School Library Journal » » App Reviews http://www.slj.com The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:26:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 “Toca Nature”: “A Perfectly Pixelated World” | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/08/reviews/apps/toca-nature-a-perfectly-pixelated-world-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/08/reviews/apps/toca-nature-a-perfectly-pixelated-world-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:18:56 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=150964 Many readers know Toca Boca’s play studio” apps designed with preschoolers in mind. Here’s something from them that’s a little different. It combines sandbox activities with a subtle ecological message.

toca coverToca Nature (Toca Boca A B, iOS $2.99; K-Gr 2) delivers a hip, pretty opportunity to create and enjoy a curated natural environment. Landforms can be created and trees planted on a blank canvas with the swift swipe of a finger. Changing the perspective only requires a tap to an icon. Berries and other treats can be collected and then given to the animals that appear as viewers zoom in close and travel through the ecosystem. A camera icon allows users to take pictures of the wildlife at close range. The focus here is on exploratory play; and there is plenty of it. There are no explicit instructions—and most wonderfully—no in-app purchases, ads, or distractions.

Interior screen Toca Nature (Toca Boca A B) © Löfgren & Svenningsson

Interior screen Toca Nature (Toca Boca A B) © Löfgren & Svenningsson

While beautifully designed, this digital version of nature is a far cry from representing the real thing. In this perfectly pixelated world, predators only eat fish and berries and rabbits bounce merrily by viewers’ sides. Wildlife is friendly, slow, and will only multiply if viewers plant more trees. The limited geographic options may cause some young explorers to lose interest quickly. Habitats cannot be saved and may disappear when the app is not in use. Eco-conscious folks will cringe at the ax icon, which allows users to destroy their creation with one flick of the wrist. As the trees disappear, the animals flee until there are none left. A note for parents explains settings, the various tools used to sculpt this world, and offers a few discussion points. Toca Nature is stunning to look at; but its limited ecological diversity and informational value are problematic. A beautiful, sad reminder of how nature is taken for granted. A trailer is available.—Caroline Molnar, Delaware City Schools

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A “Completely and Utterly Disgusting” Game, Among Others | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/08/reviews/apps/a-completely-and-utterly-disgusting-game-among-others-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/08/reviews/apps/a-completely-and-utterly-disgusting-game-among-others-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:35:17 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=150488 With only a few weeks left before summer is officially over, it’s time to download a few play-filled apps. While fun and games rule today, you’ll discover that planning, strategy, observation, and skill are just some of the words used in reviewing these productions. Oh, yes, and then there’s that “completely and utterly disgusting” game for fans of Roald Dahl.

Screen from Kindo

Screen from Kindo (Space Bears)

Billed as a “medieval game for the 21st century,” Kindo (Space Bears S.A.S., iOS $1.99; Gr 2 Up) is an abstract strategy game that’s easy to learn but difficult to master. The goal is similar to that of chess and Go: to capture the opponent’s king—located here in the opposite corner of the player’s on a 5 x 5 grid. Each player is allowed two moves per turn to place a tile, fortify an existing one, or claim one from the opponent; it sounds easy, but Kindo played well requires careful planning and tactical maneuvering. Fortunately, the game includes an interactive, easy-to-understand tutorial explaining the rules. Players also have the option to select a local, artificially intelligent (AI), or online/Game Center opponent and to control the level of difficulty. Stylish yet understated, the sparse design and minimal color scheme complement the overall aesthetic of the game and allow players to focus on their strategy. Available in multiple languages.—Audrey Sumser, North Canton, OH.

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Interior screen from Pip and Posy: Fun and Games (Nosy Crow) Scheffler

In Axel Scheffler’s Pip and Posy: Fun and Games (Nosy Crow, iOS $2.99; PreS-K) the endearing and inseparable friends share an entertaining selection of activities designed especially for young children. “Matching Pairs” allows users to test their observation skills through three levels of difficulty. Posy provides just the right amount of encouragement as children flip over cards in search of a pair. “Jigsaw Jam,” another three-level activity, offers puzzles ranging from six to 12 pieces. Pieces are dragged into place; placed incorrectly they’ll float to the side of the screen as Pip prompts kids to try again. The “Coloring Book” provides eight images for children to paint. The palette offers a wide selection of colors and a few brush options. Children can shake their device to erase the page and start over, if desired. Finally, “Spot the Difference” presents two pictures and asks children to find five differences. The differences are subtle, so this activity will likely present the greatest challenge for the app’s intended audience. This cheerful production with colorful artwork is loads of fun; expect children to clamor to play with it. A trailer is available.—Stephanie Rivera, Naperville Public Library,, IL

lumi coverThe bright, bold graphics and friendly sound effects of two new Lumikids apps create engaging environments that will encourage children to stay and play. Both productions offer three deceptively simple activities. In the award winning LumiKids Park (Free, iOS and Android), users can play with cheery monsters nom-noming (eating) circles by color, giggly monsters playing hide and seek, or sort shapes by color and size. In LumiKids Beach (both Lumosity/Lumos Labs, Inc., Free in iOS and Android), children help crabs build a sandcastle, match tones with turtles, and color various marine creatures to bring them to animated life.

What sets these apps apart from others that claim educational components is that these activities require children to engage in more complex thinking as they work to complete each increasingly difficult round within activities. For example, in Park, the dot-shaped snacks that the smiley critters swallow change in color and location as obstacles are added. In the other activities children need to locate two giggling monsters that simultaneously hide behind playground toys and match an increasing number of shapes by color, shape, and size. These activities offer practice in visual-motor coordination and challenge a child’s “divided attention” skills and “cognitive flexibility.” In Beach, similar activities seek to steadily improve the user’s fine-motor coordination, planning ability, “response inhibition,” and “auditory processing.”

When opening the apps for the first time, parent information is requested. Collecting email addresses, etc., makes them less than ideal for group sharing; however, the educational value, intuitive navigation, kid-friendly graphics, and skill-building activities far outweigh the one-time nuisance.Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library, CT.

Interior screen Ravensburger

Interior screen Ravensburger’s Puzzle—The Jigsaw Collection (Ravensburger Digital)

No more missing puzzle pieces! Ravensburger’s Puzzle—The Jigsaw Collection (Ravensburger Digital GmbH, iOS $2.99; additional in-app purchases available; K Up) offers virtual puzzles that mimic actual puzzles in almost all aspects. Ravensburger is known for its quality products and the same vibrant and attractive images associated with the company’s physical puzzles are displayed in this digital production. For each image users can customize the number of pieces that will appear on the screen (20 to 500), making the app suitable for a wide range of players and skill levels. Step-by-step tutorials on the basics and tools for pros are accessible from any screen. Users can tap a piece to turn it 90 degrees or adjust the settings to rotate pieces freely. Other tools allow users to align pieces in the right direction or slide a completed image of the puzzle onto the working space. By placing the completed image under the pieces and enabling the magnet tool, users can snap the correctly positioned pieces into place. Alternatively, they may choose to move only border pieces to the playing table to set up the image frame. A musical background and a timer are also available. Traditionalists may feel that some of the tools diminish the challenge of the actual jigsaw experience and choose not to use them. Completing a puzzle is more rewarding than the stars awarded by the app since it’s unclear if stars actually amount to free puzzles or coins. Individual puzzles and puzzle packages are available for purchase in the built-in app shop. These puzzles are ideal for independent play and will provide users with plenty of opportunity to sharpen visual and spatial acuity.—Deirdre Reddington, Uniondale High School Library Uniondale, NY

Interior screen from Roald Dahl's Twit or Miss

Interior screen from Roald Dahl’s Twit or Miss (Penguin)

Fans of  Roald Dahl (and who isn’t one?) will relish Roald Dahl’s Twit or Miss (Penguin, iOS Free; Gr 3-7), “a completely and utterly disgusting” game inspired by the author’s Twits (Cape,1980), the story of a notoriously mean and revolting couple. In the game, Mrs. Twit sits snoozing while opposite her the unkempt Mr. Twit eats, food spitting out of his mouth on a trajectory that threatens to wake his wife. Users score points by flicking the food away from Mrs. Twit.

At the outset of each round, a “mission” and points are declared for additional feats such as a “triple rebound,” hitting Mr. Twit’s head, or dropping a morsel of food into the stein on the table. If players can’t deflect the food bits from the sleeping Mrs. Twit, she begins to stir, and once awake her mood changes from grotty to angry to fuming. After a few “fumings” a surprised Mr. Twit receives a bonk on the head from Mrs.Twit. Children, who have read the story, will recognize the appearance of bird pie, monkeys, and worms as plot elements from the book, as well as the delightful Quentin Blake-inspired artwork. After each round the score is tallied, and after 10 rounds, a total score and commentary (“Unsavory!” “Disgusting!”) are delivered. Irresistible fun for fans and likely to send the uninitiated to the fiction shelves to learn more about this nasty couple.Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Interior screen from Twelve a Dozen (Amplify)

Interior screen from Twelve a Dozen (Amplify)

Twelve a Dozen (Bossa Studios/Amplify, iOS $3.99; Gr 6 Up) is a story game that requires a knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to advance through a sequence of 30-plus increasingly difficult challenges. The challenges exist inside a black pixel of a calculator, in “a universe of numbers” in a place called Dozenopolis, As players venture deeper and deeper into this dark and forbidding landscape, they must help a character named Twelve on a mission to find her family members and put this universe back together after a cataclysmic event. There is no tutorial, but narrated word clues and occasional tips in the form of ghost-like finger movements that appear on the screen. Voice, sound, music options and adjustments can be made.

The game, which could potentially take hours to complete, has already picked up one educational game award and been nominated for a 2015 BAFTA (British Academy Family Games Award). The developer notes that the app is first in a series of six math games that will be included in Amplify Math, a core digital curriculum available to schools in this fall.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

 

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Torben Kuhlmann’s ‘Lindbergh’ Soars as an iBook http://www.slj.com/2015/08/reviews/apps/torben-kuhlmanns-lindbergh-soars-as-an-ibook/ http://www.slj.com/2015/08/reviews/apps/torben-kuhlmanns-lindbergh-soars-as-an-ibook/#respond Mon, 10 Aug 2015 15:44:19 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=149606 Lindbergh, the Tale of a Flying Mouse was published last year to glowing reviews. The recent release of the iBook version, with visual and audio enhancements, offers more to praise. ]]> lind coverTorben Kuhlmann’s picture book Lindbergh, The Tale of a Flying Mouse (NorthSouth, 2014; Gr 2-5) was published last year to glowing reviews. Through gorgeous, detail-rich sepia art and a minimal text, the author tells the story of a diminutive animal, who, after discovering what’s decimating the population of his homeland, builds a flying contraption and makes his way to the United States. Kuhlmann’s expressive text and dark images featuring dizzying perspectives heighten the story’s tension, but readers soon learn that neither mechanical setbacks nor predators can stop this courageous creature. Recently, the story was released as an animated iBook (Verlag Friedrich Oetinger GmbH; $3.99). We spoke with Kuhlmann about the iBook’s creation and how the enhanced version differs from the print edition.

DG: I understand the print version of Lindbergh has been translated into a number of languages and you’ve been traveling around the world speaking to schoolchildren about it. What do they share with you about their experience with the story?
TK: It was really great to visit so many different countries with my book. I’ve been to the United States, Russia, South Korea, and Japan, reading the story and conducting workshops. Children everywhere have reacted similarly to the adventurous flying mouse. They drew inspiration from this story. I’ve met many kids who became little inventors themselves, imagining fantastic contraptions for flying animals, or became interested in the history of aviation, or felt emboldened by the message that even the smallest among us could achieve the great things.

With its sepia pages, sketches of contraptions, and a fascination with mechanics, this mouse could also have been named Leonardo after da Vinci. It’s clear you have a great interest in mechanics and reading—books, newspapers, and words are also everywhere in the illustrations.
Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions were an undeniable influence throughout the book. You can even find a portrait of him hidden in one illustration and there are several references to his famous sketches—from his drawings of a mechanical wing to his ideas of a primitive helicopter. But the whole book was designed with nods to many famous inventors and pioneers of aviation in mind. Their achievements are very inspirational—as is their courage and daring. Another theme is knowledge—represented by the many books that the mouse reads during its adventure. I also used books, newspapers, and other elements  to create an authentic depiction of a world one century ago.

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Interior screen from Lindbergh, the Tale of a Flying Mouse (Verlag Friedrich Oetinger GmbH) ©Kuhlmann

 

 

 

 

 

How did the idea of creating an iBook come about? Was it your first venture in animation?
The idea to develop an iBook came shortly after the printed version was finished. My Switzerland publisher NordSüd has a close relationship with German publishing group Oetinger, a pioneer in interactive books for children here in Germany. So, soon after the printed version of Lindbergh was on the market, we began brainstorming. And there was the lucky fact that I had made a trailer for Lindbergh. The animated sequences I created for the trailer became the basis of our work—similar animations and a similar tone are found in the iBook. I really enjoy doing little animations and films using my own illustrations, so adapting Lindbergh into an animation-heavy interactive adventure wasn’t a big leap.

Were there challenges to creating an animated version? What sort of team did you assemble?
There were some challenges. It’s a massive project—a 96-page children’s book adapted into an animation-heavy iBook. One concern was the size of the final file. But there was a very inspired and diligent small team of animators and graphic artists working on the project. They adapted the feel of the original story and consulted me whenever there were questions.

The iBook’s sound effects and animation both add to the story’s tension. Were there enhancements you wished to add but could not?
I’m very happy with the final product. Of course, you can always imagine more. Adding all the little parts such as sounds, animations, and interactive elements, you almost have to restrain yourself—and not only because of the amount of data. I could have imagined more camera movements, and music, but that would have turned the book into slideshow/movie mixture with less interactivity.

Interior screen from Lindbergh, the Tale of a Flying Mouse (Verlag Friedrich Oetinger GmbH) ©Kuhlmann

Interior screen from Lindbergh, the Tale of a Flying Mouse (Verlag Friedrich Oetinger GmbH) ©Kuhlmann

How do you balance enhancements and story progression? When and how do enhancements work best? What goes into your decision about where and how to enhance a page, and the overall story arc?
Enhancements and animations should be in service of the narrative. They should not be a gimmick glued on top of the story. Many illustrations in the book where conceived like scenes from a film—blocking, camera perspective, lighting—so there was almost always a sense of motion present in the illustrations. By adapting the book into an interactive format, we unleashed this sense of motion. On the other hand, I tried to put many details and references into the illustrations, that can be discovered by conscientious readers and now this act of discovery is even more prominent. You click here and discover that, or you push there and something appears…. Adding a few sounds to an illustration is also almost always a big attribute to the atmosphere and likewise to the narrative: eerie owl calls, howling winds, or rain.

Has the reaction to the iBook differed from that of the print book?
There is a slightly different reaction to the iBook, but it boils down to the same observation. When I do readings of the book, children are drawn into the story page by page. At the beginning, they pay attention to other parts, details and surroundings, but they become more and more engaged with the small protagonist as the story progresses. It’s the same with the interactive version. First, they push and click everything, but as soon as the story begins to unfold, they follow the little mouse and use the interactive elements more selectively.

Do you see the iBook as an adjunct to your print book, or as a separate entity? Do you have a preference to which version children experience first?
I think the printed version and the iBook can exist quite harmoniously next to each other. That was indeed one of my goals for the adaption. It’s not just a digital version of the printed book. Actually, there are some different illustrations in the iBook. Each version has its distinct character. For me, I love to have a printed, old-fashioned book on my shelf. And Lindbergh was conceived as a traditional book first, so I would always go with the print version. But I am really happy to have this wonderful, innovative, and enhancing digital version as well!

Your next picture book, Moletown (NorthSouth, Oct., 2015), a wordless book with an ecological message, will be published in the fall. Any discussion yet about creating an iBook or app for that title?
Oh yes, I’m sure that this subterranean tale will see an iBook or app version. Again, there is a lot that can be enhanced, expanded, or animated!

Interior screen from Lindbergh, the Tale of a Flying Mouse (Verlag Friedrich Oetinger GmbH) ©Kuhlmann

Interior screen from Lindbergh, the Tale of a Flying Mouse (Verlag Friedrich Oetinger GmbH) ©Kuhlmann

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More “Endless” Fun | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/07/reviews/apps/more-endless-fun-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/07/reviews/apps/more-endless-fun-touch-and-go/#respond Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:07:46 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=147184 Originator has won high praise for its series of delightful apps that focus on basic reading readiness and math skills (Endless Alphabet, Endless Numbers, etc.) Their latest release is an introduction to Spanish for children learning it as a first or second language. Sara Lissa Paulson reviews the app below.

 

photo 2The latest educational app developed by Originator, Endless Spanish/Infinito Español (Free, in-app add-on purchase $4.99 for full ed.; PreS-Gr 4), incorporates the same playful monsters and environment of the other titles in the “Endless” series. Here the creatures are employed to teach common Spanish words and their usage. There are two audio modes: one in which Spanish words and sentences are translated into English, and Spanish only.

 

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Endless Spanish (Originator)

This is how it works. When you click on a term on the home dial, a bull runs across the screen and over the word, scrambling its letters. The learner spells the word by dragging  and dropping each distinctly and playfully animated letter into its proper spot in the word (shaded outline provided). While doing so, they hear each letter sounded and named. Cheers and other celebratory sounds ensue when a word is completed. The app then sequences automatically into sentence mode (although viewers can skip the sentence by clicking the “abc” tab). The bull runs across the screen again chased by friendly looking monsters, who scramble three words. As children drag the animated words back into their proper spots in the sentence, they hear each one pronounced and see the sentence enacted, hear it read, and translated into English, if in translation mode. (For example, for “amigo/friend”: “!Los monstruos están muy contentos por tener un amigo nuevo!” repeats in English: “The monsters are very happy to have a new friend!”) Young learners will enjoy getting to know the characters Pinkerton, Scampi, Rocky, Francis, and Sherbert better through the animations that illustrate each sentence. However, some children may be disappointed to discover they can’t enter the sentence mode exclusively.

Only six words are are accessible in the “free” edition, so the full edition, available in-app is recommended. The terms offered are different parts of speech including pronouns and interrogatives. The voices are multiple, expressive, and stick to Latin American Spanish (no vosotros). Lively snatches of music, colorful cartoon art, and fireworks that can be set off by tapping the screen add to the fun. A trailer is available.—Sara Lissa Paulson, Librarian PS 347 – “47” The American Sign Language & English Lower School

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated webpage.

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“Homes” Around the World | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/07/reviews/apps/homes-around-the-world-touch-and-go-2/ http://www.slj.com/2015/07/reviews/apps/homes-around-the-world-touch-and-go-2/#respond Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:20:11 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=145772  

Homes (Tinybop) Tuesday B

Homes (Tinybop) ©2015 Tuesday Bassen

 

We’ve reviewed a number of Tinybop apps recently—and there are more to come. Today it seemed appropriate to explore Homes—the developer just informed us that they’ve added fireworks in celebration of the Fourth of July to a Brooklyn, NY,  street scene.

Viewers get to peek inside a Yemeni tower house, a Mongolian ger (yurt), an adobe structure in the Guatemalan highlands, and a row house located in the Northeastern United States when they enter Tinybop’s Homes ($3.99; K–Gr 5). Along with the trappings of modern living (radios, TVs, computers, antennas, solar panels), they will spy items, fabrics, and art typically found in dwellings in these countries and animals native to these climes. Distinct structural aspects of each home are also on view; for example, the animal pen on the bottom level of the tower house and the yurt’s portability. Exploration of each location yields a concept book that can be opened, featuring the language of the particular country.

Various screens feature animations (livestock trot, chickens strut, steam rises, water moves through plumbing) and interactive opportunities (pots, pans, pillow, toys, and clothing can moved about, a  puzzle assembled, drawers and doors opened, a gate unlocked, and a remote can trigger changes to a TV screen, etc.). Scenes can also be personalized by uploading images into picture frames. While it may be difficult to decipher all the details of some of the dwellings’ exteriors and surroundings, cutaway, interior, and zoomable views will bring children up close (and inside the homes) and allow them to make cultural comparisons.

There is no text beyond labels, but the extensive online handbook (available in 11 languages as a free download) offers additional information and suggestions of prompts to use with children when exploring how people around the world live and “how landscape and the surrounding areas, architecture, materials, and division of space shape each residence.”—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For another look at contemporary architecture, see our review of Apprentice Architect. Additional app reviews are available on our dedicated app webpage.

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Apprentice Architect | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/apprentice-architect-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/apprentice-architect-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:05:22 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=144625 From Apprentice Architect (Touch Press)

From Apprentice Architect (Fondation Louis Vuitton/Touch Press)

Through interactive activities users will have an opportunity to explore a museum designed by Frank Gehry and consider some of the decisions an architect makes about shape, color, pattern, and light as they design their own buildings. Kathleen S. Wilson reviews Apprentice Architect.

Architects have the ability to transform, inspire, and transcend on a grand scale, none more so than Frank Gehry, whose particular architectural vision is among the most distinctive in the world today. Terms such as post-structuralist and decontructivist are often bandied about when discussing his work, but words alone do not suffice. Architecture needs to be experienced to be understood. For this reason, Touch Press built a highly visual, interactive app with numerous opportunities for exploration, discovery, and creation in Apprentice Architect  (iOS, Free; Gr 3-6), an introduction to the new, Gehry-designed contemporary art museum in Paris, the Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Six activities form the core of the experience. Each one introduces a different aspect of the development of the building. “My Sketchbook” and “My Studio” focus on visualization and design. The first is a simple 2-D tool that can be used to create a sketch of an edifice by selecting shapes from Gehry’s palette of inspirational objects such as waves, sand dunes, and sailing ships, as well as colors, patterns, and backgrounds, then resizing, reshaping, and rotating them. “My Studio” is a 3-D tool for designing a building by manipulating glass sail and iceberg shapes, two of Gehry’s structural building blocks. Any number of shapes can be chosen by color (glass sails) or pattern (icebergs), then positioned, sized, rotated, stretched, and shrunk to form a simple 3-D model. A whimsical touch includes a slider that can be used to “blow wind” into the sails.

Other activities focus on exploring the structure of the museum and visual perspectives. “Look Around You” presents views from six vantage points inside the building and asks users to find the spot in the building they’d need to stand to see the views. “How Does This Work” offers high-resolution, panoramic images of four of the museum’s structural design features, which can be explored visually in 360 degrees and probed for further information.

The final two activities are more gamelike. “Where’s Frank,” a zoomable, cutaway graphic image of the museum’s interior with people visible on the various floors, invites children to find specific museum employees (a gardener, an engineer, a guide, a curator, a visitor, an artist, etc.) and learn more about the roles they play. Children are put in the role of a crane operator in “Take the Controls,” as they try to place glass panels into the curved roof of the museum without dropping (and breaking) them.

While visitors to Fondation Louis Vuitton will appreciate Apprentice Architect (the app has no sound, making it a discreet guide in the museum), children will also enjoy its engaging activities off-site. The text is available in English and French, the cartoonlike graphics are colorful and viewer-friendly, and the navigation is self-explanatory. Instructions for activities are available, if needed. When first entering the app, children can input their names. When leaving, they can choose to email themselves a certificate of their visit. If you’re looking for a fun, hands-on glimpse into Frank Gehry’s mind, creative genius, architectural style, and process, Apprentice Architect can’t be beat.—Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY, NY

“When kids come to the Fondation, I want them to elevate their imagination, so they grow up thinking of architecture differently.”–Frank Gehry.

            For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated app webpage.

 

ApprenticeArchitect-APP-2

From Apprentice Architect (Fondation Louis Vuitton/Touch Press)

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Winston Churchill, Snow White, and the Alphabet | App Reviews http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/winston-churchill-snow-white-and-the-alphabet-app-reviews/ http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/winston-churchill-snow-white-and-the-alphabet-app-reviews/#respond Tue, 16 Jun 2015 20:56:45 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=144068 1506-APPs-Think-Like-Churchill

Think Like Churchill (Touch Press) ©Jaime Huxable

Metamorphabet. Patrick Smith. Vectorpark. illus. by the author. 2015. iOS, requires 7.0 or later. Version 1.03. $3.99.

PreS-Gr 2–Fluid animation combines with imaginative word pairings in an alphabet app that offers abundant visual and poetic appeal. Touching a featured letter transforms it into a blocklike, 3-D sculptural form. With a few more taps, the shape begins morphing into images representing words starting with that same letter. A beard pops out of the bottom of the letter B, followed by a beak. When the beak opens, out flies a swarm of bugs. Printed words help reinforce the concepts, and users can tap the words to hear them voiced. Sound effects (cymbals, horns, birds chirping, etc.) enhance the presentations. Warm humor and surprises create the perfect tone.

The clear narration and intuitive navigation will allow young children to use the app independently. However, vocabulary choices (knight, kaleidoscope, tongue, etc.) indicate that this app might not be the first choice for developing early reading skills. Seek Metamorphabet for its bold artwork, fluid design, and playfulness—it’s a delight at every turn.–Mary Ann Scheuer, Emerson School, Berkeley, CA

Snow White. Nosy Crow. illus. by Ed Bryan. 2015. iOS, requires 7.0 or later. Version 1.0.1. $4.99.

PreS-Gr 3–Nosy Crow adds another outstanding title to its series of fairy tale adaptations with this cheerful retelling. Young readers will enjoy the delightful voiceovers supplied by children, gentle soundtrack, and charming illustrations. The app is intuitively navigable with arrows on each page and a map that allows readers to jump from scene to scene. The plot stays close to the Brothers Grimm tale, though the gory details are slightly toned down. Refreshingly, one of the dwarves is female, removing the original tale’s uncomfortable notion that Snow White’s main role is to tidy up after a group of men.

The app strikes an appealing balance between storytelling and interactivity. Dialogue can be extended according to individual preference in the “Read and Play” and “Read by Myself” modes, and the iPad’s microphone, camera, and gyroscope features are used cleverly, enabling viewers to see their own face in the Evil Queen’s magic mirror, rock the infant Snow White to sleep by tilting the device, or wake the sleeping princess with a shout. The production also offers standard drag-and-drop elements so children can help clean the dwarves’ cobweb-ridden cottage and mix the Evil Queen’s potion. The only potential drawback is the app’s subtle parallax effect that can’t be disabled—the shifting backgrounds could induce dizziness when displayed on a large screen in a presentation setting. Nevertheless, Snow White is a terrific choice for enjoying one-on-one, and is a welcome addition to any book app collection.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Think Like Churchill. Touch Press/Hodder & Stoughton/W.S.C. Churchill Heritage. Guided by Boris Johnson. illus. by Jaime Huxable. 2015. iOS, requires 7.1 or later. Version 1.1.0. $3.99.

Gr 5 Up–How do a lifetime of choices prepare a leader to guide a nation wisely in wartime? The app uniquely combines sound effects, music, text, art, a little animation, and viewer choice to dig deeply into deciphering the character of Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, during and after World War II.

The index invites users to explore five episodes in Churchill’s life, beginning with a childhood skirmish on a bridge and concluding with the evacuation of Dunkirk. Although the episodes can be viewed in any order (navigation from one to another is easy), a clearer understanding of the man is developed by working through them chronologically. The narrative is spare, but readers can choose to learn more by exploring hot spots that offer additional information.

The art and use of captions will appeal to readers of sophisticated graphic novels as detailed scenes in muted colors lead them through each event. Quotes from Churchill are recognized by their peach-colored backgrounds. Once users have absorbed all the evidence within each scenario, they’re invited to predict: What would Churchill do? Their choice is confirmed as correct or briefly acknowledged as incorrect, and his actual decision is provided.

Readers then analyze their choice and motives, and an intriguing graphic compares their motives with what is known about Churchill’s. At the end of each episode, a collage of related photos, letters, postcards, and the texts of speeches yield their contents when tapped. Typed notes for some of Churchill’s most famous speeches are surprisingly touching.

Think Like Churchill provides nonfiction text; includes primary sources; promotes analysis, evaluation, and higher-level thinking; and is beautifully designed and fun. The creators promise additional free content to come, and readers won’t be able to resist signing up to receive the next chapter, about D-Day. They may also wonder what their choices reveal about them. As Dumbledore said, “It is our choices, Harry, far more than our abilities, that show what we really are.”–Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle School District

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Sandbox Science on the iPad http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/sandbox-science-on-the-ipad/ http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/sandbox-science-on-the-ipad/#respond Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:46:10 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=143219  

tinybopAs any educator will tell you, exploration is key; witness the generations of children who have been introduced to basic math and science concepts at sand and water tables. Tinybop, a Brooklyn, NY, based developer, has taken this principle to heart with their sandbox apps. In The Human Body, viewers watch as the cookie that they deliver to a  child’s mouth travels through the X-ray view of the figure’s digestive system, or learn how the body reacts to an insect bite (an insect they have let loose). In Plants, children can observe how the landscapes and denizens of various biomes change as day becomes night, the seasons change, and various user-triggered weather systems move in.

In Simple Machines (iOS, $2.99; K-Gr3), kids have an opportunity to explore the forces at work in the lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, screw, and wedge. For each one, viewer-controlled interactive options allow them to see how various adjustments impact the machines’ mechanics or force. For example, by altering the location of the lever’s fulcrum, the distance a load can be projected will change, while the height, base, and height from which a wedge is driven will affect its efficiency. In “Wheel & Axle,” users can try four bicycles or scooters and adjust the speed at which the creature riding them travels; at a fair clip, rider and vehicle sail over a narrow stream of water or up and over a ramp, but if they’re moving too slowly the front wheel will plunge into the water or the creature will fall forward. The colorful settings (art by James Gilleard) are pure whimsy and add to the game-like activities: the inclined plane page is designed as a pinball machine, the load of the lever is aimed at a castle, and the pulley screen (which allows kids to try four different arrangements of fixed and movable pulleys) resembles an arcade game.

Users can switch scenes from day to nighttime lighting, which changes the view in various, mostly small, ways (colors of arrows change, or on one page, the view of fish becomes an x-ray view). There are no in-app instructions, but the activities are fairly intuitive and play and exploration are rewarded. Sound effects (chirping birds, whistling wind, etc.) and atmospheric music, add to the fun and offer an element of play as well, but can be switched off.

The app contains no text, however, labels for the illustrations are provided in five languages (English, Spanish, French, German, and Chinese), and the iTunes store lists dozens more. A free, downloadable handbook (in seven languages) contains extensive notes on the science behind these machines, tips on using the app with kids, and additional suggested activities. For today’s students, digital sandboxes create additional, hands-on opportunities to explore concepts. Use this app as an adjunct to science lessons, or download it onto the classroom iPad for some free play; understanding of basic physics concepts is sure to follow. A trailer is available.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

 

Screen from the "Wheel & Axle" page of Simple Machines (Tinybop)

Screen from the “Wheel & Axle” page of Simple Machines (Tinybop) Gilleard

 

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated webpage.

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Cat’s Cradle: A Graphic Adventure | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/cats-cradle-a-graphic-adventure-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/06/reviews/apps/cats-cradle-a-graphic-adventure-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 04 Jun 2015 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=142388  

Panel from Cat's Crade, Book 1, The Golden Twine (Kids Can/Animanga Plus) Rioux

Panel from Cat’s Cradle, Book 1, The Golden Twine (Kids Can/Animanga Plus) Rioux

 

Here’s an app based on a graphic novel. “LITE” views of the story are available in both iOS and Android, both offering the entire ebook, but only a few pages of the animated version. Still, the animated version is the one that will give you the best idea of how this story plays on your device.

Cat’s Cradle, Book 1, The Golden Twine (Kids Can Plus/Animanga Plus; iOS $1.99; iOS Free Lite Version; Android $1.99; Android Free Lite Version; Gr 4-6), is the first chapter in a longer tale of Suri, an orphan traveling in a caravan, who dreams of becoming a great monster tamer. Jo Rioux’s middle grade graphic adventure (Kids Can, 2012) is well drawn and engaging, and will leave readers eager for more—despite some technical challenges.

The story can be accessed in either the “Reader” (ebook) or “Panel” (animated) view; there are some drawbacks to the first. In that mode, the screen is not locked into place. If viewers touch it while reading the story, the book will slide around. While this allows children to center the comic on the device, they may find the need to do so, and the movement of the pages, a frustrating experience. Also, while trying to center the pages, a touch to the screen may turn the page prematurely.  A double tap will bring up a navigation bar, where viewers can switch to the “Panel” view.” In this mode, only one page is visible. Spirited voice acting and sound effects, similar to what one finds in anime, are available. Slight animation also occurs in this setting, adding a dimension to the action scenes. The screen automatically advances when the audio reaches the end of the page with “auto-play” on, but readers must tap an arrow to advance in the “Panel” setting. In either mode, a zoom feature is in place. The panels, which vary in size and number from screen to screen, are rich in violet and blue tones, with frequent close-up, dramatic perspectives of the characters.

Animanga Plus appears to offer creators the ability to own their stories and have more control over how they are viewed—a positive development, particularly in the manga comic space. Unfortunately, the viewer experience has a way to go to catch up to other comic book apps such as those found under comiXology. However, young comic fans may not find this a barrier to enjoying Rioux’s enchanting story.–- Mark Richardson, Cedar Mill Community Library, Portland, OR

A trailer of Cat’s Cradle, Book 1: Golden Twine is available.

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated web page.

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Charged! From Atoms to Electricity | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/05/reviews/apps/charged-from-atoms-to-electricity-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/05/reviews/apps/charged-from-atoms-to-electricity-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 21 May 2015 11:50:57 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=141169 At this point we’re playing catch-up with Kids Discover; the developer has produced more than two dozen apps based on single issues of the magazine by the same name. While we have reviewed many of their productions, we’re still working our way through their list. The two apps reviewed today are introductions to foundational science topics studied at one point or another during every student’s career.

For those living in the tri-state New York area, Ted Levine from Kids Discover will be presenting with author/illustrator Roxie Munro on “The Digital World of E-books, Apps, and Gamification” at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference in NYC June 12-14, 2015, a full, three-day event that brings together publishers, authors, and educators.

photoAtoms (Marjorie Frank / Joe Zeff Design; iOS $3.99; Gr 4-8) is one of 26 assorted history, geography, and science apps offered by Kids Discover. The content is neatly divided into eleven sections; the first eight are informational with appealing titles such as “How Small Is Small?” “It’s Elemental,” and “Fission Fusion No Con-Fusion.” Information and facts are presented in small chunks and accompanied by impressive graphics (colorful photos or drawings) and a number of videos and animations. A short clip showing the effect of a nuclear blast on a wood-frame house, three-fifths of a mile from a 1950s Nevada test site, will fascinate viewers, as will the animated look at how nuclear power is converted into electricity used in the home.

The final sections are comprised of activities designed to reinforce concepts (mostly memory and matching games), and a quiz. “Resources” contains links to five websites including one of the  periodic table (one is also found in the app); however, the link to the “atomic timeline” leads to a timeline site and students will have to do some digging to find the related one. The further reading suggestions link to each title’s Amazon listing. Not all the resources are free of ads.

Navigation is fairly straightforward. From the intro page, viewers swipe to switch pages or tap the screen to bring up a scrubber bar with small page views they can choose from. In most apps, a tap to the arrow at the bottom right corner of the screen will turn the page; here it just indicates there is more to the chapter and readers must swipe or tap the screen to advance forward. (There is a quick tutorial at the app’s opening).

The Kids Discover site has additional resources including lesson plans, infographics, and activities to help make the best use of their apps.—Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

Screen from Electricity (Kids Discover) Joe Zeff Design

Screen from Electricity (Kids Discover) Joe Zeff Design

Kids Discover magazine has created another dynamic science-based app for budding scientists to explore. Electricity’s (Sean Price/Joe Zeff Design; iOS, $3.99; Gr 4-8) visual index offers readers 11 chapters or sections to begin their journey. Each section provides clear, succinct basic facts about the topic, accompanied by eye-catching visuals. Offerings include interactive 3-D models, videos, photos, and pop-up captions that will capture users’ attention.

Lightning flashes across the screen as the difference between static and dynamic electricity is explained, and in another section students can follow a simplified view of the path of an electrical current from a power plant to the inside of a home. An additional enhancement within the app is the “Currents in Time” page where taps to a timeline consisting of 11 dates yield images and information on their significance including facts about Thomas Edison, Luigi Galvani, Georg Ohm, and other leading scientists. A word search; a matching game, “Who Did What?”; and a five-question quiz are offered in the last section. “Resources” recommends books and websites. This electrifying app is a winning choice for middle level students. Two related print downloads are available on the developer’s website.Stephanie Rivera, Naperville Public Library, IL 

For additional apps on science topics, see School Library Journal’s list of “Outstanding STEM Apps.”

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Hilda Bewildered | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/05/reviews/apps/hilda-bewildered-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/05/reviews/apps/hilda-bewildered-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 14 May 2015 16:20:48 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=140461 Hilda Bewildered, will delight fans.]]> Few authors and developers create fictional stories for the iPad with the tween and teen audience in mind. Lynley Stace of Slap Happy Larry is an exception. A while back SLJ interviewed Stace about her haunting stories, beguiling artwork, and app development. Her latest production, Hilda Bewildered, is reviewed below. Its extensive teaching notes will be a boon to educators who want to introduce digital stories in the classroom.

Hilda 2

Hilda is the name of a princess who is nervous about delivering her first public speech, and it’s also the name of a pickpocket who crashes the event and steals a royal ring. Lynley Stace’s Hilda Bewildered  (Dan Hare/Slap Happy Larry, iOS $2.99; Gr 6 Up), a somewhat surreal story, requires readers to decide for themselves which parts of this tale are real and which are fantastical. As with the other interactive fictional offerings from Stace (The Artifacts, Midnight Feast), Hilda encourages readers to experience the story in a flexible way, as they consider its themes of imagination and identity.

Screen from "Hilda Bewildered" (Slap Happy Larry) Stace

Screen from Hilda Bewildered (Slap Happy Larry) Stace

The app rewards exploration. The more time viewers spend on a screen, the more they will discover. “Rub-to-reveal” pages offer a second image under the first. Persistent tapping presents layers of dialogue. Words sometimes appear on the screen, then float up and away until they’re out of sight. Hands holding a cell phone rise from the bottom of one page and take photos (which change when tapped). The app is a feast for the senses—jewel-toned pages shimmer in and out of view, static characters are given the illusion of movement, and color, music (Chris Hurn), and sound effects change to mirror the mood and tempo of a scene.

Tweens and teens are sure to appreciate Hilda, but don’t hesitate to share it with adults, who will also be enchanted by this atmospheric, imaginative story. A protected “more” icon on the menu page leads to page-by-page “Illustration/Teaching Notes” where Stace discusses her decisions about color, visual angles, language, setting, music, and weather, and commentary on advertising and wealth and poverty. Another icon leads to an offer to purchase Slap Happy Larry apps in a bundle.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated app webpage.

 

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It’s All About the Birds | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/05/reviews/apps/its-all-about-the-birds-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/05/reviews/apps/its-all-about-the-birds-touch-and-go/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 14:19:43 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=139755 As a city dweller, I might have wondered about the statistic on the number of birders in the United States cited below. But having worked side-by-side with a dedicated birder at School Library Journal (who has traveled far and wide in pursuit of the hobby) and witnessed how a perennial second-grade unit on these creatures brought those students (and their parents and siblings) back year after year looking for new titles on our winged friends, I have no doubt that the number is accurate. Here are a couple of the latest digital guides to share with the birders—armchair or otherwise—that come into your library.

warblerBird-watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor hobbies in the United States with well over 51.3 million Americans reporting that they participate. The activity has generated enthusiasm across all age groups and demographics. Many of us grew up with a tattered copy of one of the “Peterson Guides” in our home. Today, with family members pinching and swiping their way through books, it’s no surprise that digital references for these hobbyists are a growing category.

Indeed, there are a host of great apps to assist those who want to sharpen their observational skills. Quality resources include iBird in all its iterations, from the Ultimate (pricey) to the Lite (free) versions, both available for i0S and Android, as well as National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America (also available in a free, Birds Lite edition). And, of course, there’s Peterson’s Birds Pocket Edition: A Field Guide to Birds of North America. Is there room for additional competitors and improvements? Enter the species-specific app. Since warblers are one of the most confusing and difficult to identify of birds, it makes sense to offer a guide on them, and Princeton University Press and One Hundred Robots have obliged with The Warbler Guide (iOS $12.99; Gr 9 Up).

The app is based on the award-winning reference of the same title by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle (PUP, 2013). Brief descriptions of the creatures are offered, along with icons indicating typical behaviors and preferred habitats. Particularly noteworthy are the multiple views of the birds that allow users to see the creatures from many angles including below with pinch-zoom properties. Other welcome features are the exhaustive song and vocalization library for each warbler, and the array of images depicting differences for age, plumage, season, and activity. The app can be customized by view, season, location, and order. There’s even an opportunity to paint the bird bodies, which will aid in identification when in the field, filtering out some of the many possibilities. A user guide is provided.

Highly sophisticated both in navigation and content, the app is designed for experienced, dedicated birder. Combining the depth of the print guide and the technology of digital, Warbler will make a good companion for those hoping to identify those beautiful but difficult-to-identify warblers on a walk or hike, or during window bird-watching session. Student researchers looking for images may also find it useful.—Elisabeth LeBris, Director Library Tech Center, Kenilworth SD 38, Kenilworth, IL

icon-birdguideSimilar in design and depth to the National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America, the Collins Bird Guide (Touch Press/Bonnier Fakta/William Collins, iOS $17.99; Gr 5 Up) focuses solely on the birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The app is based on the book by Lars Svensson and illustrated by Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterstrom (Collins, 2008). Species can be searched by name and a variety of attributes including plumage, habitat, and size. Each animal is drawn in various poses with labels describing its physical features. The text is limited to short descriptions of the creatures’ appearance, and typical flight and characteristic voice patterns. For each, a small distribution map is provided; a bird atlas is available as an in-app purchase.

Enhancements include an audio of each bird’s call and a selection of videos (13 in all) of the some of the animals in their natural habitats. The videos are superb, both informative and appealing, and set this app apart from other guides. (Additional videos are available as three in-app purchases, totaling 794 video clips.) The app’s other noteworthy features include a comparison guide—helpful in the field for identification purposes—and a “share” button that alerts other birders to a special sighting. There’s also an option to create a “life list” of sightings.

Both navigation and image size changes are easy. Because of the range of the birds featured, the app may not be essential for North American birders, but for those wishing to see and hear some nonnative species up close, this will be a worthwhile purchase.—Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated webpage.

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A Pourquoi Tale from Liberia: “Dentist Bird” | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/a-pourquoi-tale-from-liberia-dentist-bird-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/a-pourquoi-tale-from-liberia-dentist-bird-touch-and-go/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 12:41:12 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=139011 Dentist Bird, a West African folktale from Literary Safari, explains how it came to be that plover birds clean crocodiles' teeth. The developer notes that 100 percent of the purchase price of the app will go to "We-Care Foundation's efforts to keep children reading and learning amidst the Ebola outbreak." For iOS and Android. ]]> A pourquoi tale from West Africa is the subject of an app from Literary Safari. On the website, the developer notes that 100 percent of the purchase price “will go to the We-Care Foundation’s efforts to keep children reading and learning amidst the Ebola outbreak.”

Screen from "Dentist Bird" (Literary Safari)

Screen from “Dentist Bird” (Literary Safari) illus. David Wolobah

Dentist Bird (Literary Safari Inc. iOS $1.99; Android $1.99; K–Gr 2) is a Liberian folktale based on Michael Richards’s How Plover Bird Came to Clean Crocodiles Teeth. In this retelling, a crocodile suffers from an excruciating toothache and receives help from an unexpected ally. While the rainforest animals debate about whether to relieve the poor reptile’s pain, a plover bird volunteers its skills. What results is a mutually beneficial agreement between species, where plover birds will eat the fish stuck between the crocodiles’ teeth in exchange for a promise that they will not be harmed in the process.

In the “Read” option, the app’s interactive sounds, animations, and gameplay, are accessed by tapping or swiping the screen. However, in the narrated mode, users can’t trigger interactive elements until the text on the screen is read. For hints on where to tap or swipe for interactivity or animations, children must touch a help icon in the top left of the screen; no hotspots are visible. Vibrant, lush oil illustrations by David Wolobah largely capture the setting of Dentist Bird, but a couple of the animal illustrations—namely the snail and leopard—are poorly rendered.

Embedded gameplay is slightly clunky; at points readers are forced to unlock “achievements” before progressing to the next screen, which interferes with the story’s momentum. Users may bypass this dilemma by tapping the help icon, a tedious step. In contrast, the Mission of Mercy game in the “Play” section is better designed, fast-paced fun that will certainly keep children coming back for more. Strong suits of this app include a “Learning” page with additional interactive content to engage young readers on facts about Liberia and rainforest animals, as well as a “Grownups” folder with links to detailed lesson plans and printables. A trailer is available. Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated webpage.

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Playing with the Alphabet, “Metamorphabet” | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/playing-with-the-alphabet-metamorphabet-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/playing-with-the-alphabet-metamorphabet-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:40:19 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=138359 Only two months out of the gate and Metamorphabet, a new app developed by Patrick Smith and Vectorpark, has received accolades: recognition by the 2015 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award Committee, and the award for Excellence in Visual Arts at the Independent Games (as well as a finalist for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the same festival). Read Mary Ann Scheuer’s review of the app below and take a peek at the trailer, and you will see why.

The letter N from (Vectorpark) Patrick Smith

The letter N from Metamorphabet (Vectorpark) Patrick Smith

Metamorphabet (Patrick Smith/Vectorpark, iOS, $3.99, PreS-Gr2) combines fluid animation with playful, imaginative word pairings, offering an alphabet app with both visual and poetic appeal. When users tap the featured letter, it transforms into a blocklike 3-D sculptural form. With a few more taps, the letter begins morphing into images representing words beginning with that same letter. A beard pops out of the bottom of the letter B, and then a beak appears at the top of the letter. When the beak opens, out flies a swarm of bugs that viewers can drag about the screen. Printed words help reinforce the letter concept, and users can touch the words to hear them voiced again.

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The letter F from Metamorphabet (Vectorpark) Patrick Smith

Warm humor and delightful surprises create perfect pacing and tone for this app. A giant foot grows out of the bottom of the letter F, and bounces or wiggles its toes when viewers manipulate it. Soon it sprouts feathers and then a fan, bouncing along until users switch on the fan allowing it to fly away. The J jiggles like Jello, then juggles three beach balls that turn into jellyfish. A sock slides on to cover the bottom of the letter S, which becomes a snake.

Many of the illustrations have a surrealistic feel, reminiscent of the work of René Magritte, featuring bold structural shapes and colors and unexpected combinations. Sound effects (cymbals, horns, birds chirping, etc.) enhance the presentations. The clear narration and intuitive navigation will allow young children to use the app independently. But, best of all, playing with this alphabet is thoroughly enjoyable.

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The Garden screen from Metamorphabet (Vectorpark) Patrick Smith

The vocabulary choices (for example: knight, kaleidoscope, tongue) indicate that this app might not be the first choice for developing early reading skills. Others, such as Dr. Seuss’s ABC and Endless Alphabet (see Touch and Go’s “A Bevy of Alphabet Apps” January 2014), focus more attention on letter and sound identification. Seek Metamorphabet for its bold artwork, fluid design, and playful treatment—there’s an unexpected delight at every turn.—Mary Ann Scheuer, Emerson School, Berkeley, CA 

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated app webpage.

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What Would Winston Do? | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/what-would-winston-do-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/what-would-winston-do-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 08 Apr 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=135520  

Here’s something a little different from Touch Press, the developers of the extraordinary Beethoven’s Ninth SymphonyThe Waste Land, and Molecules, among other productions. Their new app is interactive personal and political history, asking viewers to imagine how they would respond in situations that Winston Churchill confronted, as a young man and as Britain’s leader.

Index, "Think Like Churchill' (Touch Press)

Index, “Think Like Churchill’ (Touch Press)

How do a lifetime of choices prepare a leader to guide a nation wisely in wartime? Think Like Churchill (Touch Press/Hodder & Stoughton/W.S.C. Churchill Heritage, iOS $3.99; Gr 5 Up) uniquely combines sound effects, music, text, art, a little animation, and viewer choice to dig deeply into deciphering the character of Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, during and after World War II.

The index screen invites users to explore five episodes in Churchill’s life, beginning with a childhood skirmish on a bridge and concluding with the evacuation of Dunkirk. Although the episodes can be viewed in any order (navigation from one to another is easy), a clearer understanding of the man is developed by working through them chronologically. The narrative is spare but readers can choose to learn more by exploring hot spots that reveal additional information.

Interior screen, "Think Like Churchill" (Touch Press)

Interior chapter opener, “Think Like Churchill” (Touch Press) illus. by Jaime Huxable

The art and use of captions will appeal to readers of sophisticated graphic novels as detailed scenes in muted colors lead them through each event. Quotes from Churchill are recognized by their peach-colored backgrounds. Once readers have absorbed all the evidence, they’re invited to predict: What would Churchill do? Their choice is confirmed as correct or briefly acknowledged as incorrect and his actual decision is revealed.

Readers then analyze their choice and motives, and an intriguing graphic compares their motives with what is known about Churchill’s. At the end of each episode, a collage of related photos, letters, postcards, and the texts of speeches yield their contents when tapped. Typed notes for some of Churchill’s famous speeches are surprisingly touching.

Think Like Churchill provides nonfiction text; includes primary sources; promotes analysis, evaluation, and higher-level thinking; and is beautifully designed and fun. The creators promise additional free content to come and readers won’t be able to resist signing up to receive the next chapter about D-Day. They may also wonder what their choices reveal about them. As Dumbledore said, “It is our choices Harry, far more than our abilities, that show what we really are.”—Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle School District

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated app webpage.

Archive page from "Think Like Churchill" (Touch Press)

Archive page from “Think Like Churchill” (Touch Press)

 

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New from Nosy Crow! Snow White | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/new-from-nosy-crow-snow-white-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/04/reviews/apps/new-from-nosy-crow-snow-white-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:17:24 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=135826  

snow white coverNosy Crow’s list, which includes The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk has scooped a number of accolades including the prestigious BolognaRagazzi Digital Award in the fiction category. Their latest fairy tale app features the same quirky storytelling and smart interactivity that has enchanted children since their first production was released.

Nosy Crow adds another outstanding offering to its series of fairy tale adaptations with this cheerful telling of Snow White (iOS $4.99; PreS-Gr 3). Young readers will enjoy the delightful British English voice-overs supplied by children, gentle soundtrack, and charming illustrations. Intuitively navigable with arrows on each page and a map that allows readers to jump from scene to scene, the plot stays close to the Brothers Grimm tale, though slightly toned down—no gory details about the Huntsman being commanded to cut out Snow White’s heart, for example. Refreshingly, one of the dwarves is female, removing the original tale’s uncomfortable notion that Snow White’s main role is to tidy up after a group of men.

Interior screen from "Snow White" (Nosy Crow)

Interior screen from “Snow White” (Nosy Crow)

The app strikes an appealing balance between storytelling and interactivity. Dialogue can be extended according to individual preference in both the “Read and Play” and “Read by Myself” modes, and the iPad’s microphone, camera, and gyroscope features are used cleverly, enabling viewers to see their own face in the Evil Queen’s magic mirror, rock the infant Snow White to sleep by tilting the device, or wake the sleeping princess with a shout. The production also offers standard drag-and-drop elements so children can help clean the dwarves’ cobweb-ridden cottage and mix the Evil Queen’s potion. The only potential drawback is the app’s subtle parallax effect that can’t be disabled—the shifting backgrounds could induce dizziness when displayed on a large screen in a presentation setting. Nevertheless, Snow White is a terrific choice for enjoying one-on-one, and is a welcome addition to any book app collection.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Eds. note: A trailer of Snow White is available. For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated app webpage.

Interior screen from "Snow White" (Nosy Crow)

Interior screen from “Snow White” (Nosy Crow)

 

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Westward Bound | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/03/reviews/apps/westward-bound-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/03/reviews/apps/westward-bound-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:44:40 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=135058 photo

“‘With a sinking feeling, I realized that I was entering a new kind of life, as rough and full of ups and downs as the road over which we traveled. Would I have the courage and fortitude to stick it out?”—Katherine Kirk, Bound for South Dakota.’”

 

Pioneers (iOS; $2.99; Gr 4-6), Volume 24 of the award-winning Kids Discover series, written by Linda Scher, offers a detail-rich, fascinating introduction to the peak years of the Westward Expansion.

The app is well organized with clear and simple navigation. Chapters topics advance logically, beginning with a broad definition of pioneer, followed by information on the various waves of people that headed West, their reasons for leaving home, the enormous hardships they faced on the trail, and the challenges of surviving in the often inhospitable environment they found themselves in. Community and leisure activities from cornhusking contests to hoedowns, and some commonly held misconceptions about the period and the people are also discussed. Briefly noted is the movement’s disruption to the Native American way of life.

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Interior image from Kids Discover’s “Pioneers” (Scher) Art Resource

Throughout, drop-down quotes provide firsthand commentary by the travelers (not sourced). Adventurous individuals mentioned include frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Benjamin Singleton, who was born into slavery in Tennessee, and after the Civil War started an all-black community in Kansas.

Interactive 3-D models; high definition video and audio; photographs, including many archival sepia prints; spot art cartoons; and animations add to the information and invite continued reading and browsing. The final chapters of Pioneers offer a few interactive games of limited interest, a simple quiz, and a bibliography with live links to excellent resources for further research.

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Image from a video clip in Kids Discover’s “Pioneers” (Scher) Peter Draper

The audio files combine music, speech, and sound effects to create an immersive experience. The full-screen 3-D animated models optimized for the iPad are particularly well executed. They include views of a log cabin and the inside of a covered wagon, and a twirl around a buffalo. One vivid video sequence titled “The Perils of the Plains” provides five short clips of the types of environmental challenges experienced by those living in that area, today and in the past: snowstorms, dust storms, prairie fires, tornadoes, and swarms of locusts. Also included are a few realistic-looking, distressed sepia video clips of moving wagon trains and figures walking. While it will be clear to adults that these are contemporary reenactments, students with no background knowledge of the period or the invention of film, may think they are seeing actual footage from the era.

This informative app is could serve as an introduction to a unit of study on the Westward Expansion.Teachers may want to consider connecting their iPads to an interactive whiteboard and invite students to explore the app as a discussion starter or as a Know/Wants to Know/Learned (K-W-L) graphic organizer and opener to the period. It would also be suitable for students in a 1:1 environment, and interested children in a home or public library setting. Overall, it’s an engaging introduction and an excellent addition to the series.—Elisabeth LeBris, Sears School LTC, Kenilworth, IL

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated app webpage.

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The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924 | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/03/reviews/apps/the-new-immigrants-nyc-1880-1924-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/03/reviews/apps/the-new-immigrants-nyc-1880-1924-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:44:03 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=133935  

New immigrantsThe promise of the today’s Internet and software is the ability to mine some of the best available resources—wherever they may be. That promise has seen fruition in New York City’s Department of Education partnership with four cultural institutions—the National Archives at New York City, the Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Together they have gathered and curated an extraordinary collection of 100-plus primary and secondary sources and images related to the second wave of wave of U.S. immigration in The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924. (Vangard Direct, iOS; Free; Gr 4 Up). The app was designed for teachers to use with students, but will be appreciated by anyone interested in early 20th-century American history.

Combining contemporary and historical essays, oral histories, archival photos, video clips, documents, and more, this superb production touches on the economic, religious, and political reasons people left their homes at the turn of the century and made the grueling trip to the United States. Tenement life and assimilation into New York City’s Lower East Side receives in-depth treatment. A section titled “Nativism” explores the backlash initiated by established U.S. residents that led to damaging, “prejudicial public policies and stereotypes” toward and about the new immigrants.

Interior screen from "The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924" (Vanguard)

Interior screen from “The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924″ (Vanguard)

Six distinct sections cover these topics, each one accessed from the main screen. An archival photo provides the backdrop to an introductory line or two of text for each section, while a series of smaller, circular images open to additional resources. (Swiping left, more resources become visible.) For each image or document, icons provide source information; suggestions of questions and prompts (developed by a team of educators and assigned a grade level—elementary, middle or high school); links to other resources; and tools to create a collection within the collection (think: to project onto a screen, or deliver as a defined lesson). In all there are 100-plus resources, some of which can be accessed under more than one section. For example, a 1921 news article on “The Foreigner” can be found under “Nativism” and “Assimilation and Cultural Preservation,” underscoring how one aspect of life at the time impacted others.

Among the many images of artifacts are a pouch for carrying documents, a basket used as a suitcase, a naturalization certification, a child’s report card, a union card, ships’ manifests, and a handwritten copy of Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus”—all incredibly poignant in this context. The numerous black-and-white photos of daily life include telling scenes from inside homes, schools, factories, and on the street; a number bear the name of Jacob Riis (1849-1914).

Context is provided in essays such as Edward T. O’Donnell’s 21st-century look at “Immigrant Life” and contemporary commentary by Robert Alston Stevenson in “The Poor in Summer,” published in Scribner’s Magazine in 1901, and William Dean Howells’s “An East Side Ramble,” about a 1896 visit he made to various ethnic quarters. Of particular interest are the oral histories including those by a sweatshop girl from Poland, an Irish cook, a bootblack from Italy, and a man from China who worked as a servant before opening a laundry. They describe life in their homeland, their employment in the United States, and daily living, including such incidentals as weekly expenditures on food.

The app offers step-by-step instructions on using the tools, and outlines teaching strategies, activities, and methods in detail under a section titled “Teaching Immigration.” Also found there are examples of lessons in “Document Based Performance Tasks,” aligned with the New York City Social Studies Scope and Sequence in grades 4, 8, and 11 and the Common Core State Standards.

A search bar, frequent additional links, and fluid navigation make the information in The New Immigrants easy to access. In the range and depth of its resources and support material, the app will help students understand the value of primary and secondary sources, develop insights into the immigrant experience of the millions of new arrivals to our nation in the early 20th century, and explore historical thinking. It’s not to be missed. Download it now.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

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

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A 1915 membership certificate to the Immigrant Aid Society of America from “The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924″ (Vanguard)

Esther Pearlman's card from the Ladies Waist & Dressmakers Union. "The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1923" (Vanguard)t

Esther Pearlman’s “Ladies Waist & Dressmakers” union card. “The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924″ (Vanguard)

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Outstanding STEM Apps: Digital resources on life science, physical science, and earth and space sciences http://www.slj.com/2015/03/feature-articles/outstanding-stem-apps-digital-resources-on-life-science-physical-science-and-earth-and-space-sciences/ http://www.slj.com/2015/03/feature-articles/outstanding-stem-apps-digital-resources-on-life-science-physical-science-and-earth-and-space-sciences/#respond Mon, 09 Mar 2015 15:59:34 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=132791 The renewed interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in the United States began with the awareness that 21st-century employment opportunities in technology and science would continue to expand rapidly, outpacing our nation’s pool of trained workers. There was also the concern that the U.S. would lose whatever competitive edge it had in related global industries. Since then, STEM legislation has been introduced in Congress, and federal dollars have supported a range of education initiatives and programs to address the issue. The apps listed below are some of our STEM favorites, culled from SLJ’s column “Touch and Go.” They satisfy current academic interests in increasing the number of accessible science and digital resources. For additional titles, visit our dedicated app webpage (http://ow.ly/IixLa).

Begin building your collection by downloading Science 360 (National Science Foundation; iOS Free; Gr 6 Up), a free app covering a range of STEM topics, from origami-inspired inventions and monarch butterflies to cochlear implants and infectious diseases. Viewers choose their subjects from a wall populated with images, each one opening to a full-screen, high-definition photo accompanied by text or a short, engaging video on the topic. A well-executed app, updated weekly.

Life sciences

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-Bats-FurryFliersMary Kay Carson’s Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night (Bookerella/Story. iOS, $2.99; PreS-Gr 4) offers layers of information along with photographs, illustrations, maps, animated sequences, and sound effects, as it describes and depicts bat species, their anatomy, habits, and habitats. Not to be missed: a make-your-own bat screech and an opportunity to virtually steer this mammal’s flight through the night sky. Links to further study and conservation efforts are included.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-WondersofLifeIn Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life (HarperCollins/William Collins, iOS $4.99; Gr 4 Up), the renowned physicist and BBC host takes viewers around the world on an awe-inspiring tour of locations forbidding and exotic while delving into the origins and mysteries of life on Earth. The app’s illuminating text and commentary, 1,000-plus high-resolution photos, numerous 3-D images, and hours of video clips will leave viewers with a profound respect for the diverse life-forms found on our planet and inspire a desire to protect them.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-ParkerPenguinFranklin Frog (iOS, $4.99; Nook, $4.99) and Parker Penguin (iOS $4.99; both Nosy Crow, PreS-Gr 2), both by Barry and Emma Tranter, are interactive, circular stories that highlight the habits and life cycle of animals. Children follow the subject creatures, aiding 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 to more facts and definitions.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-HumanBodyAside from labels (available in a number of languages), there’s no text in Tinybop Inc.’s The Human Body ($2.99; K-Gr 5), an app that allows children to explore body systems through animated visuals that they set in motion. For example, a tap on a mosquito allows viewers to see how the body responds to an insect bite, while dragging a cookie into a figure’s mouth gets the digestive system going. Realistic sound effects (a heart beats as it pumps blood, stomach liquids gurgle, etc.) enhance this absorbing presentation. An accompanying handbook is available online.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-PlantsSophisticated design, detailed images, and discoveries waiting to be made are the hallmarks of Plants (Tinybop, Inc., iOS $2.99; PreS-Gr 5), an intriguing production that explores three biomes: forest, grassland, and desert (with more to come). There’s no text per se, but labels in 50-plus languages, sound effects, interactive opportunities, and “algorithmic animations [that] yield surprises in every play” provide children with a fascinating glimpse into the interconnections among the flora, fauna, and landscapes seen throughout the seasons.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-MarchoftheDinosaursThe animated March of the Dinosaurs (Touch Press, iOS $1.99; Gr 4-9) offers viewers a look at what two late-Cretaceous animals might have encountered as they struggled to survive an Arctic winter 70 million years ago. Their parallel, anthropomorphized histories are told through text, film clips (from the 2011 TV special Escape of the Dinosaurs), and 3-D images. “Fact files” along with sound effects and music extend this exhilarating experience.

No longer must fledgling birders juggle a field guide, a journal, and a pen on the trail. All they need is binoculars and the National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America (iOS $9.99; Gr 4 Up) and voilà, they’re ready to go. The app presents an overview of 995 species, with labeled color images, habitat and range maps, video clips, and options to create photo-enhanced lists. From the caterwauling of a pair of barred owls to the warble of a hermit thrush, the opportunity to listen to each creature’s sounds is truly something to sing about.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-OurAmazingWorldOWLSVibrant photos of an incredible variety of owls in their natural settings are featured in Wayne Lynch’s Our Amazing World: Owls (iOS $2.99). While the visuals are the strength of this app, the text and captions offer abundant details (available in multiple languages) on owls’ habits, habitats, diet, anatomy, and physical features. Our Amazing World: Penguins (iOS $2.99, both Matchbook Digital; Gr 4 Up), also by Lynch, presents similarly stunning photographic images and facts on that sea bird.

Physical sciences

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-Bobo-ExploresA magnetic, disco-dancing robotic host delivers information on light in all its forms in Bobo Explores Light (Game Collage, LLC, iOS $4.99; Gr 2-6). Twenty-one chapters cover topics from lasers to lightning and binoculars to bioluminescence through text and illuminating video clips. In addition, activities allow students to develop hands-on experience in understanding such concepts as refraction and reflection. A gyroscope and holograms are just two of the cool technologies incorporated into Bobo’s high-energy tutorial.

“Every element known to science,” from hydrogen (1) to ununoctium (118), is examined in Theodore Gray’s congenial guide to the Elements (Touch Press, $13.99; Gr 9 Up). The app begins with an introduction to the Periodic Table and the laws that govern it, followed by a closer look at each element. Information on the elements’ individual properties and the scientists they were named after, along with plentiful photos and 360-degree views of numerous artifacts, provide a captivating picture and make the “universal catalog of everything” tangible.

Highlighting holdings from Chicago’s Field Museum, Gems and Jewels (Touch Press, iOS $13.99; Gr 5 Up) offers dazzling, rotating views of priceless stones and pieces of jewelry that can be enlarged for closer inspection—perspectives unavailable even to museumgoers. Along with the images—from diamonds and rubies to coral and sapphires—is information on the stones’ history (social, political, and historical), geology, folklore, and cultural importance. Spacious and sparkling.

“Math is Beautiful,” states the introduction to Ian Stewart’s Incredible Numbers (Touch Press/Profile Books, iOS $9.99; Gr 7 Up), and the app delivers an “elegant proof” of that claim. From pi to polygons and factorials to infinity, this interactive exploration of mathematical concepts and their applications in nature, music, and cryptology (e.g., the Enigma Machine), will appeal to a range of users. A dictionary, brief bios, and puzzles to solve make this an essential resource for students of advanced mathematics.

Superb illustrations, clear diagrams, informative videos, and a lucid text explore the forms of Matter (Kids Discover, $3.99; Gr 5-8), their distinctive features, physical properties, and individual characteristics. The vivid visuals go a long way in helping to define terms, illuminate concepts, and illustrate how we experience and utilize matter in its various states in our daily lives—from the foods we eat to the technology we employ. Sound effects and bits of musical accompaniment add texture.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-MoleculesMolecules (Touch Press; $13.99; Gr 9 Up) is Theodore Gray’s first-person guide to natural and synthetic electrically charged particles, in all their complexity and beauty. In his discussions and explanations, Gray addresses both the science of molecular bonds and their relevance to such topics as vaccines, pain killers, and the ozone layer. Astonishing state-of-the- art simulations allow viewers to manipulate wiggling 3-D models of a range of molecules, demonstrating both their structural characteristics and flexibility.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-SimpleMachinesEmploying cartoon art, animations, video, and a straightforward text sprinkled with humorous asides, Simple Machines (Kids Discover; iOS $3.99; Gr 4-6) provides a basic introduction to levers and inclined planes—the “two families” of these mechanisms. Early history of some of the devices (pulleys, wheels, wedge, etc.) is included, as are the principles that govern them and a range of historical and modern-day inventions where they operate.

Earth and space sciences

Based on the popular BBC science series hosted by the renowned physicist, Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe (HarperCollins/BBC, iOS $5.99; Gr 9 Up) immerses viewers in a spectacular look at the mysteries of our solar system and beyond. Cox is an engaging guide who instills in his viewers an appropriate sense of awe regarding these otherworldly topics and scenes. Add to this an incredibly deep text, animated images, infographics, high-resolution 3-D images, and hours of video clips.

In Fragile Earth (HarperCollins/Aimer Media; $2.99; Gr 6 Up), 170 pairs of captioned, before-and-after photos, taken on the ground or by satellite, reveal the often devastating effects of hurricanes, tsunamis, and other natural phenomena on our vulnerable planet—as well as the harmful consequences of urbanization, mining, and global warming. In one horrifying sequence, 15 minutes separate two black-and-white photos taken before and after a violent dust storm engulfed a Kansas town. These and other images are enlightening, and frequently alarming.

Seven chapters offer an exploration of “essential principles” of Ocean Science (Ringier Studios, $2.99; Gr 9 Up): the forces that govern that watery world and the life-forms found within it. For each principle, explanations are offered in the form of text, multiple photos, and animated diagrams (often narrated), covering such topics as the ocean ecosystem and “water as provider.” Viewers can tour the control room of an underwater research vessel and explore ocean zones as they scroll down to the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the sea.

Our Amazing World: Antarctica (Matchbook Digital LLC, iOS $2.99; Gr 4 Up) highlights the natural beauty and wildlife of this mysterious continent. The gallery of stunning, captioned photographs by Wayne Lynch is accompanied by historical and scientific facts about the geography of the land and the habitats and behaviors of penguins, seals, petrels, terns, and other native animals. It’s essentially a digital coffee-table book, but a beautiful one that imparts reams of visual information.

Seat belts fastened? Edward Bell’s Journey to the Exoplanets (Farrar/Scientific American, iOS $9.99; Gr 7 Up) explores the little-known planets beyond our solar system. The app offers many options, including a regularly updated “Exoplanet Feed,” animated explanations of key concepts, and gyroscopic views of these far-flung orbs. Ron Miller’s spectacular images of alien landscapes make this a top-notch production.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-TrackingTrashBased on Loree Griffin Burns’s book of the same title and enhanced with videos, animations, and links to websites, Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (iBook $9.99; Gr 4-9) spotlights the efforts of Curt Ebbesmeyer and other scientists whose work studying ocean currents has included tracking the routes of “roughly 80,000 sneakers” and 28,800 plastic tub toys set adrift in the Pacific Ocean as a result of cargo spills. As one researcher observed, “There is a lot more trash out there than I expected.” Eye-opening.

Breathtaking visuals, a concise text, and a narrated tour of some of our nation’s most spectacular natural sites make Michael Collier’s Wonders of Geology (Mikaya Press/Tasa Graphic Arts, iOS $12.99; Gr 6 Up) a contender for the Eighth Wonder of the World. Close-up views, animated diagrams, and arrows that point to the geographic features under discussion transform basic science concepts into fascinating brain food. Throw in flawless navigation, and this production is a secondary student’s go-to text.

SLJ1503-STEMAPP-Hawking-SnapshotsUniverseThrough an intriguing introduction, interactive “experiments,” and colorful visuals, Stephen Hawking’s Snapshots of the Universe (Random, iOS, $4.99; Gr 5 -7) familiarizes students with some of the basic concepts underlying our current understanding of the cosmos. Various models of the universe as proposed from ancient times to the present day are briefly explained as are black holes, the relativity of time, and gravity and acceleration. A sure-to-please overview for all students, particularly those who benefit from hands-on learning. Sound effects and crisp visuals enhance the presentation.

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated webpage.

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March 2 Is Seuss Day | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2015/02/reviews/apps/march-2-is-seuss-day-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2015/02/reviews/apps/march-2-is-seuss-day-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:40:23 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=131135 Each year, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2, we offer reviews of Seuss apps published during the previous 12 months—and check to see if we might have missed a few earlier titles. Oceanhouse Media (OM) is the place to go if you are looking for any of Geisel’s books in digital. To date, OM has published dozens of Seuss and “Dr. Seuss Learning Library” titles for iOS, Android, and other devices. Earlier round-ups of Seuss apps have included Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! and The “Very Serious” Nonsense of Dr. Seuss. And FYI, the Dr. Seuss Camera – Happy Birthday to You! Edition is still free, if you would like to create a few birthday cards in his honor. This year we report on three apps.

camel 2The Cat in the Hat is at it again—this time with Dick and Sally on an adventure to discover: Is a Camel a Mammal? (Oceanside Media, iOS $5.99; PreS-Gr 2). The app is an interactive version of Tish Rabe’s book by the same title (Random, 1999) in the “Dr. Seuss Learning Library” series. The rhyming text includes bits of information about a variety of mammals both large and small from elephants to pygmy shrews, including where they live, what they eat, and how they move.

The app’s interactive features are mostly language-based; viewers can tap on any word in bold to learn its meaning, or touch a picture to see its label appear and hear it voiced. A tap to an image of Seuss’s Thing 1 or Thing 2 characters will provide additional facts.

The home screen offers “Read to Me” and “Read It Myself” options. The narration provided is exuberant and humorous, suited to Seuss’s lyrical text. Users may also choose to record their own voice. Sound effects can be heard throughout the production: lions roaring, elephant trumpeting, mice squeaking, and so forth. While this app doesn’t contain many added features, fans of The Cat in the Hat will gravitate to this book-based app.–Stephanie Rivera, Naperville Public Library

Screen from 'Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry" (Oceanhouse Media) Ruiz & Mathieu

Screen from ‘Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry” (Oceanhouse Media) Ruiz & Mathieu

In addition to answering the question Why Oh Why are Deserts Dry? (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $3.99; PreS-Gr 2) Tish Rabe’s story app, based on her book by the same title (Random, 2011), and featuring familiar Seuss characters, quickly dispels the notion that deserts are only hot, empty, and bare places.Rather, while their climates are harsh, they are ecosystems where many animals and plants thrive, and in some cases, snow falls. Desert denizens—from honeypot ants and Gila woodpeckers to vultures and kangaroos—and how they regulate their body temperature, find food, and avoid predators is explained  through an accessible text and animated graphics and other visuals by Aristed Ruiz and Joe Mathieu. Information on plants offers facts on root and storage systems. In addition, individual deserts, including the Namib, Sahara, Mojave, and Gobi, and the creatures and weather particular to each, are considered along with how dunes are formed and what an oasis is, among other topics. Animated details such as how the sandgrouse finds and offers water to its offspring will delight viewers. Several reading and listening modes are provided as well as recording option. An accessible intro to ecosystems packed with information.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal 

kingExploring the themes of “work hard, play hard,” The King’s Stilts (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $4.99; Android, $4.99; PreS-Gr 4) is one of Seuss’s earliest stories (Random, 1939), and one of few the author wrote in narrative form. John Bell’s expressive narration captures the Seuss’s trademark cadence and flow with a lively pace in this story.

App operation is straightforward with options to “Read to Me,” “Read it Myself,” or “Auto Play.” Original illustrations in Seuss’s familiar black, white, and red style appear side-by-side with the text. Children can tap on individual words to hear them spoken aloud or tap on pictures to showcase new vocabulary. Personal narrations can be recorded.

This long-playing story will appeal to older preschoolers and elementary children, and may revive this classic story for a new generation.—Deborah Cooper, Savona Free Library, Savona NY

For additional app reviews visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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