School Library Journal» Apps http://www.slj.com The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sun, 19 Oct 2014 10:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 Brian Cox’s ‘Wonders of Life’ | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/10/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/brian-coxs-wonders-of-life-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/10/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/brian-coxs-wonders-of-life-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:30:01 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=112289 photo 162 300x225 Brian Coxs Wonders of Life | Touch and GoHe refers to himself as a bit of an “academic ” and lucky for us he is. Brian Cox is also a highly engaging, enthusiastic teacher of all things science. His Wonders of the Universe app, based on a BBC series, is an immersive exploration of our solar system and beyond. In his latest production, Wonders of Life, Cox delves into the origins and mysteries of life on Earth. Amy Shepherd reviews it below.

In Wonders of Life (HarperCollins/William Collins, iOS, $4.99; Gr 4 Up) Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen have created a magnificent app that will vastly expand users’ knowledge of myriad life-science topics. Life is packed with information, delivered via a comprehensive text and illuminating commentary, graphics, two-plus hours of HD video, and more than 1,000 high-resolution and 30 3-D images of creatures and their habitats. The visuals are breathtakingly beautiful, enticing viewers to explore more deeply.

photo 171 300x225 Brian Coxs Wonders of Life | Touch and Go

Interior image from Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life (HarperCollins/William Collins)

The app is comprised of 74 main pages or articles, each with multiple subtopics that can be accessed through an illustrated bar of thumbnails along the bottom of the screen. From the menu bar, the pages can be sorted by continent and information under the categories of “sensory,” “microscopic,” and “elements and processes,” while a search box locates topics of interest by keyword. Viewers will travel with their host to a variety of locations around the world for a look at plant and animal life that thrives in the cenote caves of North America to Madagascar for a close-up look at the aye-aye and its “strange suite of adaptation” (rodentlike teeth and a ball-and-socket joint). Other discussions and explorations include such topics as the origins of life, the life cycle, a common ancestor, the carbon cycle, and the golden jellyfish.

Although the production is well organized, not everyone may find the arrangement intuitive. Users will want to take the time to explore the production’s nuances (there’s a guide), so as not to miss any of its detailed and complex content. Musical interludes play as viewers browse. Sound quality is excellent throughout.

photo 170 300x225 Brian Coxs Wonders of Life | Touch and Go

Brian Cox prepares to demonstrate how an electric field can bend a stream of water  (HarperCollins)

An Internet connection is necessary to stream video and there are more resources available for those who wish to register. Users can share or post images through their social media accounts. While the core audience is secondary students and adults, younger children will appreciate the stunning photography; all will gain a deeper appreciation for our planet and the intricacies of life. A worthy investment and a fantastic resource for students.—Amy Shepherd, Librarian, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middletown, DE

Eds. note: Video clips from the series are available on the BBC website.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/10/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/brian-coxs-wonders-of-life-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
The Civil Rights Movement & More | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books http://www.slj.com/2014/10/technology/apps-tech/the-civil-rights-movement-more-best-of-apps-enhanced-books/ http://www.slj.com/2014/10/technology/apps-tech/the-civil-rights-movement-more-best-of-apps-enhanced-books/#respond Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=110448 SLJ1410w APP HisDreamOUrStories The Civil Rights Movement  & More | Best of Apps & Enhanced BooksHis Dream, Our Stories: The Legacy of the March On Washington. Terry Golway. (MetroDigi, Comcast NBCUniversal). 2013. iOS, requires 7.0 or later. Free, via the iBook app.

Gr 6 Up –Outstanding writing and more than 20 compelling videos combine to tell the story of the 1963 gathering on the Washington Mall that culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Among the many who braved the overwhelming crowds (estimated between 200,000 and 300,000) and record-breaking heat to attend—and/or share their stories here—were Jesse Jackson, Mamie Chalmers, Peter Yarrow, and Andrew Young. In addition to reminiscences of that day, the app provides context for each vignette with details on the Greensboro sit-ins, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Detroit Walk to Freedom, and the Atlanta Student Movement.

Among the video narratives is Jesse Jackson’s account of his arrest in Greensboro, NC; his comments on Dr. King’s “broken promise” message; and his memories of the civil rights leader’s death. Other visuals include black-and-white archival photos of individuals, events, and documents, often several to a screen.

Originally written to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, this updated e-version includes fascinating bonus material including interviews with event organizers Roy Wilkins and Dr. King just days prior to the event. There’s also an interactive component that allows readers to upload and save their own stories and photos for personal use and/or sharing. An excellent springboard for further study or classroom discussion.–Celeste Steward, Alameda County Library

SLJ1410w APP HowIBecameAPirate The Civil Rights Movement  & More | Best of Apps & Enhanced BooksHow I Became a Pirate. Melinda Long. (Oceanhouse Media). illus. by David Shannon. 2014. iOS, requires, 6.1 or later. Version 2.6. $3.99.

PreS-Gr 1 –Ahoy, mateys! Did you hear? Melinda Long’s picture book illustrated by the inimitable David Shannon is now an app. The story tells of one Jeremy Jacob’s adventure with a group of pirates during a family outing to the beach. The scalaways are looking for a spot to bury treasure and someone to do it, and spying Jeremy’s sand castle causes them to realize, “He’s a digger, he is, and a good one to boot!”

A sea chantey plays in the background on opening the app and sound effects such as crashing waves, squawking seagulls, and booming thunder can be heard throughout. Shannon’s bold illustrations display well on the iPad and slight animations, including characters that blink, a rowboat that rocks, and falling rain, add to the liveliness.

Children can choose to read the story independently or listen to the winning narration that alternates between the gruff tones of Braid Beard the pirate and Jeremy’s young voice. One feature provides children with the opportunity to record their own narration. A charming story, enhanced by the iPad’s capabilities.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

SLJ1410w APP SpiesofMississippi The Civil Rights Movement  & More | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books

Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary. (Joe Zeff Design) 2014. iOS, requires 6.0 or later. Version 1.0.5. Free.

Gr 7 Up –A stunning combination of the written word and the visual arts. The app, based on the book by Rick Bowers (National Geographic, 2010; also an iBook) and Dawn Porter’s documentary film of the same title (Trilogy Films, 2014 ), takes viewers inside the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission’s (MSSC) clandestine, “state-funded” campaign to maintain racial segregation in the state during the 1950s and ’60s. As noted in the foreword of Bowers’s book, the history of the MSSC is a story that involves “spies and counterspies, agents and double agents, informants and infiltrators…[along with] dedicated civil rights workers and fearless student activists, truth-telling journalists and justice-seeking lawyers who dared to challenge the status quo.” This will be a shocking history lesson to most, and the app combines text; archival photos; police reports and other documents (some made public as recently as 1998); and film clips (introduced with music), to tell the story.

The MSSC actively sought to thwart the work of civil rights activists before, during, and after the 1964 Freedom Summer, and the book, film, and app draw connections between it and the activities of the white supremacist organizations, including the deaths of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Interactive biographies of individuals that make appearances in Porter’s film are provided as well as three film segments and a time line containing numerous resources.

Extensive Common Core-aligned lesson plans with weblinks and discussion questions for grades 6-8 and 9-12 are offered along with an “all grades” resource list and suggestions for related enrichment activities. A first-rate production.–Joy Davis, Ouachita Parish Public Library, Monroe, LA

For additional app reviews visit the Touch and Go webpage.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/10/technology/apps-tech/the-civil-rights-movement-more-best-of-apps-enhanced-books/feed/ 0
A Virtuoso Performance: ‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons’ | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/10/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-virtuoso-performance-vivaldis-four-seasons-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/10/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-virtuoso-performance-vivaldis-four-seasons-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:43:36 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=111430 A new app from Touch Press is always cause for celebration. This one combines an illuminating text, insightful video commentary, and two acclaimed performances in an examination of the life of Antonio Lucio Vivaldi and his most famous work.

photo 74 300x225 A Virtuoso Performance: Vivaldis Four Seasons | Touch and Go

Suzy Klein introduces ‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons’ (Touch Press/Grammophon)

In Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (iOS, $10.99; Gr 9 Up), Touch Press, with the help of Deutsche Grammophon, has engineered a production that mirrors the groundbreaking work this developer accomplished in Beethoven’s 9th and the Liszt Sonata in B Minor.

On opening the app, viewers have the option of beginning with a brief history of Antonio Lucio Vivaldi’s life and composition or one of the two complete performances of the Four Seasons:  the celebrated interpretation by Trevor Pinnock or Max Richter’s Recomposition, an “unmistakable homage to the original.”

The history covers the composer, violinist, and cleric’s life from his birth in Venice in 1678 to his death in 1741, his career highlights, and the “genius and modernity” of his work. Each of the violin concertos in the Four Seasons (“Spring,” “Summer,” “Autumn,” and “Winter”) is examined in detail through bar-by-bar descriptions of the music and information on the four sonnets originally printed with them. Interspersed is video commentary by cultural critics and musicians (Suzy Klein, Daniel Hope, and Avi Avital), who discuss the works in general terms and consider the technical aspects of the compositions. Topics addressed include the rediscovery of Vivaldi in the 20th century; the composer’s “operatic mind”; his use of the violin; and the two recordings offered here, with audio selections.

Sound quality is excellent throughout. A BeatMap consisting of dots representing the various instruments of the orchestra is visible as users listen to either of the performances. (Pulsating dots indicate when their corresponding instruments are playing.) Bars stretching across the bottom of the screen keep time and note the measure, while a tap to a treble clef symbol will bring up sheet music for individual instruments.

The Pinnock performance adds a third bar to the screen, presenting a choice between “sonnet” and music “commentary.” For example, just moments into “Winter,” the “sonnet” view reads: “In the strong blasts of a terrible wind….” Under commentary, this note appears: “A virtuosic ‘harsh blast’ of wind from the violin primo….” The Richter performance provides three simultaneous views of the musicians and a Beatmap, any of which can be enlarged to full screen. (Holding a finger on the map will solo each section.)

While this is a deep and complex production, both fans of classical music and those interested in learning more about Vivaldi and/or music will find much to enjoy in this splendid app. Schools with music programs, libraries with music collections, and any collection experimenting with circulating iPads should consider it an essential purchase.–Mark Richardson, Cedar Mill Community Library, Portland, OR

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/10/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-virtuoso-performance-vivaldis-four-seasons-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
The New News-O-Matic | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-new-news-o-matic-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-new-news-o-matic-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 13:28:40 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=109859 news 300x225 The New News O Matic | Touch and Go

What do kids make of the snippets of world news they hear, see on the news, or read as headlines passing by newsstands? While educators agree that producing informed global citizens is an important goal, few outlets present this information for young students.

News-O-Matic, a subscription app launched in June 2013 by Press4Kids, delivers news and human interest stories five days a week to children. The app, which is available for iOS and Android, has been downloaded in classrooms, libraries, and homes in 147 countries has earned high praise from Teachers with Apps, the American Association of School Librarians, and other educational organizations. Its recent enhancements are bound to garner more attention.

The five daily stories, which are written between first to sixth grade reading levels (Lexile 450–1050) and average 200–300 words, are posted under such headings as “Kids in the News,” “Around the World,” “Wacky,” or “Discovery.” Features present information in a variety of formats, serving a range of different learning styles. Each article is accompanied by a variety of sharp color photos and reproductions and a map loaded with extras. Many of the articles include time lines and graphics, and links within the articles allow children to access additional photos, a related video, audio definitions, and an “actionable” suggestion (”Take steps in your life to go green. Try to use less energy, for example.”).

volcano 300x225 The New News O Matic | Touch and GoRecent stories have included “U.S. Troops Head to Iraq,” coverage of the NATO summit in Wales,  President Obama’s September 10th speech (video clip included), Scotland’s independence referendum, and the People’s Climate March. The start of the NFL season, a dinosaur discovery, a “Volcano Warning in the Philippines,” and Malala Yousafzai have also been the subject of recent posts. Children can access up to 10 previous issues, or a total of 50 stories. There are no outside links or advertising, and each article is vetted by a psychologist.

In August, a Spanish-language option was added under the “Read-to-Me” icon in Android editions—and will soon be available for iOS and Kindle subscriptions. While the app has been used with struggling readers and exceptional learners through middle school, Lillian Holtzclaw Stern, founder of Press4Kids, notes that the Spanish-language option has been a boon to ESL classrooms and the global community Press4 Kids continues to build, particularly through its interactive options.

These options are one of News-O-Matic’s strong features, appreciated by readers who rate stories; submit questions, artwork, and letters to the editor; and participate in surveys designed to get them thinking about and debating such issues as “Should plastic bags be banned?” “Should France sell the Mona Lisa be sold to help reduce its debt?” and “Should the Redskins change their name?” (Thirty thousand reader interactions per week are the norm, and a number are published daily.) There are also daily jigsaw puzzles, a mystery word, and an event to consider and place in a time line.

newsomaticguide web 252x300 The New News O Matic | Touch and GoA Teacher’s Guide is sent late in the afternoon for the following day’s edition. For each upcoming article, a Lexile level and a Common Core State Standard is offered, along with a multiple choice and discussion question and a vocabulary word or words. Worksheets (handy charts, organizers, etc.) are provided that will have kids answering simple questions related to individual stories. While not all questions or activities call children’s critical-thinking skills into play, they do allow for review and teachers may want to use them for a quick comprehension assessment.

Outside of the new Spanish-language listening option and MLA citations for each article, most of the app’s recent enhancements are designed for teachers. Educators can log in with Google+ or Edmodo Connect, create a class, choose reading levels for each student or group, and set up an analytical dashboard. Daily reading and comprehension assessments are embedded, which deliver data on students and classes. Teachers can also chat with the classroom. All of these options are available on Android and will be arriving very soon on iOS. What’s does the future hold for News-O-Matic? Both a parent portal and a middle school edition, reports Stern.

Weekly, monthly, and yearly rates are available for the app’s consumer version (free download and in app-purchase after 10 trial editions, iOS and Android). Site licenses are also available. The yearly rate for a school is $9.99. However, apps purchased through Apple’s volume program (VPP) are discounted 50 percent for more than 20 downloads.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-new-news-o-matic-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
Ken Burns, Curated | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/ken-burns-curated-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/ken-burns-curated-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:27:37 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=109401 photo8 300x225 Ken Burns, Curated | Touch and GoKen Burns has been busy. The award-winning filmmaker’s seven-part television series, The Roosevelts, recently premiered on PBS, and Ken Burns, the app, was just released (Ken Burns LLC/Big Spaceship/Red Glass; iOS, Free lite version, $9.99 in-app full version; Gr 9 Up).

The app is both a visual time line of American history and a thematic compilation of clips from Burns’s documentaries, which have been praised  for their wide-angle treatments incorporating interviews and archival photos and videos. The time line, which also serves as an index, is a string of discs featuring images from the documentaries covering aspects of our nation’s history from 1619 to the present. Each disc is a link to a short clip from one of Burns’s feature-length films or series. The discs bunch up between the years 1850 and 1950—a period he has spent much time researching for “The Civil War” (1990); “Jazz” (2001); “The Dust Bowl” (2012); “The War” (2007); and other histories.

Viewers can travel the time line following the sequence of excerpts chronologically through the centuries, hop from clip to clip pursuing their interests, or access all the clips available under a film title (excerpts from 25 films are available).

photo3 300x225 Ken Burns, Curated | Touch and GoThe excerpts are also curated. Under the themes of “Art,” “Hard Times,” “Innovation,” “Politics,” “Race,” “War,” and “Leadership” are 3 to 20 scenes selected by Burns from his films. In his introduction, the filmmaker states that these groupings or “playlists” allow viewers to see history through a different lens. The past “is just random events. However, over the course of time we see things emerging. Patterns. Interconnections. In the case of history, it’s all about ghosts…if you are aware, then history becomes that guide to the present, and you are able to participate not just in that moment, but in all moments.”

photo5 300x225 Ken Burns, Curated | Touch and Go

Screen from “Chinese Exclusion” from the film ‘The West.’

The playlists offer viewers opportunities to make numerous connections, including those that Burns points out in his introductions to each set: connections between perceptions of the political situation during the prohibition era and our reading of the current political climate, the thread of race through the American narrative, and how war brings out the worst in humankind and sometimes the best. And the list goes on. Under “Hard Times,” for example, are 10 scenes including the clips titled “Share the Wealth” from the film Huey Long; “Hunger and Thirst” from Prohibition; “FDR’s Fireside Chat” from Empire of the Air; and “Hard Times” from The Dust Bowl. The free “lite” version of the app includes the entire “Innovation” playlist—14 scenes from 10 different films. Topics related to art, music, and sports (particularly baseball), also make frequent appearances.

Functionality is smooth, the clips load quickly, and both visual and sound quality are excellent. A “Watch the Film” tab (on static screens) brings viewers to local PBS stations to view the full-length films, and/or to iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon where they can purchase the episodes and/or series. A thoughtful look at the panorama of American history and one man’s oeuvre.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

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

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/ken-burns-curated-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
Fresh Ideas for iPad Maker Programming | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/fresh-ideas-for-ipad-maker-programming-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/fresh-ideas-for-ipad-maker-programming-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:06:15 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=108845 School Library Journal draws on a small but dedicated group of reviewers that spend hours exploring, comparing, and evaluating apps. I value their opinions and am always eager to hear how they are using apps in their libraries. Recently I asked Cindy Wall to to update me on her app programming. She and her colleague Lynn Pawloski, authors of The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and ‘Tween Library Programs (Libraries Unlimited, 2014), responded.

Even with three decades of experience between us, working in both school and public libraries, we’re always on the lookout for inspiration. For the past three years, iPads have provided a wellspring of ideas and enhanced our children’s programming at the Southington Public Library in Connecticut. The following are three activities we have presented, each one designed for a different age group.

photo 300x225 Fresh Ideas for iPad Maker Programming | Touch and GoBudding tween iPad and film enthusiasts will be fascinated by the opportunity to create a stop-motion film from still photographs in the tradition of Wallace and Gromit, Gumby, The Nightmare Before Christmas. With the Stop Motion Studio app they can work independently and control all aspects of their cinematic experiments (iPad camera, props, plot, dialogue, music, etc.). But be forewarned: this activity may require four to eight hours to produce a film longer than a few seconds. However, it’s the perfect activity in a school library after a morning of testing or in an afterschool program, or in a public library over a weekend or holiday break.

A Stop Motion Film Workshop should include an introduction to the history of the stop motion film technique—clips from related films, an explanation of visual storytelling and accompanying tools, such as storyboards or shot lists. [It's also a great opportunity to mention or booktalk Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007) featuring film pioneer and inventor Georges Méliès.]

The Stop Motion Studio app is intuitive and easy to use, but a live demonstration of its functionality is recommended. Devote the majority of the workshop to filming and kids are bound to come up with some unique productions. Consider capping the activity with a film premiere for faculty, friends, and/or family to showcase the children’s hard work and newly acquired skills. In addition to being creative and fun, the program is a great self-esteem and confidence-building activity.

photo1 225x300 Fresh Ideas for iPad Maker Programming | Touch and GoWhile the iPad is the star of the above workshop, it plays a supporting role in our iZen Garden Program. During this activity, children ages 7-10 will learn about Eastern culture while practicing the ancient art of relaxation through the arrangement and re-arrangement of garden elements. Media specialists might present the activity as a curriculum extension for a unit on Japan while public librarians might include it in their Maker offerings.

The program should include an overview of what zen gardens are featuring a multimedia presentation of both traditional and contemporary styles, an exploration of the iZen Garden app, and the creation of tabletop gardens.

The app allows users to create a virtual garden as they experiment with a variety of styles, compositions, and designs. It encourages exploration and provides choices such as fossils, plants, and butterflies. To create a physical tabletop garden, participants can use boxes or plastic containers; sand of various colors; and design elements such as stones, marbles, and aquarium beads. Tools, such as plastic fork rakes, will be helpful. Participants can keep their end products: sensory art projects that are reinvented each time the elements are repositioned.

photo2 300x225 Fresh Ideas for iPad Maker Programming | Touch and GoWhile Stop Motion Film and iZen Garden programming can be adapted for a range of ages, an “Our Maker Neighborhood” environment is just right for the youngest students and patrons. Transform your classroom or media center into a simulated community designed to encourage free play with stations representing local institutions.

The elements of the environment may include a “Touch-a-Tech Station” consisting of iPads loaded with simple Maker apps; “the Museum,” a table of basic art projects; “the Theater,” incorporating costumes, puppets, and musical instruments; “the Garment District,” comprised of activities for children learning to dress themselves (lacing, tying, buttoning, zippering); and a “Construction Junction” area for blocks, tools, and trucks. Together the stations provide developmental opportunities in motor and problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and language, as well as exercises in creative and divergent thinking, social play, perseverance, and concentration.

There are a variety of Maker apps available for use with this target audience. Some of our favorites are: Grandpa’s Workshop, Grandma’s Kitchen, Toca Builders, Playart, Art Maker, ColAR, Leo’s Pad, Pettson’s Inventions (1 & 2), Morton Subotnick’s Pitch Painter, Play Lab, Sago Mini Doodlecast, Bamba Toys and Wombi Helicopter. New apps are released daily and we are constantly updating our lists. You can find our favorites for this and other programs on our dedicated Pinterest page. All of the apps mentioned in this post cost less than $5.00 and several are free.

The number of iPads with which your school or library has access to impacts the way your programs should be planned and held. All of the above suggestions may be offered with one iPad that participants share or use in turn. Don’t let the number of tablets you own dictate whether or not you present any program; create class projects with one iPad, group projects with multiple iPads and individual projects with a 1:1 iPad to child ratio. Small details can derail an activity, so be sure to charge your iPads and install the relevant app(s) before the day of the lesson or event.

The programs listed promote engaging, hands-on opportunities for learning, but preparation is the key to presenting an optimal experience. Step-by-step instructions are included in our book The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and ‘Tween Library Programs (Libraries Unlimited, 2014).

Cindy Wall is the Head of Children’s Services at Southington Public Library in Southington, CT.
Lynn Pawloski is a Children’s Librarian with the Southington Public Library in Southington, CT.

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

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/fresh-ideas-for-ipad-maker-programming-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
Classic Tales for the iPad | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/classic-tales-for-the-ipad-best-of-apps-enhanced-books/ http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/classic-tales-for-the-ipad-best-of-apps-enhanced-books/#respond Fri, 05 Sep 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=107231 SLJ1409w APP PIERRE LE LOUP Classic Tales for the iPad | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books

Pierre et le loup. (Peter and the Wolf) Sergueï Prokofiev. Camera Lucida/Radio France/France Télévisions. 2014; iOS, requires 5.1 or later. Version 1.1. $3.99.

Gr 1 Up –This beautiful and whimsical version of Prokofiev’s classic 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 a child interacting with members of the L’Orchestre national de France and musical director Daniel Gatti. Throughout, scenes incorporate the use of colorful backgrounds, silhouettes, various fonts, and musical notations. While the limited narration is in French, all can enjoy the movie.

The 10 interactive activities are 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. 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 as they try to snap of photo of le loup as it creeps through in the woods. In another, as viewers hold the iPad, they can turn it to 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. This wonderful exploration of a classic symphony for children won the prestigious 2014 BolgnaRagazzi Digital Award in the nonfiction category.–Leanne Bowler, School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh

SLJ1409w APP Heaney FiveFables Classic Tales for the iPad | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books

Seamus Heaney: Five Fables. Touch Press/Flickerpix/Faber and Faber. 2014. iOS, requires 7.0 or later. Version 1.0.0. $11.99.

Gr 4 Up –For selection purposes, the most important words in this title are “Seamus Heaney.” Yes, that Seamus Heaney—winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, acclaimed translator of Beowulf. The plots of the five featured fables (“The Two Mice,” “The Lion and the Mouse,” “The Preaching of the Swallow,” “The Fox, the Wolf and the Carter,” and “The Fox, the Wolf and the Farmer”) will be familiar to any reader of Aesop, but Heaney’s brilliant and accessible translations of these works, originally written in verse by Scottish author Robert Henryson in the 1400s, is vastly more complex than the picture book versions readers may be imagining.

There are three access points to the fables. There’s Heaney’s translation, which can be read with or without the actor Billy Connolly’s rich narration. Ian Johnson also guides listeners as he reads and smooths out the puzzling vocabulary of Middle Scots, while the sly and charming animated versions emphasize the setting, characterizations, and humor of each story, with musical accompaniment, and a choice of either narration.

All the elegant elements that mark Touch Press apps are present. An illuminating introduction opens the production and more complex information is presented as users go deeper into the app. The stories are annotated; a tap to the “commentary” icon brings up notes which are displayed side-by-side with the corresponding text. Fables also includes a number of valuable video clips featuring commentary by Connolly, and Heaney and other scholars, providing background and opinion on the vocabulary, context, translation, morals, and Henryson. Navigating between the features is easy.

Those looking for connections to state standards will find them straightforward; for example, ample opportunities to apply the Common Core English Language Arts Reading Literature standard (4) which focuses on the analysis of a writer’s craft and word choice, or the Reading Literature standard (10) that asks students to analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material are both present. Upper elementary and middle school students can contrast the animated versions to simpler retellings. High school students will marvel at Heaney’s thoughtful translation as they compare it to the original text and will benefit from the different readings, the commentary on the translation, and the scholarly insights. A stellar production offering plenty to delight and amaze.–Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Teacher Librarian, Seattle Public Schools.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/09/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/classic-tales-for-the-ipad-best-of-apps-enhanced-books/feed/ 0
The March Goes On | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-march-goes-on-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-march-goes-on-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:02:41 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=105934 The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom last August saw the release of a number of new resources on that historic day and the Civil Rights Movement. This year, two of those resources have iPad iterations. Both include text, images, and videos that are essential viewing for students studying the era. Add them to your collection today. Both are free. 

photo3 300x225 The March Goes On | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘His Dream, Our Stories’ (Comcast NBCUniversal)

Those seeking information on the 1963 March on Washington will find a wealth of material on that event—and others that led up to it—in Terry Golway’s powerful His Dream, Our Stories: the Legacy of the March On Washington (MetroDigi, Comcast NBCUniversal, Free, via the iBook app; Gr 6 Up). Outstanding writing and more than 20 compelling videos tell the story of the gathering on the Washington Mall that culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Among the many who braved the overwhelming crowds (estimated between 200,000 and 300,000) and record-breaking heat to attend—and/or share their stories here—were Jesse Jackson, Mamie Chalmers, Peter Yarrow, and Andrew Young. In addition to reminiscences of that day, the app provides context for each vignette with details on the Greensboro sit-ins, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Detroit Walk to Freedom, and the Atlanta Student Movement.

Mamie Chalmers remembers hearing Dr. King speak at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. She talks about her arrest (and five days in jail) after sitting down for sandwiches where African Americans weren’t being served, and her participation in a demonstration where she was sprayed with water from a high-pressure hose that resulted in permanent hearing loss in one ear. Jesse Jackson recounts his arrest in Greensboro, NC, Dr. King’s “broken promise” message, his memories of the civil rights leader’s death, and talks about the work that still needs to be accomplished.

The numerous visuals include black-and-white archival photos of individuals, events, and documents, often several to a screen. Originally written to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, this updated e-version includes fascinating bonus material including interviews with event organizers Roy Wilkins and Dr. King just days prior to the march. There’s also an interactive component that allows readers to upload and save their own stories and photos for personal use and/or sharing on social media. Readers can also submit a story for possible inclusion in a future edition.

Viewers will come away with a better understanding of the era and be able to grasp the enormity of the struggle for freedom as they listen to the voices of those who were part of the movement. An excellent springboard for further study or classroom discussion.—Celeste Steward, Alameda County Library

photo4 300x225 The March Goes On | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Spies of Mississippi’ (Jeff Zeff Design)

Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary (Joe Zeff Design, Free; Gr 7 Up) is an amazing collaboration between the written word and visual arts. The app, based on the book by Rick Bowers (National Geographic, 2010; also an iBook) and Dawn Porter’s documentary film of the same title (Trilogy Films, 2014 ), takes viewers inside the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission’s (MSSC) clandestine, “state-funded” campaign to maintain racial segregation in the state during the 1950s and ’60s. As noted in the foreword of Bowers’s book, the history of the MSSC is a story that involves “spies and counterspies, agents and double agents, informants and infiltrators…[along with] dedicated civil rights workers and fearless student activists, truth-telling journalists and justice-seeking lawyers who dared to challenge the status quo.” This will be a shocking history lesson to most, and the app combines text; archival photos; police reports and other documents (some made public as recently as 1998); and film clips (introduced with music), to tell the story.

The MSSC actively sought to thwart the work of civil rights activists before, during, and after the 1964 Freedom Summer, and the book, film, and app draw connections between it and the activities of the white supremacist organizations, including the deaths of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Interactive biographies of individuals that make appearances in Porter’s film are provided as well as three film segments and a timeline containing numerous resources.

photo2 300x225 The March Goes On | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Spies of Mississippi’ (Jeff Zeff Design)

Teachers will appreciate the extensive Common Core aligned lessons plans with weblinks and discussion questions for grades 6-8 and 9-12 as well as an “all grades” resource list and suggestions for related enrichment activities. Students will be fascinated with the story and find the app’s visual elements particularly compelling. Also available are additional stories of citizens’ experiences during the era, submitted through a joint venture sponsored by the Library of Congress and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and hosted on the AARP website. Viewers can also submit their own stories. A first-rate production.—Joy Davis, Ouachita Parish Public Library, Monroe, LA

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

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-march-goes-on-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
A Mystery Unravels | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-mystery-unravels-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-mystery-unravels-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:58:10 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=105928 Prepare to spend time with this app. On opening it you’ll find yourself in a labyrinth and a mystery, and it’s up to you to decide where the story goes. Download the first chapter (it’s free) and experience the adventure described below.

loose strands 225x300 A Mystery Unravels | Touch and GoRoland Bartholomew Dexter III lives a life of rigid rules and inflexible routines. His family runs a barbershop that, oddly, has only one customer. The boy works in the shop sweeping the floor and, because his family is so poor, helps to recycle the hair into everything his family needs from clothing to (gross!) dinner (hairburgers, toupée brûlée, anyone?). The most important rule, according to his parents, is that Roland never ever go outside. The boy begins considering the possibility that his family is trapped and that the rules are meant to keep them inside. Soon, however, thanks to a visit from a girl named Becky, Roland discovers that his dreams of the outside may well be the key to saving his family.

photo1 225x300 A Mystery Unravels | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Loose Strands’ (Darned Sock) Frizzell

In the vein of the wildly popular stories in which readers are able to dictate the direction the story takes, Markian Moyes’s Loose Strands (Darned Sock Productions, $4.99; Gr 3-6) illustrated by Jeff Frizzell, allows viewers choices at certain story junctures. Each decision has ramifications, of course. Once a decision is made, a story map flashes onto the screen. The map, a seemingly endless grid, has lines circling through the boxes indicating the pages readers have already visited. When a choice eliminates certain avenues, those boxes are filled in.

With text pages that can turn in any direction and richly drawn, often animated illustrations that are reminiscent of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s artistic style in The Spiderwick Chronicles (S & S), readers will delight in this intricate, interactive story that unfolds, and changes, along a strand of hair. From start to finish it’s a long trip, but once children have completed the story, chances are they will want to go back and explore all its possible outcomes.Wayne R. Cherry, Jr., First Baptist Academy, Houston, TX

For additional app reviews visit our Touch and Go webpage.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-mystery-unravels-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
Interactive & Imaginative: New Apps for Young Children | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/interactive-imaginative-new-apps-for-young-children-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/interactive-imaginative-new-apps-for-young-children-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 07 Aug 2014 13:18:46 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=104831 In this week’s selection we highlight three apps for children preschool-grade one: a live-action production to reinforce concepts and two flights of fancy. What do they have in common? In a word, action!

ABC action 300x225 Interactive & Imaginative: New Apps for Young Children  | Touch and Go

Interior Screen “ABC Actions” (Peapod Labs, LLC)

ABC Actions ($2.99; Peapod Labs LLC; PreS-Gr 1) is an alphabet of action words offered in both English and Spanish. In either mode the app opens to a grid of letters and words in alphabetical order. When one of the entries is pressed, a photo of a child or children engaged in that activity appears along with the word spelled across the bottom of the screen (“hug,” “abrazar,” etc.”); the word is also voiced. For each entry, viewers can also access an additional image (by swiping the screen) or a live-action video, and a simple sentence describing the activity.

Some of the letters offer one or two screens of action words, others three or more, and several are not represented at all (“E,” “I,” “N,” “Q,” “U,”V,”X,” “Z” are absent in the English version; “F,” “J,” “K,” “O,” “Q,” and “T”-“Y” in the Spanish version). Other access points to the images are the letters of the word spelled across the screen. If one is tapped, the screen will jump to that letter—as long it’s not one that’s missing.

The colorful photos illustrating the activities are crisp and clear and the accompanying videos are generally of interest. However, adults may pause cause at one of the photos of a boy diving (“D”), which looks unsafe, and children may lose interest or be confused by the video discussing the difference between two punches (“P”) unless they are familiar with the specific martial art referenced.

The app is in a horizontal presentation only. Parental settings offer choices between upper and lower case letters; music and videos off or on; and language options. However, trying to access or change these settings is frustrating and involves lots of ineffective swiping. Despite some flaws, the app offers spelling support and second language practice for ELL students and children learning Spanish. –Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System, NY

photo 2 300x225 Interactive & Imaginative: New Apps for Young Children  | Touch and Go

Interior image from “How I Became a Pirate” (Oceanhouse Media) Shannon

Ahoy, mateys! Did you hear? Melinda Long’s picture book How I Became a Pirate (Harcourt, 2003), illustrated by the inimitable David Shannon, is now an app (Oceanhouse Media, $3.99; PreS-Gr1). The story tells of one Jeremy Jacob’s adventure with a group of pirates during a family outing to the beach. The pirates are looking for a spot to bury treasure and someone to do it, and spying Jeremy’s sand castle causes them to realize, “He’s a digger, he is, and a good one to boot!”

Sound and animation have been added to this version of the story. A sea chantey plays in the background on opening the app—setting the stage for the exciting nautical tale—and sound effects such as crashing waves, squawking seagulls, and booming thunder can be heard throughout. Shannon’s bold illustrations in rich colors display well on the iPad and slight animations, including characters that blink, a rowboat that rocks, and falling rain, add to the liveliness.

Children can choose to read the story independently or listen to the winning narration that alternates between the gruff tones of Braid Beard the pirate and Jeremy’s young voice. (In the “Read to Me” mode, words are highlighted as they are voiced and the when objects are touched, their labels appear). Navigation is easy; children can tap the arrows at the bottom of the screen to turn back a page or advance to the one that follows.

Pirate is a charming story that is enhanced by the iPad’s capabilities. One feature provides children with the opportunity to record their own narration, encouraging them to revisit this engaging story as they develop their independent reading skills. A trailer is available. —Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

laura cover 225x300 Interactive & Imaginative: New Apps for Young Children  | Touch and GoIt’s a storyline many children are likely to be familiar with: imaginative play before bedtime inspires out-of-the-world dreams. In the case of Klaus Baumgart’s whimsical Laura’s Journey to the Stars (Bastei Luebbe GmbH & Co. KG, $2.99, PreS-K) sleeping siblings adventure into a fantastical version of space.

With no printed text, the narration, appropriate music and sound effects, and animations carry listeners from screen to screen. While the pacing on some pages is slow, an abundance of moving parts that wiggle or move across the screen when touched attempt to compensate. With some exploration, children may find three hidden games within the app. However, with no special indicators of where the games are younger users may have difficulty locating them on their own, and older users may tire quickly of these elements.

From a tab at the bottom of any screen, viewers to jump to any of the 15 pages, and a return to the first page allows access to a settings menu (the icon is a teddy bear with tools). A text-prompted double-finger swipe unlocks the settings and allows viewers to adjust narration and music levels, access the German and Chinese language versions, rate and share app information, and visit a bookshelf that will take them to the app store to review other offerings.

While children and families with Baumgart’s “Laura’s Star” series may find the app engaging, parents or and educators looking for something to read with children may want to look elsewhere.—Brad Clark, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

For more app reviews for preschool-grade 12, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/interactive-imaginative-new-apps-for-young-children-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
The Rules of Summer; Shakespeare at Play | App Reviews http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/the-rules-of-summer-shakespeare-at-play-app-reviews/ http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/the-rules-of-summer-shakespeare-at-play-app-reviews/#respond Wed, 06 Aug 2014 19:00:24 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=104216 snail 2 600x450 The Rules of Summer; Shakespeare at Play | App Reviews

Interior screen, “Never Step on a snail.” from “The Rules of Summer” (We Are Wheelbarrow)” Tan

The Rules of Summer. Shaun Tan. We Are Wheelbarrow. 2014. iOS, requires 6.3 or later. Version 1.3. $4.99.

Gr 3 Up –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 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 The Lost Thing (Lothian Books, 2000).

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 of his new book Rules of Summer (Scholastic, 2014). 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. The print version of Rules 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

Shakespeare at Play. Rick Chisholm Productions, Ltd. 2014. iOS, requires 6.0 or later. Version 6.2. Free for basic app. $3.99 ea. for Video eds., $1.99 ea. for Notes eds.

Gr 7 Up –Imagine 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, and Rick Chisholm, 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 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.

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 app is free with text-only versions of eight of Shakespeare’s plays. Currently, video versions for Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet and Notes Editions, which include additional text information but no video, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet are also available from within the app.–Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/the-rules-of-summer-shakespeare-at-play-app-reviews/feed/ 0
Seamus Heaney and a Tale of Five Fables | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/seamus-heaney-and-a-tale-of-five-fables-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/seamus-heaney-and-a-tale-of-five-fables-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:57:51 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=104179 If you’re wondering why the Irish poet and playwright Seamus Heaney chose to translate Robert Henryson’s 15th-century versions of Aesop’s fables, you’ll find out in this iPad app.  Begin with Heaney’s introduction to the collection, where he observes that the stories include “some of the fiercest allegories of human existence” and the “gentlest presentations of decency in civic and domestic life” along with “satire and social realism—even if the society involved is that of wild animals.” But perhaps even more importantly Heaney notes, “that unless this poetry is brought out ‘a great prince in prison lies.’” If your students aren’t familiar with Heaney and Henryson, it’s time to introduce them.

photo7 300x225 Seamus Heaney and a Tale of Five Fables | Touch and Go

Partial screen shot from “Seamus Heaney: Five Fables” (Touch Press)

Seamus Heaney: Five Fables (Touch Press/Flickerpix/Faber and Faber $11.99; Gr 4 Up). For selection purposes, the most important words in this title are “Seamus Heaney.”  Yes, that Seamus Heaney—winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, acclaimed translator of Beowulf. The plots of the five featured fables (“The Two Mice,” “The Lion and the Mouse,” “The Preaching of the Swallow,” “The Fox, the Wolf and the Carter,” and “The Fox, the Wolf and the Farmer”) will be familiar to any reader of Aesop, but Heaney’s brilliant and accessible translations of these fables, originally written in verse by Scottish author Robert Henryson in the 1400s, is vastly more complex than the picture book versions readers may be imagining.

photo5 300x225 Seamus Heaney and a Tale of Five Fables | Touch and Go

Screen shot from “Seamus Heaney: Five Fables” (Touch Press)

There are three access points to the fables. There’s Heaney’s translation, which can be read with or without the actor Billy Connolly’s rich narration. Ian Johnson guides listeners as he reads and smooths out the puzzling vocabulary of Middle Scots, while the sly and charming animated versions emphasize the setting, characterization, and humor of each story (with musical accompaniment), and offer a choice of either narration.

All the elegant elements that characterize Touch Press apps are present. An illuminating introduction opens the production and more complex information is presented as users go deeper into the app. The stories are annotated; a tap to the “commentary” icon brings up notes which are displayed side-by-side with the corresponding text. Fables also includes a number of valuable video clips featuring commentary by Connolly, and Heaney and other scholars, providing background and opinion on the vocabulary, context, translation, morals, and Henryson. Navigating between these features is easy.

Those looking for connections to state standards will find them straightforward; for example, ample opportunities to apply the Common Core English Language Arts Reading Literature standard (4) which focuses on the analysis of a writer’s craft and word choice, or the Reading Literature standard (10) that asks students to analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material are both present. Upper elementary and middle school students can contrast the animated versions to simpler retellings. High school students will marvel at Heaney’s thoughtful translation as they compare it to the original text and will benefit from the different readings, the commentary on the translation, and the scholarly insights. A stellar production offering plenty to delight and amaze.—Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Teacher Librarian, Seattle Public Schools

For additional app reviews visit our Touch and Go webpage.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/seamus-heaney-and-a-tale-of-five-fables-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
The Numberlys Imag.N.O.Tron | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-numberlys-imag-n-o-tron-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-numberlys-imag-n-o-tron-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:12:04 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=103626 photo4 600x450 The Numberlys Imag.N.O.Tron | Touch and Go

I’m a big fan of Moonbot Studios—that “secret zero-gravity colony inhabited by interstellar beings” in Shreveport, LA. Co-founder and author William Joyce and his crewe have produced some wildly imaginative, successful productions, including The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore of Oscar-winning fame. That story has seen several incarnations, the last an Imag.N.O.Tron version featuring “augmented reality.” If you haven’t yet seen how that works, take a peek at our demonstration. As viewers hold an iPad over the book version of Morris Lessmore, characters begin to move, pages flutter, and books whisper. It’s pure magic.

Now Moonbot has created an Imag.N.O.Tron app for The Numberlys, their homage to classic films of the 1920s, specifically Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The Numberlys features a futuristic world filled with machinery and numbers, but devoid of color and letters. In that world five rotund creatures set out to make something “different” and through trial and error forge the 26 letters of the alphabet. School Library Journal’s reviewer praised that production, calling it a “cinematic” with a “gorgeously rich orchestral soundtrack.” Moonbot Studios has since produced a Numberlys film and William Joyce and Christina Ellis’s The Numberlys is now a book (Atheneum, 2013).

Like the augmented Morris Lessmore, viewers will need a copy of the book to activate the Numberlys Imag.N.O.Tron (iOS, $.99; Android, $.99; Kindle HDX, $.99). Unlike Morris Lessmore, this app is less story enhancement than gameplay. With device and book in hand Imag.N.O.Tron adds motion and sound (grinding gears, marching feet) to many of the story’s scenes, but the real goal is to locate and collect the letters of the alphabet and various toys on its pages. To capture them viewers must hold a phone or tablet on “camera” mode over a page of the book; a tap to a glowing object or letter will lock it in. Children who have enjoyed the Numberlys story app will recognize the accented voice Mike Martindale, who lets them know just what they have found.

Once captured the items can dropped into the toy box (letters are first presented as simple puzzles that must be pieced together) along with the digits 0-9. On the toy box stage children can play or build with whatever assortment of toys they have collected—possibly gears, a helicopter, pipe fittings, a pulley, and others items befitting an industrial setting. Number and alphabet games are also available; both involve dragging letters or digits into their corresponding outlined shapes. Letters and words (“piston” “gear” “box” “book,” etc.), are sounded out and pronounced and numbers are voiced when completed. Words and numbers are also illustrated, offering concept reinforcement. Because it takes a little maneuvering and effort to capture the images and unlock the alphabet game, the app is best suited to children with some fine motor control and a little patience, but those that persevere will be rewarded with an opportunity for imaginative play and the stunning graphics we have come to expect from Moonbot.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

cphoto 600x450 The Numberlys Imag.N.O.Tron | Touch and Go

In the toy box with The Numberlys Imag.N.O.Tron (Moonbot) Joyce and Ellis

 

 

For more app reviews visit the Touch and Go webpage.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-numberlys-imag-n-o-tron-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
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.

xx 300x225 Pierre et le loup | Touch and Go

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.”

photo3 300x225 Pierre et le loup | Touch and Go

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)

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/pierre-et-le-loup-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
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.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/tap-touch-recommended-apps-for-early-learning/feed/ 0
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.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-world-of-plants-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
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

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/celebrating-dad-and-mom-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
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).

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/apps/incredible-numbers-and-if-poetry-best-of-apps-enhanced-books-june/feed/ 0
‘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.

photo 300x225 Shakespeare at Play | Touch and Go

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.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/06/reviews/shakespeare-at-play-touch-and-go/feed/ 0
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.

snail 1 170x170 Shaun Tans Rules of Summer | Touch and Go

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.

]]>
http://www.slj.com/2014/05/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/shaun-tans-rules-of-summer-touch-and-go-2/feed/ 0