School Library Journal » » App Reviews The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:42:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Do a Bat and Kangaroo Have in Common? | Find Out in Tinybop’s “Mammals” Sun, 23 Apr 2017 14:57:49 +0000  

Teachers and parents looking for hands-on STEM tools and toys will find a host of interactive resources in Tinybop Inc’s apps. The developer recently added a ninth app to their “Explorer’s Library” sandbox adventures. The artist, Wenjia Tang, an undergraduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) answered a few questions about her art and inspirations in an interview. Deborah Whitbeck reviews the app below.


Screen from Mammals (Tinybop) illus. by Wenjia Tang

Screen from Mammals (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Wenjia Tang

Using the interactive Mammals (Tinybop Inc. iOS, $2.99; PreK-Gr 2) viewers can explore the attributes of an African elephant, a Bengal tiger, a brown bat, and a red kangaroo (with a two-toed sloth to come). Options allow for a look inside each creature’s skeletal, muscular, nervous circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems, and for two of the animals, their urogenital systems.

While exploring the digestive system of each mammal viewers experiment with menu options to determine the foods each animal prefers. (The elephant rejects meat but consumes vegetation, while a tiger has an appetite for meat and rebuffs vegetation, etc.) Herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores are represented in the group, and astute observers may notice that the stomachs differ. Food intake eventually produces waste, which young viewers will no doubt delight in causing to happen. Urogenital systems depict an elephant fetus and a kangaroo’s joey nursing.

Kids can also explore the animals’ unique traits: the bat employs echolocation to determine what is flying within its range; the tiger has retractable claws, and so on. Other features allow viewers to investigate how each creature sees, to stage a race between two mammals to compare speeds, to find out how animals react to tickles or stings, and to examine fur up close. A look at a skeletal system depicts how it hold ups different body parts, but with a tap to the screen viewers can disassemble it and put it back together again.

Both the app’s visuals and animations are excellent. The audio provides minimal sound effects such as chewing or running. There is no text, but labels in five languages are available. The free, online handbook (available in eight languages) is a useful tool for adults to prompt discussions with kids about their observations and contains a wealth of additional information on each animal. VERDICT A fabulous tool to engage kids in the sciences that’s both engaging and easy to navigate.—Debbie Whitbeck, formerly of West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Screen from Mammals (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Wenjia Tang

Screen from Mammals (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Wenjia Tang

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

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Buried Alive | The Secret Michelangelo Took to His Grave Tue, 11 Apr 2017 14:30:06 +0000  


Drama of historical proportions, a storyteller’s pacing, choice details, archival images, music, and challenges punctuate Sarah Towle’s first app, Beware Madame La Guillotine (Time Traveler Tours, LLC). That app’s narrator and guide through the streets of Paris during the Reign of Terror is Charlotte Corday, the 24-year-old from Normandy who killed journalist and Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat in his bath in 1793. In her latest production, Towle presents the story of the 1976 discovery of drawings by Michelangelo, written by Mary Hoffman. The app was created with support from Kickstarter backers. For you, it’s free.



If a 400-year-old mystery involving one of the greatest artists of all time piques your curiosity, then Buried Alive: The Secret Michelangelo Took to His Grave (Time Traveler Tours with Mary Hoffman. iOS; Android. Free. Gr 6 Up), is an app for you.

This extraordinary story is narrated by none other than Michelangelo himself, whose work has, in many ways, come to define the Renaissance city of Florence. An examination of the master’s art and his personal story, from his childhood to his later work, adds depth and focus to an experience not found in many travel books. Here, with Michelangelo as their guide, viewers learn about his work along with information about his family, influences, benefactors, and the politics of the day.

Like his massive David in Florence, so much of the art Michelangelo left is grand in scale and public in nature, commissioned by ruling families and religious leaders to commemorate their lives on the facades, walls, and ceilings of churches, mausoleums, and civic buildings. Given his  tremendous exposure over hundreds of years, it’s amazing that Michelangelo could, once again, dominate the art world’s conversation centuries after his death. In 1976, an extraordinary collection of charcoal drawings that Michelangelo made while in hiding was unearthed on the walls of a passageway underneath the Basilica di San Lorenzo

For a while, the drawings were on view to the public, but when they began to show the wear and tear of human visitors, the site was closed to future viewing. With the Buried Alive app, viewers have the opportunity to see some of the drawings and understand the circumstances that led Michelangelo to create—and hide them—under plaster. Along the way, viewers learn about Michelangelo’s lifelong, rocky relationship with the ruling Medici family and the church, as well as the political intrigues of era through visits to key locations around the city, including the Baptistry, the Bargello, the Casa Buonarroti, the Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria.

The best way to use the Buried Alive app is on the ground in Florence, taking in Michelangelo’s amazing work firsthand following his trail on foot. However, thanks to a plethora of high-resolution photos and a clickable, zoomable map for speedy teleportation around the city, his fascinating story can be enjoyed from anywhere.

There are three ways to explore Michelangelo’s Florence. One is by following his story, which is told in 14 chapters through photographs and reproductions, a compelling text, and audio narration. The second is by going on one of 22 treasure hunts, which provide a focused and fun way to explore some of Michelangelo’s key works more closely. The third is by using a map of Florence to visit any, or all, of 11 stops which are clearly indicated through text labels and pictograph representations.

Other features include definitions of highlighted terms, such as braccia and florins, the option to get “More Information” from time to time, and a game, which poses questions that introduce facts about the various locations on the tour. A social media “Let’s Hack History” component lets users in Florence upload photographs taken in front of key landmarks to share with fellow travelers and friends. VERDICT Whether you are visiting Florence or sitting at home, Buried Alive is a trip worth taking.—Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY, NY

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


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Max & Meredith | Touch and Go Mon, 03 Apr 2017 16:09:08 +0000




One morning in the town of Everdale, Max awakens to find his dog Percival missing. Enter his plucky and impulsive friend Meredith (she wrangles imaginary beasts in her spare time) and readers are in the middle of a story featuring two problem-solving role models who put their heads together to tackle the situation at hand. In Max & Meredith (Move On Pluto LLC, iOS, $3.99, Android $2.99; PreS–Gr 3) viewers are invited to decide which paths the duo will follow as they make their way through the story and locate the missing canine.

The vocabulary is worth noting—words such as “inexplicably,” “rudimentary,” “murky,” and “forlorn” fit comfortably in the adventure, which infuses a touch of science. One moment of ingenuity occurs when Max, Meredith, and Ollie the Ogre collaborate to build a pulley system to rescue Percival. The presence of Elder Zeke serves as a trusted source—he’s there to help if the two need him, but they are encouraged to work through obstacles on their own.

The app is easy to navigate, includes a read-aloud option, and offers enough choices to engage viewers’ interest. The colorful scenes feature appealing cartoon-like figures and creatures, with slight animations here and there (steam rising from a tea kettle, etc.) There’s also a map that will help children make their way about town as they search for the dog. A trailer is available.

VERDICT  While solid early elementary fare, slightly older struggling readers will appreciate the read-aloud option and game play.—Caroline Molnar, Worthington City Schools, OH


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

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Flip Flap Pets | Touch and Go Tue, 07 Mar 2017 14:40:56 +0000  

Axel Scheffler and a flip book all in one? Elisabeth LeBris reviews the author’s latest digital product below.


All the fun that split-page books offer young readers and listeners is present in Nosy Crow’s Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Pets (iOS, $.99; PreS-Gr 1). Fourth in the “Flip Flap” series, Pets follows in the footsteps of Jungle, Farm, and Safari. Author/illustrator Scheffler, well known for his funny google-eyed creatures in The Gruffalo, creates a cast of animals sure to make viewers laugh. Here, 11 common pets have the potential of morphing into 121 possible silly combinations. Accompanying each two-part creature in vibrant colors is a dual rhyme offering details about it. A clean graphic interface makes this app ideal for young users.

There are two reading modes; “Read and Play” includes excellent sound quality narration by a expressive reader and is accompanied by jaunty music. “Read By Myself” retains the background music. This British product includes some pet monikers that might be unfamiliar to American kids at first, such as budgerigar for parakeet. Also, chances are not many children keep stick insects as pets, but these are quibbles. A “Grown-Ups” button offers tips, links to the Nosy Crow, and a brief bio of the creator.

App gaming additions such as puzzles, pop-ups, or hidden surprises are not present here. This is a straightforward reworking of the actual book (Nosy Crow, 2016). A trailer is available. VERDICT A tried-and-true print favorite gets an engaging digital update.—Elisabeth LeBris, Sears School, Kenilworth, IL


Screen from Axel

Screen from Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Pets (Nosy Crow) Axel Scheffler


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

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A Peek Inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture | Touch and Go Tue, 28 Feb 2017 19:55:29 +0000  

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture. Building by David Adjaye, Philip Freelon, and Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group

If distance or lack of ticket availability has kept you from visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC, the museum’s free app, designed to complement an on-site visit, will allow those with iOS or Android devices a look inside.

The museum, located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, a place once bordered by “pens for enslaved people bound for the Deep South,” opened its doors last September, and houses a number of collections including those focused on African American and African diaspora culture, slavery and freedom, the African American military experience, and the visual arts.

The app is organized by Exhibition Stories, Stories for Families with Children, Building Stories, Outdoor Stories, and Stories with Multimedia and AR experiences. Viewers can delve deeper into each of these topics through a selection of images; a tap on an object or artifact brings it to full-screen view along with a caption and a few lines of descriptive text (also available in audio). Below the selected image are related objects or artifacts. A touch to one of these pictures will elicit details on the item’s origin, date, dimensions. subject, medium, etc. Information is available in English, Spanish, and French.

Among the many objects and artifacts visitors will see are: Nat Turner’s Bible; Woolworth’s Sit-In Stools; 1972 “Shirley Chisholm for President” poster and pins; a Pullman Porter cap; a boat seat with a spider web (Anansi) design; and a panel from the corona designed for the museum’s exterior.

Occasional videos are embedded, such as the one of the restoration and installation of a segregated railway coach.

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This Is “Me” | Touch and Go Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:11:41 +0000 Tinybop’s Me was the first app that the designer and illustrator Ana Seixas worked on. While she confessed to feeling somewhat overwhelmed initially, she states, “When I finally saw the ‘big picture,’ it was amazing: the infinite possibilities made me realize that this was a unique project.” Learn more about the artist’s work and inspirations and the decisions that went into creating Me.

Screen from Me (Tinybop)

Screen from Me (Tinybop) Ana Seixas

Me (Tinybop, iOS, $2.99; K-Gr 2) clearly illustrates to children that what they think, feel, and experience contribute to making them who they are. On opening the app, users create an avatar. Myriad skin tones, hair colors and textures, and accessories, including religious head wear, are available–so many options that any child may accurately represent themselves.

After viewers enter a name and a favorite color (for the background), an avatar appears. Floating above that image are bubbles containing questions or prompts. The bubbles contain icons that indicate whether the question/prompt should be responded to with a drawing, text, a photo, or a recording. Children may add additional avatars for friends and family. Sample questions/prompts include, “I would like to live here when I’m older,” “This is my hero,” and “If I had a band we would play this song.”

The app contains hundreds of questions and prompts to respond to. In addition to soliciting information and preferences, emotions are explored. Users may choose to enter artistically designated areas to respond to questions/prompts about being angry, sad, or happy.  A few of them may make users feel uncomfortable, such as one that asks them to reveal a secret, or another that asks users to respond to “When I do this my parents feel disgusted”—both of which require a written answer. “This is my enemy” requires a verbal response. However, children can choose to skip any of the questions and/or keep their responses private. The app is available in 60 languages; a trailer offers a sneak peek. VERDICT An excellent opportunity for self-exploration delivered with artistic appeal.—Cindy Wall, Southington (CT) Public Library


Screen from Me (Tinybop) Ana Seixas

Screen from Me (Tinybop) Ana Seixas

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Lucy & Pogo | Touch and Go Wed, 08 Feb 2017 15:31:54 +0000 Fox & Sheep, a developer of a number of apps for children, including Christoph Niemann’s CHOMP and Petting Zoo and Heidi Wittlinger’s Nighty Night Circus, has released a production that they state “encourage[s] tolerance, empathy and the eagerness to learn.” Debbie Whitbeck reviews it below.


A scene from Lucy & Pogo (  ) illus. by

A scene from Lucy & Pogo (Fox & Sheep GmbH/Cats n’ Dogz) illus. by Pawee Pawlak


Neighbors Lucy & Pogo (Fox and Sheep GmbH/Grit Schuster/Cats n’ Dogz, iOS $2.99; PreS-K) have a problem: Pogo is a dog and gets to go to school, while Lucy, a cat, does not. In addition, she is considered a “monster” by Pogo’s teacher and classmates. Nonetheless, Lucy decides to sneak into the school where users interact by assisting her with her canine disguise, and later, in a few classroom activities: counting, playing a tune, and completing a geography puzzle. In one activity, viewers adjust the angle of the flow of Pogo’s pee to ensure it lands directly on a plant, which then causes the plant to grow (algebra?).  The climax of the story occurs on a field trip to chase cats: a black cat crosses the bus’s path and sends it flying off a bridge. Only a feline—Lucy—can climb a ladder to save the day.  Lesson learned—the teacher now allows all animals into school, and users can interact with the critters playing  in the schoolyard.

The app is based on Gérard Moncimble’s Le chat qui aboyait (Muchomor), translated by Tim Günther. In the digital version, the animation, panning and zooming, and activities are flawlessly executed. Pawee Pawlak’s art is both colorful and eye-catching on the screen and the original music by Fritz Von Flotow adds atmosphere. The speaker menu offers nine language options, indicated by country flags. American readers will notice the numerals 1 (with diagonal stroke) and 7 (with a cross through) in the connect-the-dot activity, but there are no European spellings in the minimal text. Children are bound to love the simple interactions that exercise their hand-eye coordination, and are likely find success in them. However, they may move through the story without completing the activities if they choose. The subliminal messages of persevering and accepting others are welcome themes. This app is advertised as a “Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner.” A trailer is available.Debbie Whitbeck, formerly of West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI


A scene from Lucy & Pogo (Fox & Sheep GmbH/Cats n' Dogz) illus. by Pawee Pawlak

A scene from Lucy & Pogo (Fox & Sheep GmbH/Cats n’ Dogz) illus. by Pawee Pawlak

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

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Grandma’s Great Gourd | Touch and Go Thu, 26 Jan 2017 15:15:08 +0000
Sandhya Nankani, the founder of Literary Safari, the developer of the app under review, is also the co-founder of Diversity in Apps (DIA), soon to be known as KIDMAP–Kids Inclusive and Diverse Media Action Project. The group is  “dedicated to highlighting best practices & research for the creation of inclusive, equitable, and diverse children’s media.” To learn more about them, read an interview with Nankani, sign up for their enewsletter, and follow them on Twitter (@joinkidmap).

Screen from Grandma's Great Gourd (Literary Safari)

Screen from Grandma’s Great Gourd (Literary Safari) Illus. by Susy Pilgrim Waters

Grandma’s Great Gourd (Literary Safari Inc., iOS, $1.99, Android, $0.99; PreS-Gr 2) is an interactive book app based on the South Asian trickster tale Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale (Roaring Brook, 2013) by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters. In the story, a woman decides to visit her daughter on the other side of a jungle. She leaves her trusty dogs to guard her home and sets off. On the way she encounters a hungry bear, a fox, and a tiger, and must convince each animal to let her pass; she’ll be much tastier after enjoying her daughter’s good cooking. The woman spends time at her daughter’s home and both she and viewers help the young woman plant, fertilize, and water crops. Grandma also eats.

When it comes time for her to return home, her daughter devises a plan to get her there safely. She hollows out gigantic gourd, puts the now-less-lean Grandma in it (with a snack) and gives her a good push to get the gourd rolling. Suffice it to say, the older woman makes it home with a bit of trickery and with the help of her loyal dogs. Different modes allow viewers to read or listen to the story, with or without music, sound effects, and highlighted text.

A gourd rolling game, a record your own voice, and “explore Grandma’s world” options round out the app. Lacking instructions, the STEM-inspired game may take some children time to get the best results as they catapult the gourd. The game was developed with input from science educators, and with a bit of practice kids will catch on. Exploring Grandma’s world allows users to learn more about the geography of the region and Bengali art and culture. Instructions (a step-by-step video) are given for making puffed rice stars, and there’s an colorful, animated (though somewhat oversimplified) tutorial on how to wrap a a sari. The “about wildlife” pages are a bit disappointing, as they primarily feature a few still photos. The section on art includes a live-action video with music accompaniment. Throughout the app the original music composed by Kamala Sankaram is superb. It features a range of instruments including a “flute, piano, tabla, chimes, drum kit, upright bass, marimba, rainstick, cowrie shells, maracas, [and a] tanpura.”

Overall, this is a vibrantly drawn, highly interactive app featuring strong female characters. It also offers a look at another culture, supported by a number of complementary extras. It should be a winner with young children. A guide for parents and educators is available online, as is a trailer.—Erin Silva, Youth & Teen Services Librarian, North Liberty Community Library, IA


Screen from Grandma's Great Gourd (Literary Safari) illus. by Susy Pilgrim Waters

Screen from Grandma’s Great Gourd (Literary Safari) illus. by Susy Pilgrim Waters

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

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Boldly Venturing into “Space” with Tinybop | Touch and Go Thu, 12 Jan 2017 17:49:32 +0000 APP-Tinybob-Space


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

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

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

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

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

From Space (Tinybop) Design by Jessica Sattler

From Space (Tinybop) Design by Jessie Sattler


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



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A Fiete Fiesta | Touch and Go: Best of Apps and Enhanced Books Wed, 04 Jan 2017 17:39:39 +0000 Ahoiii Entertainment has produced a number of engaging, skill-building apps for young children, including Fiete Math, which made School Library Journal‘s Top 10 Apps of 2016. Two more apps by this company are reviewed below. The first one is free.



From Fiete KinderZoo (Ahoiii Entertainment)

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

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

From Fiete Farm (   )

From Fiete Farm (Ahoiii Entertainment)

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Raising the Curtain on Nosy Crow’s “Fairytale Theater” | Touch and Go Wed, 21 Dec 2016 17:11:30 +0000  

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

The Complete Fairy Tale Theater (Nosy Crow)

The Complete Fairy Tale Theater (Nosy Crow)


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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the Map | Touch and Go Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:41:16 +0000  

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

Screen from

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

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

Screen from

Screen from Seterra (Marianne Wartoff AB)

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

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

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


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A Sobering Centennial: The Somme Offensive | Touch and Go Wed, 09 Nov 2016 20:49:54 +0000  

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

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

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

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

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

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To Panama with a Tiger and a Bear | Touch and Go Thu, 03 Nov 2016 13:42:53 +0000 This originally German publication also saw life as a picture book in the United States. It was published here in 1981 by Little, Brown, and featured a translation by Anthea Bell. Caroline Molnar considers the digital version below.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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A Mathemagician’s Playbook | Apps Tue, 11 Oct 2016 13:58:19 +0000  


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

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

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

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


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


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

Screen from Fiete Math

Screen from Fiete Math (Ahoiii)

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

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

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

Screen from More or Less (Marbotic)

Screen from More or Less (Marbotic)

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

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

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

Screen from Math Doodles

Screen from Math Doodles (Carstens Studios Inc)

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

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

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

Slice Fractions

Slice Fractions (Ululab)

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

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

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

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

Screen from Attributes

Screen from Attributes

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

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

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

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

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

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Portable and Practical: A Guide for Budding Birders | Touch and Go Thu, 06 Oct 2016 13:54:58 +0000 We’ve reviewed  both general guides to birds and others specific to species in this column, but here’s one that the youngest children will be able to enjoy.


Screen from RSPB Birds

Screen from RSPB First Birds (Bloomsbury/Aimer Media)

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

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

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

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

Screen from RSPB First Birds

Screen from RSPB First Birds (Bloomsbury/Aimer Media)

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From Pop-Up to App, “With a Few Bricks” | Touch and Go Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:35:09 +0000 Pat the Bunny was one of the first interactive books to make the leap to the iPad; others have followed. Here's one from Vincent Godeau. ]]>  

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



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

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

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

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

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

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




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Boum! | Touch and Go Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:53:44 +0000 SLJ's reviewer describes this app as "...a seamless narrative with interpretive possibility."]]> In a note, Paula Willey, the reviewer of Boum! (below) offered: I am currently making my way through the new edition of Picture This: How Pictures Work (Chronicle, 2016), illustrator Molly Bang’s meditative exploration of the ways color, composition, and shape can communicate emotion. I can’t recommend that book highly enough. I think we would be hard-pressed to find a better demonstration of the principles Bang describes than this wordless app.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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Paul Klee, for Kids | Touch and Go Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:54:20 +0000 We don’t often see apps that introduce children to pictorial art. All the more reason to enjoy this one. Allison Tran reviews it below.

From ExplorArt Klee

From ExplorArt Klee  (Lapisly)


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

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

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


Screen from ExplorArt Klee

Screen from ExplorArt Klee (Lapisly)

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


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