School Library Journal» Touch and Go http://www.slj.com The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Fri, 29 Aug 2014 20:33:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 The March Goes On | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-march-goes-on-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/08/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-march-goes-on-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:02:41 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=105934 The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom last August saw the release of a number of new resources on that historic day and the Civil Rights Movement. This year, two of those resources have iPad iterations. Both include text, images, and videos that are essential viewing for students studying the era. Add them to your collection today. Both are free. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Screen from ‘Loose Strands’ (Darned Sock) Frizzell

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

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

For additional app reviews visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional app reviews visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Pierre et le loup | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/pierre-et-le-loup-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/07/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/pierre-et-le-loup-touch-and-go/#respond Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:05:25 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=102969 For those lucky children who have the opportunity to attend musical performances, Sergueï Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is often their first introduction to the orchestra. Pierre et le loup, a delightful production of that musical story, can be enjoyed by those miles away from a concert hall, who speak any language. Read Leanne Bowler’s review below, and be sure to take a peek at the trailer. We think you’ll agree with the jurors of the BolgnaRagazzi Digital Award that this is a truly special production.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incredible Numbers ©Touch Press/Profile Books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo 300x225 Shakespeare at Play | Touch and Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit the Touch and Go webpage for additional app reviews.

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

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

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

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

frog 300x225 Creepers & Peepers | Touch and Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interior screen from ‘Pteranodon Soars’ (OM) Carr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen from ‘Energy’ (Kids Discover)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eds. note: A trailer is available.

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

 

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