhabitants are the focus of this tale of exploration and discovery. As they travel with the diminutive rodent through the story, children will learn a facts about the meadow and animals that live there, along with related terminology. In a section that follows the story, viewers will find additional information about this unique habitat, and one page devoted to each creature that appears. There’s also a discussion on whether animals actually “talk” (and animal communication), and another on whether in the natural world creatures “really help each other.”

One or two interactive elements are found per screen (the mouse sniffs, a honey bee’s wings vibrate,  etc.). “Read to myself” and “Read to me” (words highlighted as they are read, and a pleasant narration) options are available. Detailed artwork in warm browns and golds offers close-up looks at this quietly dramatic landscape. Both art and charming text have the feel of a bygone era.—Cindy Wall, Southington Library & Museum, Southington, CT

frog 300x225 Creepers & Peepers | Touch and Go

Interior screen from ‘Noisy Frog Sing-Along’ (Dawn Publications) Himmelman

Up-close illustrations featuring vibrant colors, simple texts, and animal sounds will keep young readers engaged as they learn, touch, and mimic the sounds of the insects and amphibians featured in John Himmelman’s Noisy Bug Sing-Along ($3.99) and the Noisy Frog Sing-Along ($3.99, both Dawn Publications; PreS-Gr 1). Both narrated and authentic sounds are heard for 12 of each of the subject species. Small animations occur when the animals are touched (or the device is shaken). Following this series of animated screens is information about the how and why of the noises created by the individual creatures (e.g. the cicada tightens and loosens its abdomen muscles to make the loud ZZZZ sound, while male frogs sing to be heard by females). Also presented are animated images of the vibrations of each sound made. A game entails matching (and dragging) the images of the sound waves  to their corresponding bugs. While this concept and game may be a bit difficult for the intended audience, with a little perseverance some children are able to play with success.

Options allow readers to turn off the narration, and return to the table of contents from any screen. Author/Illustrator and developer pages are included. The inclusion of the actual sounds made by crickets, beetles, peepers, and bullfrogs combined with the price and portability of the apps, make these productions practical science lessons.—Debbie Whitbeck, Media/Technology Educator, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

For additional app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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An Elegant Proof: ‘Incredible Numbers’ on the iPad | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/an-elegant-proof-incredible-numbers-on-the-ipad-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/an-elegant-proof-incredible-numbers-on-the-ipad-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 08 May 2014 13:46:22 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=96524 Touch Press, the creators of The Sonnets by William Shakespeare and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony have done it again. Read Gretchen Kolderup’s review of their latest production below.

icon incrediblenumbers 170x170 An Elegant Proof: Incredible Numbers on the iPad | Touch and Go “Math is Beautiful,” so the introduction to Touch Press’s latest app claims–and Incredible Numbers (Touch Press/Profile Books, $4.99 launch price; Gr 7 Up) delivers an elegant proof.

Created by professor and pop-science writer Ian Stewart, Wolfram Research co-founder Theodore Gray, and Mathematica expert Phil Ramsden, the app guides users in a visual exploration of mathematical concepts such as pi, polygons, primes, factorials, and infinity as well as applications in cryptography, nature, and music.

The content serves a range of audiences: the text accompanying each section is fairly deep and assumes a basic familiarity with fundamentals of algebra and geometry as well as series, trigonometric functions, and irrational numbers, but selected in-text dictionary functionality (and brief biographies of famous mathematicians) may help. The visual and (70-plus) interactive elements are more welcoming to those who enjoy mathematical exploration but may not yet have the technical vocabulary or exposure to how concepts connect, while the nature and music sections are especially friendly to novices, and a collection of puzzles (answers included) round out the more enticing end of the spectrum for casual users.

Touch Press is known for its deep, immersive productions such as The Elements: A Visual Exploration, and while Numbers is perhaps not as rich an experience, its visuals are appealing, clean and colorful in the iOS 7 style. The interactive elements are occasionally a bit perfunctory, such as requiring a simple swipe or scroll to draw out a pattern, but being able to see data and patterns grow at one’s own pace or multiple times will help users grasp concepts. The code-breaking and music sections also allow users to play around, independently investigating the effect of different input.

While the app may not convert the truly math-averse, it will take enthusiasts deeper into the sanctum sanctorum of mathematical beauty.–Gretchen Kolderup, New York Public Library, NY

For additional app reviews, visit the Touch and Go webpage.

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Who Said Poetry Month Is Over? | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/who-said-poetry-month-is-over-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/who-said-poetry-month-is-over-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 01 May 2014 15:22:20 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=95345  

While National Poetry Month may be officially over, interest in great poems well delivered, never wanes. In this column we look at three very different digital anthologies that include verse. To quote the editors if Poems, we have poets “ancient and modern, fusty and frisky, famous and forgotten,” and to that we might add, a few rising stars.

if cover Who Said Poetry Month Is Over? | Touch and GoiF Poems (Clickworks Ltd./Chocolate Creative Ltd, $0.99; All Ages), edited by Allie Esiri and Rachel Kelly, is a collection of works authored by 102 poets, many of which are narrated. The app offers a number of access points: categories, age level, author, title, first line, and sometimes, first word. In all, there are 12 categories ranging from “Growing Up” and “Short and Sweet” to “War, History & Death” and “About Poetry.” Under each section the poems are sorted by age (0-6, 7-12, or 13+). While the focus is both classic and British (Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Brontës, Robert Lewis Stevenson, William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare), there are surprises (Tim Burton’s “Stick Boy And Match Girl In Love”), a bit of mischief (Mary Howitt’s “The Spider And The Fly”), and plenty of humor (13th century Saadi’s “Observe This Precept Whenever You Can.”) A paragraph-length biographical note on the author of the poem precedes each selection, and Natasha Low’s image of a tree trunk filled with words and letters frames it.

The app’s repertoire of readers includes Helena Bonham Carter, Bill Nighy, Tom Hiddleston, and Harry Enfield, all of whom do a superb job evoking the emotional content of the works—and their timelessness. Carter carries many of the humorous selections (A. E. Housman’s “Amelia Mixed the Mustard”), Nighy some of the more serious (Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier”); all the readings are superbly delivered and will draw listeners deeper into the collection. They will also remind readers of the pleasures of listening to spoken poetry.

Users can choose to record their own readings of the poems, and/or save, or share their favorite printed selections via email. In a reverse publishing trend, the poems are now also available in book form, iF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility (ipg Books, 2013).

city interior Who Said Poetry Month Is Over? | Touch and Go

Luis Zelaya, talks about his poetry in ‘City Blossoms’ (Arcade Sunshine Media )

City Blossoms (Arcade Sunshine Media; $1.99; Gr 7 Up) is a teen-authored digital anthology of 50 poems. The selections were written by students from four Washington, DC, high schools, who came together to think about and write verse in workshops sponsored by 826DC, a nonprofit group that offers programs for students age 6-18, designed to “explore their creativity and improve their writing skills.” The anthology is part of a collaborative book project with the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, and features entries both personal and political in nature. A video introduction by the educators involved in the project and the poet Kyle Dargan, who wrote the foreward to the book, highlights aspects of the program and some of the students who participated in it. Also featured are four of the anthology’s contributors who read their works and talk about themselves and what writing poetry means to them. As Rashawnda Williams explained, the workshop she participated in allowed her to step out of her element and “try something new…if I’m sad or angry…[or] having a problem with friends, it’s easier…[writing] releases that energy into the poem.”

The video portion of the app is framed in artwork (which disappears when viewing the readings in full screen), but the anthology portion is plain: black print on white screen. A table of contents offers a listing and the poems can be read one by one by swiping through the volume, or accessed quickly using the scrubber bar at the bottom of the screen.

This would be a terrific production to share with students about to embark on a poetry unit, or to spark a discussion about poetic expression. The teens involved will convince listeners that writing poetry is both a worthwhile and doable endeavor. The app may also be of interest to high school students interested in documenting some of their own work or a program they are involved in.

Love book Who Said Poetry Month Is Over? | Touch and GoThe theme of The Love Book (iLiterature/Marc Wilson; $2.99; Gr 10 Up ), edited by Allie Esiri (see above, iF Poems) needs no explanation. Verse is a highlight of the collection, but prose excerpts and quotes are also included. Poetry can be selected by theme: for example, “In Love,” “Passionate,” “Platonic,” or “It’s Over,” while under “Quotes” options range from “I Love You” to “Funny.” The selections are eclectic: there are entries written by Ovid, Maya Angelou, Rumi, Derek Walcott, Sharon Olds, Walt Whitman, Robert Browning, e e Cummings, and Emily Dickinson, to name only a few; lines from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dickens’s David Copperfield, and Dorothy Parker’s short story, “A Telephone Call”; and the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.” And there are letters: from Heloise to Abelard; from John Adams to his wife, Abigail; John Keats to Fanny Brawne; and Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West. Among the especially poignant missives are those from Civil War and WWI soldiers to their wives. All entries can be accessed by title, author, first line, or key word.

Narrations for many of the selections are available, read by Emma Watson, Damian Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hiddleston, Gina Bellman, and Helen McCrory—professional actors all. Kate Moross’s vibrant pop design features electric colors on the contents’ panels, and frames each poem.  

With a few references to alcohol and the love’s physical aspects, some schools may choose to steer clear of this production, but those that don’t will find plenty to share with students. For starters: the many forms, tones, and expressions that a theme can take. A recording option is available as is saving “faves” and/or sharing individual selections via email.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Eds. Note: A percentage of the cost of iF and The Love Book go to fund the work of Save the Children.

For additional app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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Down with the Dinos | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/down-with-the-dinos-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/down-with-the-dinos-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:39:46 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=93854 With brief texts offering a touch of drama and some basic facts, Oceanhouse Media’s “Smithsonian Prehistoric Pals” series, based on the books by Dawn Bentley, have found an audience with young children. Fans of the series will be familiar with Triceratops Gets Lost and It’s Tyrannosaurus Rex!. The developer has recently released A Busy Day for Stegosaurus and Pteranodon Soars; both of those productions are reviewed below.

S interior 300x225 Down with the Dinos | Touch and Go

Interior screen from ‘A Busy Day for Stegosaurus’ (OM) Carr

From the moment she awakens until she settles down to sleep, it’s A Busy Day for Stegosaurus ($2.99; PreS-Gr 2). The story, based on the book by Dawn Bentley (Soundprints, 2003), begins as this Jurassic creature leaves her egg-filled nest at dawn in search of food. The slow-moving dinosaur encounters other animals, both friendly and predatory (there’s a fight with an allosaurus, but the spikes on Stegosaurus’s tail and the bony plates along her back protect her). As the day progresses, viewers learn about the diet, habits, and habitat of these mighty creatures. Returning to her nest later in the day, Stegosaurus discovers her eggs have hatched.

The story is clearly narrated by Al Gates and each word is highlighted as it is read. If they choose,  children can read the story on their own, or record a narration. A simple swipe turns pages, and a tap on a picture will bring forth voiced labels; a double tap to a paragraph will cause it to replay. Individual pages can be selected from the on-screen menu. Karen Carr’s art depicts lush landscapes and offers some few close-up images and dramatic perspectives. Background sound effects such as animal calls and cries enhance the story, but there is little animation besides panning and zooming on the pages. A straightforward production with limited interactivity for young dinosaur fans.—MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

p flight 2 300x225 Down with the Dinos | Touch and Go

Interior screen from ‘Pteranodon Soars’ (OM) Carr

Less story than vignette, Pteranodon Soars (Oceanhouse Media, $2.99; PreS-Gr 2), based on Dawn Bentley’s book of the same title (Soundprints, 2004), follows a female of the species as she takes flight, dives for fish, eats, easily evades a mosasaur (“her enemy”) lurking in the water, dives again, and carries food to her hatchlings on a cliff side nest. Following the 12 pages of scenes are three short paragraphs of pteranodon facts (fewer than in a strong encyclopedia entry). The sole interactive features are language-based: tap any word to see it highlighted and hear it read; tap a portion of the illustration to see its label and hear it voiced (“water,” “prey”). Additional enhancements are atmospheric sound effects—surf, wings, cries, splashing—and gentle pans and zooms (app, not user, controlled).

The home screen offers “Read To Me” (Al Gates reads; user turns pages); “Auto Play” (narration plus automatic page turns); and “Read Myself” options. Carr’s illustrations are gorgeous; Bentley’s sentences are simple, clear, and fairly short. One quirk is the obscure placement of the settings. Absent from the home screen, they’re tucked under an arrow (then the familiar gear) icon once you enter the app. From the settings, viewers can mute sound effects, select pages, and record an apparently limitless number of narrations. Each can be named separately and emailed for sharing—a great feature for classrooms or reading instruction. Pteranodon Soars is most suited to those settings or situations; it’s not as strong a choice for fact-hungry dinosaur enthusiasts looking to be immersed or dazzled.—Emily Lloyd, Hennepin County Library, Eden Prairie, MN

For additional app reviews, visit the Touch and Go webpage.

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Writing and Racing with Geronimo Stilton | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/writing-and-racing-with-geronimo-stilton-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/writing-and-racing-with-geronimo-stilton-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:14:44 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=93114 Not many mice can boast a series of books, graphic novels, and audiobooks, and a website and newspaper, unless of course, it’s Geronimo Stilton. And now the prolific journalist/editor/adventurer has added an app to his oeuvre, brought to us via Scholastic. Last year the publisher released The Adventures of Captain Underpants in digital. And while neither of these characters wants for readers, the apps may actually expand their fan bases. 

geronimo Writing and Racing with Geronimo Stilton | Touch and Go Fans of the Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic, $1.99; Gr 2-4), won’t find any read-along stories as they follow this mouse journalist into the digital world, but they can become reporters, travel underwater, and test their knowledge of capital cities around the world.

To begin, viewers design their own mouse avatar choosing physical features and a hair color and style. (Only one avatar can be created at a time, and the app does not store them). Writing options include compiling an edition of that well-known vehicle for Geronimo’s reporting, the Rodent’s Gazette, or composing a scene complete with customizable text and images. Would-be journalists choose fonts and insert headlines, and have enough space for four paragraph-length, illustrated articles. In designing an image, children have a variety of landscapes, characters, and objects to select from. Word bubbles of different sizes and shapes are available to add dialogue. These scenes can then be popped into the news articles.

mouse passport 300x225 Writing and Racing with Geronimo Stilton | Touch and Go Two games are available: matching countries with their capitals and an underwater speed racing adventure. In the first, players create a passport inserting name, date of birth, a fingerprint, etc. When they successfully pair a country with its capital city, that nation’s stamp appears in the passport. These are saved, though users can reset the game if they decide to begin anew before gathering all 194 stamps. The “Metamouse Adventures” game offers six levels, which involve traveling hundreds of miles while avoiding obstacles and collecting pieces of cheese. Correctly answering questions about the book character adds to a player’s time, but won’t hold a child back if s/he doesn’t know the answer. To progress from one level to the next takes a while and will keep determined young gamers busy. Accumulations of cheese can be traded in for “fabumouse bonuses.”

A mouse cam is also included. After shooting a photo, users select a frame, and if they want, add  overlays and characters onto the image, which can then be saved on the device. The variety of add-ons will ensure some interesting results. Geronimo Stilton does a great job combining educational and recreational games, and is sure to delight fans.—Andrea Hetzke, Franklin Elementary School, Park Ridge, IL

For more app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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Waterfalls, Geysers, & Turbines |Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/waterfalls-geysers-turbines-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/waterfalls-geysers-turbines-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:59:38 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=91678 “In Stockholm, Sweden, researchers have found a way to create usable energy from the excess body heat generated by the quarter million commuters who pass through the city’s train station every day.” That’s just one fact that I learned from Energy, reviewed below by Elizabeth Kahn. Consider incorporating this interactive production into your collection to support units on the environment or to highlight Earth Day (April 22). For other apps on the topic, visit an earlier published piece, Apps for Earth Day.

eee 300x225 Waterfalls, Geysers, & Turbines  |Touch and GoFollowing the same format as the other apps in the Kids Discover series, this new production cover the various forms of Energy ($3.99; Gr 4-8) that humans harness as well as the energy that they and plants produce. Viewers can access information  via a scrollable, thematic table of contents on the opening screen or through a visual index of the 11 chapters. Once inside the app, they can swipe their way through it page-by-page, hop about using the scrubber bar on the bottom of the screen, or tap the home icon to return to the index.

bikes1 300x225 Waterfalls, Geysers, & Turbines  |Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Energy’ (Kids Discover)

Eight of the 11 chapters are comprised of several pages of information on the types and use of energy (“Light and Heat”; The Boiling Point,” etc.), while others have a more ecological focus (“Energy Yesterday and Today,” “Save Your Energy”). Each page or screen begins with a video clip (of wind turbines, a waterfall, a geyser, etc.) or a colorful photo or labeled diagram, and includes a fact or two or a paragraph of text, or poses a question. Visual cues or instructions indicate where to find interactive elements and additional screens of information. A few sidebars highlight figures, and there are mentions of events such as the bike-sharing program that began in New York City in  2013. The text includes some definitions (geothermal, etc) and a few simple demonstrations (fission vs fusion, etc.), but there is no glossary or list of key facts.

The last three sections offer activities, a quiz, and a list of resources. The  first two will be enjoyed for their simplicity, but readers are unlikely to choose to revisit them (the quiz contains only five questions). The “Resources” section offers five Internet and six print resources. The websites can be accessed from the app, while the book links lead to Amazon pages. All in all, solid information in an engaging presentation.—Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA

For additional app reviews, visit the Touch and Go webpage.

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Barefoot World Atlas; Jack and the Beanstalk | App Reviews http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/journeys-best-of-apps-enhanced-books-april-2014/ http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/apps/journeys-best-of-apps-enhanced-books-april-2014/#respond Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:16:04 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=91398 SLJ1404w APP Barefoot World Atlas; Jack and the Beanstalk | App Reviews

Barefoot World Atlas: Great Cities (Crane) © David Dean.

Barefoot World Atlas. Version 3.0.3. $4.99.
––––. Great Cities
––––. International Football.
––––. North America.
––––. Puzzles.
––––. World Art.

ea: Nick Crane. illus by David Dean. Touch Press/Barefoot Books/Royal Geographic Society. 2013. iOS, requires 7.0. $1.99 ea. In-app purchases.

K-Gr 5Barefoot World Atlas delighted users when it was launched in 2012, and they now have a reason to return to app. Five extension packs are available, offered individually as in-app purchases.

“Great Cities” and “North America” are excellent supplements to the information found in the original app. Colorful icons correspond with 100 cities across the globe in the first extension pack, and the states and provinces in the US and Canada in the second.

The Little Mermaid sculpture represents Copenhagen, skyscrapers signify Tokyo, and Boston is home to Fenway Park. The soothing background music changes to reflect the different geographic regions as users swipe the screen to spin the globe. Tapping on an icon will open a live feed of information that includes the time, weather, and population of a particular location.

The “Puzzles” are organized by region and continent. The objective for each is the same; tap and drag the shape of the state, province, or nation to the correct location on its corresponding country or continent map. At times, the angle of the globe, coupled with the scrolling menu of shapes at the bottom of the screen, makes viewing a bit difficult, but users may zoom in and out to change the angle. For children who enjoy a bit of competition, there’s a timer and score card at the top of the screen.

Consider the “International Football” extension a must purchase for soccer fans as the 2014 World Cup approaches. Tapping on uniform icons will reveal information about each of the 209 soccer (football) teams represented. A few facts about the history of the each team is included as well as their current FIFA ranking, trophies won, a photo of the home stadium, scores of recent games and upcoming matches, and the manager’s and team member’s names. Pictures of both home and away uniforms are provided. A click on the music icon starts the country’s national anthem.

The “World Art” pack is by far the most impressive addition. One hundred items have been “carefully selected” to show “how different cultures have created and viewed art, from prehistory to the present day.” Readers will learn about each object’s artist, dimensions, medium, and its current location. Background information on the piece is offered, providing additional context.

Throughout, the text poses questions, engaging children as it encourages them to consider an artist’s choices. For example, viewers are asked the following about Picasso’s “Guernica”: “Why do you think the painting is in black, gray and white, rather than in color?”

Children will spend endless hours with these entertaining—and educational— additions to the Barefoot World Atlas.– Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

Jack and the Beanstalk. (Nosy Crow; $4.99). 2014. iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version 1.0.1.

PreK-Gr 2 –The inimitable award-winning British publishing force has crafted an even more innovative approach to the traditional tale in its latest app. To describe the way it intersperses games using zooming, titling, and the camera within the narrative arc, let’s start with the story map, accessed from a tab on the homepage. It’s a visual menu and readers can consult it at any time. The narrative trail is depicted by dotted lines surrounding an image of a castle. Down the left side of the picture, it leads Jack from his home to the magic beans to the giant’s castle. The cross-section of the structure is situated in the center of the map, a three-story array of nine color-coded doors each leading to a different concept-learning adventure.

Players now become Jack and “stay in the castle” capturing gold coins, golden eggs, and whatnot as long as they like, and then “catch” the narrative thread back home.

When the story is spent, the ending changes depending on how many winnings Jack has taken away. Told episodically, and narrated by children in speech bubbles, the witty dialog can be repeated, adding a way for emerging readers to practice by repetition. Little signals and directives help players know when they can move on.

Kids will delight in their victories along the way and will practice counting, patterning, color knowledge, piano melodies–not to mention reading skills and the underpinnings of narrative structure–along the way.–Sara Lissa Paulson, Librarian, PS 347—“47”. The American Sign Language & English Lower School, NY, NY

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‘Love, the app’ | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/love-the-app-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/love-the-app-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 27 Mar 2014 12:05:09 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=90575 The winners of the 2014 Bologna Ragazzi Digital Award were recently announced and Gian Berto Vanni’s  Love, the app took the top prize in the fiction category. The vibrant colors, spare line drawings, and cut-outs of the author’s acclaimed book, originally published 50 years ago, are in evidence in this interactive production, as are the story’s magic and message.

EH140327 loveapp Love, the app | Touch and Go  There are many ways to regard Gian Berto Vanni’s short illustrated story Love, originally published in 1964. An unattractive little girl lives in an orphanage, desperately lonely and so ill-behaved that the orphanage director wishes to send her elsewhere. He thinks he’s found his justification when the child is seen placing a note in a tree—orphanage children are forbidden to communicate with the outside world. The note, however, only says “Whoever finds this, I love you.”

The story is an artifact of a certain kind of mid-century European pathos, for sure. It’s a small, sad, musical tale, like Albert Lamorisse’sThe Red Balloon or Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. It is also an extremely charming example of the kind of squiggly-line pen-and-ink illustration style that picture book enthusiasts will associate most strongly with William Steig or James Thurber.

purple love 225x300 Love, the app | Touch and Go

Interior screen, ‘Love, the app (Niño) Vanni

But where Love the book really succeeds is in the artist’s use of paper. Peepholes of all shapes pull readers through the book. Vivid, saturated colors and unexpected texture subtly remind the viewers that there is more to the story than what the words are saying. Love, the app (Niño,$4.99; Gr 4 Up) does a magnificent job not just recreating these tantalizing peeks and soul-satisfying papers but truly enhancing them. Die-cuts curl away from the “page,” images are sliced into irregular windows and gently sift away. Each scene slides or rips or lifts to show the next. These actions reveal the true meaning of the story—that what is true about a person may not be visible at first. Appearance and behavior are layers that obscure our real nature, but can be torn away and discarded like so much colored paper.

Slow but cheerful music featuring glockenspiel and piano helps set the mood. Minimal extra enhancement is offered—to the extent that there is no narration available, nor a navigation aid that allows for skipping around the text. This is an artistic app, and uncompromisingly so.—Paula Willey, Pink Me

Eds. note: A trailer is available.

For more app reviews, visit the Touch and Go webpage.

 

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Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/maps-globes-and-a-few-lessons-in-geography-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/maps-globes-and-a-few-lessons-in-geography-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 13 Mar 2014 15:10:20 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=89372 barefoot 170x170 Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and Go

Interior screen from ‘The Barefoot Atlas’ (Touch Pr./Barefoot Bks.)

Join us for a look at some recent geography releases for early elementary to middle school students. The apps represent productions from developers well-known to educators: Touch Press/Barefoot Books; Kids Discover; and Oceanhouse Media. The three groups offer different approaches to the topic; together they cover both physical and human geography.

The Barefoot World Atlas delighted users when it was launched in 2012, and they now have a reason to return to app. Five extension packs (Touch Press/Barefoot Books/Royal Geographic Society; S1.99 ea.; K-Gr 5), are available, offered individually as in-app purchases.

mermaid 300x225 Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Great Cities’ (Touch Pr./Barefoot Bks)

“Great Cities” and “North America” are excellent supplements to the information found in the original app. Colorful, illustrated icons correspond with 100 cities across the globe in the first extension pack, and the states and provinces in the US and Canada in the second.

The Little Mermaid sculpture represents Copenhagen, skyscrapers signify Tokyo, and Boston is home to Fenway Park. The soothing background music changes to reflect the different geographic regions as users swipe the screen to spin the globe. Tapping on an icon will open a live feed of information that includes the time, weather, and population of a particular location. Children have the option of reading the information provided about each city, or listening to it as it is read aloud.

The “Puzzles” geography games are organized by region and continent and will provide children with hours of fun. The objective for each is the same; tap and drag the shape of the state, province, or nation to the correct location on its corresponding country or continent map. At times, the angle of the globe, coupled with the scrolling menu of shapes at the bottom of the screen, makes viewing a bit difficult, but users may zoom in and out to change the angle and improve the view. For children who enjoy a bit of competition, there’s a timer and score card at the top of the screen. Upon completing a puzzle, users can email their score or post it to Twitter or Facebook.

brazil 300x225 Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘International Soccer’ (Touch Pr./Barefoot Bks.)

Consider the “International Soccer” extension a must purchase for soccer fans as the 2014 World Cup approaches. Tapping on uniform icons will reveal information about each of the 209 soccer (football) teams represented. A few facts about the history of the each team is included as well as their current FIFA ranking, trophies won, a photo of the home stadium, scores of recent games and upcoming matches, and the manager’s and team member’s names. Pictures of both home and away uniforms are provided. A click on the music icon starts the country’s national anthem.

bracelets 300x225 Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and Go

Bracelets worn by the Maasai  from ‘World Art’ (Touch Pr./Barefoot Bks.)

The “World Art” pack is by far the most impressive addition. One hundred items have been “carefully selected” to show “how different cultures have created and viewed art, from prehistory to the present day.” Readers will learn about each object’s artist, dimensions, medium, and its current location. Background information on the piece is offered, providing additional context. Users may also open a full- screen photo of the selection for an up-close look.

Throughout, the text poses questions, engaging children as it encourages them to consider an artist’s choices. For example, viewers are asked the following about Picasso’s “Guernica”: “Why do you think the painting is in black, gray and white, rather than in color?” “If you were an artist and wanted to tell the world something important, what sort of art would you choose to communicate your message?” Additionally, for each image a sliding tile puzzle is available.

Children will spend endless hours with these entertaining—and educational—additions to the Barefoot World Atlas. A trailer is available for the “Puzzle” pack. According to the developer’s website, more extension packs are in the works.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

 

geography 300x225 Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and GoWith its mixture of engaging text, color photos, animations, cartoons, videos, and mini-assessments, Geography (Kids Discover/Joe Zeff Design, $3.99; Gr 3-7) by Marjorie Franl makes an excellent nonfiction addition to collections. The opening chapter distinguishes between physical geography and the work of human geographers, and the app delves a bit into both.

The quality the 3D graphics will enhance children’s understanding of the concepts presented. In one animation, an orange with a world map drawn on it is unpeeled to introduce different types of map projections. Clearly illustrated discussions of longitude and latitude, time zones, and other related topics follow. Later chapters consider natural phenomena such as the migration of peoples over millennium and the more recent past, and homes around the world from the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado to a cottage in Wales.

orange 300x225 Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Geography’ (Kids Discover)

Readers can slide an object to reveal more detailed text and clicking on a question mark reveals answers. Interactive elements are available on most pages. Short embedded film clips help explain concepts such as land use and adaptation, while chapters on rivers and the changing Earth offer visuals of Niagara Falls and flowing lava.

Making excellent use of the iPad’s gyroscope, the app offers panoramic views of the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Readers can also simulate the motion of an earthquake by shaking the device at one screen. Audio is added to some pages.

The “Activities” section prompts readers to answer simple questions and is followed by a “Resources” page, which contains links to websites for further information. Links to other geography sources lead readers to Amazon. The high-quality text and breathtaking photography make this app an excellent tool to teach physical and human geography.–Sydnye Cohen, Technology Integrator, New Canaan High School, New Canaan, CT


map in lap 300x225 Maps, Globes, and a Few Lessons in Geography | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘There’s a Map in My Lap!” (Oceanhouse Media) Ruiz

In Tish Rabe’s There’s a Map On My Lap! (Oceanhouse Media $5,99; Gr 2-5),The Cat in the Hat takes viewers for a ride in his thing-a-ma-jigger using a map to guide the way. A well-paced rhyming text and vibrant illustrations by Aristides Ruiz, animated in this edition, introduce young readers to globes, atlases, plans, and marine charts, and topographical, street, and subway maps, among others. The text also offers explanations about their key components including legends and longitude and latitude lines. Information is presented in layers, providing greater detail for children with some background knowledge on the topic.

Sidekicks Thing 1 and Thing 2 provide easy-to-understand meanings for such terms as “scale” (shrinks “miles into inches on each map” and “makes everything smaller….”). However, tapping on the word reveals a more formal definition. Throughout, readers can touch images to see the written word for the item and hear it pronounced, a useful feature when introducing terms such as “compass rose” and “cartographer.”

Navigation is straightforward and features such as sound effects can be disabled. Children can choose to listen to the lively narration or to personalize the story by recording their own voices. This app presents elementary students with a thorough look at the types of maps. Overall, a great teaching tool and vocabulary builder; with its money-back guarantee, teachers can’t lose.–Deirdre Reddington, Uniondale High School Library Uniondale, NY

For additional app reviews, visit the Touch and Go webpage.

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Nosy Crow’s ‘Jack and The Beanstalk’ | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/nosy-crows-jack-and-the-beanstalk-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/nosy-crows-jack-and-the-beanstalk-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 06 Mar 2014 03:44:14 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=87972 photo 202 300x225 Nosy Crows Jack and The Beanstalk | Touch and Go It’s no surprise that Nosy Crow apps make nearly everyone’s best lists. As Kate Wilson, the company managing director, notes, ” The first step for us—and it may be different for other app developers—is the text. We’re about writing, but we’re writing with the device in mind, the features [that are available to us], and what we might be able to bring to the story in the [digital format]. But we start with the written word, much as we would with a picture book.” This practice has lead to huge success on the app front with titles including the award-winning The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood. Now, here comes Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, which out of the gate received a mention in 2014 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award fiction category.

jack 300x225 Nosy Crows Jack and The Beanstalk | Touch and Go

Interior screen from ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ (Nosy Crow)

Nosy Crow, the inimitable award-winning British publishing force, has crafted an even more innovative approach to the traditional tale in its latest app, Jack and the Beanstalk (Nosy Crow; $4.99; PreK-Gr 2), To describe the way it intersperses games using zooming, titling, and the camera within the narrative arc, let’s start with the story map, accessed from a tab on the homepage. It’s a visual menu and readers can consult it at any time. The narrative trail is depicted by dotted lines surrounding an image of a castle. Down the left side of the picture, it leads Jack from his home to the magic beans to the giant’s castle. The cross-section of the structure is situated in the center of the  map, a three-story array of nine color-coded doors each leading to a different concept-learning adventure. (Visualize Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti album cover, but in color.)

Players now become Jack and “stay in the castle” capturing gold coins, golden eggs, and whatnot as long as they like, and then “catch” the narrative thread back home (the dotted trail on the right side of the picture). In other words, after playing a game or all nine, players can have Jack run out of the fortress and cascade down the beanstalk as fast as their little fingers can swipe. It is a chase: the giant’s great hands snatch at fleeing Jack.

giant 300x225 Nosy Crows Jack and The Beanstalk | Touch and Go

Jack on the Run from ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ (Nosy Crow)

When the story is spent, the ending changes depending on how many winnings Jack has taken away in the games behind each door. Told episodically, and narrated by children in speech bubbles, the witty dialog can be repeated, adding a way for emerging readers to practice by repetition. Little signals and directives help players know when they can move on.

Kids will delight in their victories along the way, especially wielding the axe that saves Jack and his mother from the Stromboli-esque giant, and will practice counting, patterning, color knowledge, piano melodies–not to mention reading skills and the underpinnings of narrative structure–along the way.–Sara Lissa Paulson, Librarian, PS 347 – “47″ The American Sign Language & English Lower School, NY, NY

For more app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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Best of Apps & Enhanced Books http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/best-of-apps-enhanced-books-march-2014/ http://www.slj.com/2014/03/reviews/apps/best-of-apps-enhanced-books-march-2014/#respond Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:00:06 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=88184 SLJ140301w APP Starting Shakespeare Best of Apps & Enhanced Books

Starting Shakespeare (Deeper Richer) © Mark Gilliland.

Journeys of Invention. (Touch Press/Science Museum). 2014. iOS, requires 7.0 or later. Version 1.0.1. Some content free, full content $9.99 as an in-app purchase.

Gr 6 Up -Viewers will experience the engagement and excitement of a virtual hands-on museum in this new iPad app. More than 80 inventions are presented on a web-like diagram that serves as an index. The inventions are grouped and billed as “journeys” under such themes such as “Mass Production,” “Industrial Inventions,” “Play,” and “New Science,” allowing users to follow a string of related technologies; they can also opt to browse randomly. Color coordinated paths and clean design featuring sharp images that pop out against the black background provide clear and fairly intuitive navigation; added support comes in the form of two drop-down indexes: one of journeys, and another, an alphabetical index of inventions. Wide historical coverage ranges from a Byzantine sundial calendar to a 3D-printed gun from 2013.

The visual elements are the highlight. Each entry has at least one photograph that can be rotated 360 degrees, archival images that can be enlarged to full screen, and/or film clips. More than a dozen inventions feature dynamic interactive elements. With the Apollo 10 Command Module, for example, viewers can take a virtual tour of the capsule, listen to the astronaut’s actual communications, view brief film clips of the crew on board and images of the Moon and the Earth taken from space.

Other interactive highlights allow users to focus Hooke’s 17th-century microscope, type a message into the Enigma encoder (developed at the end of World War I), and watch what happens when inappropriate objects are heated in a microwave (a CD, an egg, and bar of soap)–with strict warnings not to try it at home.

Two or three paragraphs of text provide background, dates, and details of each invention. Younger readers may find the vocabulary slightly challenging and the prose is occasionally awkward, but a consistent conversational tone, with measured use of intriguing facts, is generally effective.

Each entry ends with a list of the “maker,” date of creation, materials, and/or dimensions. Brief biographies, with images and dates, are provided for some inventors. While a free version with 15 of the items is available, the full package includes much more information as well as a fuller picture of the intriguing links between technologies throughout history.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR.

Starting Shakespeare. (Deeper Richer/ Bell Shakespeare). 2013. iOS, requires 6.1 or later. Version 1.0. $4.99.

Gr 5 Up –Shakespeare’s plays tend to leave high school students running for the hills, turned off by the language and ultimately missing out on some of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces. Is there a solution to this problem? Australia’s national theater company, Bell Shakespeare, thinks so. They’ve teamed up with the developer Deeper Richer to create an iPad app designed to help teachers introduce Shakespeare to students before they even get to high school. This cleanly designed and easy-to-use app provides brief historical overviews of Shakespeare’s world and work, as well as a variety of avenues for getting to know his plays, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, through narrated synopses with video dramatizations, short text and video profiles of the characters, enactments of “Key Scenes,” and fun, interactive “Learning Journeys.”

The scenes, performed by an energetic, engaging, and youthful cast (professional Bell Shakespeare actors), are accessible to younger learners. Sets, costumes, and props are minimal, yet have plenty of whimsy to keep things lively. The video quality is exceptionally high, perfect for projecting in classrooms.

Students can use the “Learning Journeys” to explore Shakespeare’s language in playful, creative, and cooperative ways. Activities include inventing and drawing new ingredients for the witches’ brew in Macbeth, then uploading the drawings with the camera; enhancing the witches’ spell by dragging and dropping Shakespearian adjectives into Shakespeare’s lines; writing new spells with the iPad’s virtual keyboard and recording read-throughs with the microphone; and, recording others acting out the newly created spells. Adding to the overall richness of Starting Shakespeare is a free teacher’s guide, available through iBooks, with lesson plans, additional learning activities, and curriculum tie-ins. Most definitely worth a try.–Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY.

Click here FOR MORE APP REVIEWS. Developers interested in submitting apps for review should send inquiries to dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com.

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/happy-birthday-dr-seuss-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/happy-birthday-dr-seuss-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 27 Feb 2014 18:22:10 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=87119  

Once again we celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2) with a round-up of his stories and Seuss-inspired titles, released as apps within the past 12 months. These include familiar tales and several new additions to the “Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library.” For a full list of what’s available, be sure to visit the Oceanhouse Media website. To date they’ve produced more than 40 Seuss titles (on sale for the b’day); a few free, lite versions; a Seuss bookshelf to store the digital editions; and some games and novelty items including the free Dr. Seuss Camera–Happy Birthday to You! Edition, which allows users to create birthday cards to decorate and store or email. To further extend the fun, don’t forget to check the Internet for one of the several available recipes for oobleck and bring a little science into storytime.

photo 196 170x170 Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go Readers won’t find many bells and whistles in this version of Dr. Seuss’s Bartholomew and the Oobleck (Oceanhouse Media, $4.99 for iOS, Android, and Nook; PreS–Gr 2)–the primary nod to the new format is found in animated scenes of green oobleck dripping, then dropping, then pouring down over the original black-and-white artwork (Random, 1949).

The long-playing story–a favorite among children–features the same boy children first met in The 500 Hats of Bartolomew Cubbins (1938), who here must deal with a bored King Derwin of Didd, now tired of the usual rain and fog and decides he would like something else to fall from the sky. The text is broken into manageable chunks, with one print page becoming two or three digitally, while the illustrations shift or zoom at each page turn. Interaction is limited to tapping a word or part of an illustration to have it labeled and spoken, keeping focus on the story. Children can choose to read to themselves, listen to the narrated version, or record a one of their own (it’s easy). There are added sound effects, and snatches of music open and close this story that incorporates a message about being able to say, “I’m sorry.” While not flashy, this version is likely to appeal to Bartholomew’s fans.–Shelley Harris, Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IL

photo 195 170x170 Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Daisy-Head Mayzie’ (Seuss)

Based on the Dr. Seuss book published posthumously in 1994 (Random), Daisy-Head Mayzie (Oceanhouse Media, $4.99, iOS, Android, Nook, PreS-Gr 2) is the outlandish tale of a girl who sprouts a blossom from her head. The girl is given the nickname of Daisy-Head Mayzie by her amused classmates while her distraught teacher seeks a solution to the daisy dilemma. After consulting with various experts, the girl embraces the growth on her head, goes the commerical route, and lives a life of fame and fortune until she realizes how much she misses her friends and family.

This lengthy story offers readers three modes: “Read to Me,” “Read to Myself,” and “Auto Play.” Playful music and sounds effects may be switched on or off, and users have the option of recording themselves reading the book. Children will enjoy the brightly colored illustrations based on sketches found in Dr. Seuss’ original manuscript. The humorous voices (especially the W.C. Field-inspired principal) provided by John Bell, complement this nonsensical story by Seuss.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

photo 194 170x170 Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today’ (Seuss)

Three classic Seuss stories (Random House, 1969) come to life in I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today, and Other Stories (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $5.98; Android, $4.99; PreS-Gr 1), a touch-friendly app. The title story follows a boastful character who brags about being able to beat “30 tigers.” He soon realizes his folly when the big cats show up, and his “30″ slowly decreases until he skittles off without delivering one lick. The monarch in “King Looie Katz,” recruits a subject to carry his royal tail around the realm. The nonsense escalates until everyone in the kingdom is holding the tail of the animal in front of them. “The Glunk That Got Thunk,” demonstrates the power of imagination when a young girl thinks up a creature that materializes and proves difficult to get rid of.

The original Seuss art and text is presented along with a few opportunities to interact with the whimsical tales. The professionally narrated “Read to Me” option features characters with distinct voices. Children follow along as highlighted words are pronounced and can touch objects to hear their labels voiced. (When choosing “Auto Play” viewers must listen to the entire story as a “Home” icon is not available in this mode.) Added features include the ability to record a personal narration, allowing endless possibilities for creative expression and fun; tips for parents; and a user-friendly interface. Dr. Seuss’s silly rhymes and subtle life lessons shine through in these lesser-known tales, and their availability on phones and tablets will keep his magic alive for generations to come.–Diane Sustin, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH­­­­

photo 200 170x170 Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go Bonnie Worth’s If I Ran the Rain Forest, (Random, 2003; Oceanhouse Media, iOS $5.99; K-Gr2 ), takes viewers on an informative tour of this lush and leafy habitat. In this addition to “The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library” children learn about the types of rainforests, their different levels, and some of the plants and animals and that live and thrive in each one. Each colorful page features bright illustrations by Aristides Ruiz (many labeled), sounds from the animals that inhabit the rain forest, as well as musical interludes. Along with The Cat in the Hat, who guides the tour, Thing 1 and 2 make appearances, adding information and defining words. There are minor animations throughout and users can move some characters and creatures about in the scenery. A menu for parents explains how to use the app, but children will find it easy to operate on their own. In addition to a narrated story, users can choose to read on their own, or record a narration. There is loads of information here for children first learning about the rain forest.–Omar Ramirez, Northlake Public Library, Northlake, IL

photo 193 300x225 Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Miles and Miles of Reptiles.’ (Rabe) Riuz

Adopting characters and a rhyme scheme from Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, this version (Oceanhouse Media, $3.99; Gr 1-Gr 2) of Tish Rabe’s Miles and Miles of Reptiles (Random, 2009) offers beginner readers a basic introduction to some cold-blooded creatures. The wily feline of Cat in the Hat fame invites Sally and Dick into his crocodile car, where his sidekicks Thing 1 and 2 accompany them to visit various reptile habitats. Users can choose to listen to the enthusiastic narration, or read the text on their own, with an option to record their voices. Narrated text highlights each word as spoken, offering pop-up definitions for bolded text. A tap to any item elicits its spoken name.

Illustrations by Aristides Ruiz of lizards, snakes, turtles, tortoises, crocodiles are included with many facts about the species. Things 1 and 2 enter scenes holding signs with related information or definitions. Some animation is incorporated such as the repetitive flick of tongue that catches a fly; viewers will also witness the chameleon’s change of color when adopting a fighting stance. Users can move reptiles and figures about on the screen. A tap to an arrow will turn a page or provide menu options.– Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

photo 198 170x170 Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Clam I Am’ (Rabe) Ruiz and Mathieu

The shore and its wildlife are explored in Tish Rabe’s Clam-I-Am! (Oceanhouse Media, $5.99; PreS-Gr4) based on the book of the same title (2005) in Random House’s  “Learning Library“ series.  While out movie-making with a fish, The Cat in the Hat, Things 1 and 2, and  Clam-I-Am, the children Dick and Sally explore the coast. Together they learn about horseshoe crabs, sea stars, mollusks, the varieties of seaweed, sand fleas, seagulls, sandpipers, jellyfish, and barnacles as well as tides and tidal pools. Children’s tools for examining the shore and recreational activities are defined and people’s effect on the coastal environment is subtly referenced. In a sequence called “Go Ask the Fish” questions answered include: why the ocean looks blue, why sea water is salty and getting saltier, and how wind causes waves.

Beginning readers, English language learners, and children studying characteristics and needs of living things will find this a useful informational text. Minimal animations are accompanied by the sound of waves splashing. Tapping on items in the illustrations by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu will bring forth  a label and voiced word, while a tap to a word in bold font draws a definition. Written in simple four-line rhyme scheme, Clam-I-Am presents facts in a way children will remember.–Karen Jeremiah, Mary Scroggs Elementary School, Chapel Hill, NC

photo 199 170x170 Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘My, Oh My – A Butterfly!’ (Rabe) Ruiz and Mathieu

With traditional Seuss characters and a rhyming text, the infamous feline in a red-and-white striped hat teaches Sally and Dick about the butterfly life cycle from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to My, Oh My–a Butterfly! (Oceanhouse Media $5.99; K-Gr 4), in an app based on Tish Rabe’s book of the same title (Random, 2007), illustrated by Artistides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu. Thing 1 and Thing 2 tag along and help, offering viewers further explanations. By the conclusion, children have been introduced to several butterfly species, including the Tiger Swallowtail and Monarch.

A “Read to Me” option features a well-paced narration with a varied and engaging inflection. Words are highlighted (and enunciated) as they are read. Custom background sounds are present throughout the book. Readers also have the option of recording their own narration, and these personalized recordings may be shared with anyone who has the app.

Interactive features are both entertaining and educational. A tap defines words in bold and allows readers to see and hear the name of any object. A blinking star on the screen, when touched, provides further details. Children are able to move and manipulate all the animated pictures on the screen. Navigation is seamless; a quick tap to the downward arrow at the bottom of the screen provides a simple menu with options for home, page selection, voice recording, and parents. Overall, this is a welcome addition for all Seuss fans and budding butterfly enthusiasts.–Amber Hooper, Oak Park & River Forest High School, Oak Park, IL

 For last year’s selection of Seuss apps, see “The ‘Very Serious Nonsense’ of Dr. Seuss.”

For additional app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

 

 

 

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The Intergalactic Duo Is Back & Bowling | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-intergalactic-duo-is-back-bowling-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-intergalactic-duo-is-back-bowling-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 19 Feb 2014 22:08:28 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=87204 Earlier Cognitive Kid apps have taken a playful approach to teaching children about a variety of subjects from dinosaurs to geography. But, as our reviewer Mary Ann Scheuer notes, the focus of their latest production, Ansel & Clair: American Bowl is on the game.

Ansel1 225x300 The Intergalactic Duo Is Back & Bowling | Touch and Go

Opening screen from ‘Ansel & Clair: American Bowl’ (Cognitive Kid)

Ansel and Clair, the time-traveling intergalactic duo who brought viewers along on explorations to the Revolutionary War and Africa, are off to learn all about America–but dastardly pirates have captured their avian friends who need their help. Users join in to help the eagles by answering trivia questions and playing a bowling game, releasing a Bald Eagle and earning custom bowling balls as they successfully knock down pins.

Correct answers earn players the choice of different bowling power-ups, increasing the fun. Multiple-choice style questions address a number of topics on American history, geography, and government including historical figures and events, flags and symbols, discoveries and inventions, and the Constitution. A real strength of Ansel & Clair: American Bowl ($4.99; Gr 2-5) is the way in which players can customize the levels of difficulty and select specific topics. The settings also allow them to switch the background music and sound effects on or off. Up to four players can create separate log-ins, a helpful feature for families and classrooms.

The app design, especially the pacing, clearly emphasizes the game aspect over the learning opportunities. If children successfully answer a question, they are taken directly to the bowling game and end up spending more time there. If they answer a question incorrectly, the app briefly highlights the correct answer and then quickly adds a new question. Stack the States, another trivia app aimed at the same audience, presents the correct answer for longer and in a more visually striking manner—helping kids learn as they play. The best learning games present opportunities for young players to acquire new knowledge, not just reward them for what they already know.–-Mary Ann Scheuer, Librarian, Emerson School, Berkeley Unified School District, and Great Kid Books

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