School Library Journal» Touch and Go http://www.slj.com The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:27:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 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 a 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. A small, sad, musical tale, like Albert Lamorisse’sThe Red Balloon or Antoine de Saint-Exupery’sThe Little Prince. It is also an extremely charming example of the kind of squiggly-line pen-and-ink illustration style that picture book enthusiasts will associate most strongly with William Steig or James Thurber.

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

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

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

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

Eds. note: A trailer is available.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Screen from ‘Geography’ (Kids Discover)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting Shakespeare (Deeper Richer) © Mark Gilliland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Screen from ‘Daisy-Head Mayzie’ (Seuss)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Axel’s Chain Reaction | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/axels-chain-reaction-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/axels-chain-reaction-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 13 Feb 2014 13:26:40 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=86654 While the title of this app might lead you to believe that this is a story to share during science class, our reviewer noted that Axel will best serve character education or art units. A free, lite version of the app is available for previewing. 

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Title screen from ‘Axel’s Chain Reaction’ (Pomenta) Cubic Jigsaw/Higuera. Illus. by Mónica Armiño

Axel, an accident prone and quirky kid, is introduced via this original story by Allison Pomenta (Cubic Jigsaw/Higuera Studios, $2.99; Gr 1-4 ) for iOS devices. Although he’s a creative artist and inventor, Axel is teased by his peers and has trouble fitting in at school. When his teacher introduces a kinetic art project, the boy finally has a chance to share his talents with the class. He works hard at home to create the perfect sculpture, and although he runs into problems, he preservers until he’s satisfied with the results. When disaster later strikes during the school art fair, Axel’s creativity saves the day.

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Interior screen from ‘Axel’s Chain Reaction’ (Pomenta) Cubic Jigsaw/Higuera. Illus. by Mónica Armiño

Axel’s Chain Reaction is well written and provides multiple avenues to explore in a classroom, including a nonfiction investigation of kinetic art and opportunities for use in character education programs. The illustrations by Mónica Armiño are attractive, bright, and visually engaging. The book incorporates a number of interactive elements. For example, gestures such as shaking, pinching, and tilting are required to advance the storyline. There are embedded videos, frequent animations, and an open-ended creation activity where students can build bugs out of household “junk.”

Extras include directions to create kinetic sculptures, biographies of three kinetic artists, and a glossary. When interacting with the book, users have the option switch the narration and music on or off and enlarge the font size. The reading experience is slightly marred by the simultaneous animations which can become distracting; because actions occur in line with the narration, it’s impossible to watch both the movement and read the words. Overall, an engaging story with lots of quality interactive features.–Lindsay Cesari, Baldwinsville School District, NY

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Journeys of Invention | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/journeys-of-invention-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/journeys-of-invention-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 06 Feb 2014 15:08:45 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=85636 Prepare to get lost in the latest Touch Press app, Journeys of Invention, developed in association with London’s Science Museum. The free download allows viewers to explore 15 of the more than 80 objects featured in the production, following the threads of invention in the way only digital can. Take a peek at the trailer, which hints at the marvels to be found inside the full production.

 

journeys cover1 300x225 Journeys of Invention | Touch and GoExperience the engagement and excitement of a virtual hands-on museum in Journeys of Invention (Touch Press/Science Museum, Free, full content $9.99 as an in-app purchase; Gr 6 Up). Viewers can zoom in on and learn about more than 80 inventions by tapping on images presented in a web-like diagram that serves as an index. The inventions are grouped and billed as “journeys” under such themes such as “Mass Production,” “Industrial Inventions,” “Play,” and “New Science,” allowing users to follow a string of related technologies; they can also opt to browse randomly. Color coordinated paths and clean design featuring sharp images that pop out against the black background provide clear and fairly intuitive navigation; added support comes in the form of two drop-down indexes: one of journeys, and another, an alphabetical index of inventions. Wide historical coverage ranges from a Byzantine sundial calendar to a 3D-printed gun from 2013.

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Inside the Apollo 10 Capsule from ‘Journeys of Invention’ (Touch Press/ Science Museum)

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

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

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Interior screen from a video of the Model T Ford, ‘Journeys of Invention’ (Touch Press/ Science Museum)

Two or three paragraphs of text provide background, dates, and details of each invention. Younger readers may find the vocabulary slightly challenging and the prose is occasionally awkward, but a consistent conversational tone, with measured use of intriguing facts, is generally effective. Each entry ends with a list of the “maker,” date of creation, materials, and/or dimensions. Brief biographies, with images and dates, are provided for some inventors. While a free version with 15 of the items is available, the full package includes much more information as well as a fuller picture of the intriguing links between technologies throughout history.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library (OR)

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Best of Apps & Enhanced Books http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/best-of-apps-enhanced-books-february-2014/ http://www.slj.com/2014/02/reviews/apps/best-of-apps-enhanced-books-february-2014/#respond Sat, 01 Feb 2014 14:45:20 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=85386 SLJ1402w Apps Best of Apps & Enhanced Books

Endless Alphabet (Originator Inc.) ©2013

 

Alphabet Animals: A Slide-And-Peek Adventure. Suse MacDonald. (Auryn). 2013. iOS, requires 5.0 or higher. Download via the StoriesAlive app. Free until 2/15/14.

PreS-Gr 1 –Fans of Suse MacDonald’s Caldecott Honor title, Alphabatics (S & S, 1986), will enjoy this app which highlights a succession of expressive creatures set against boldly colored backgrounds, each representing a letter of the alphabet. Each screen features an animal posed in a way that corresponds to the letter it begins with. For example, a rotund orangutan becomes an “O,” and the horns of a yak form the arms of the letter “Y.” Sliding out a pull-tab on the edge of an image animates the animal; on “H,” the horse lifts its tail and a leg. Friendly voices identify the individual animals and letters when tapped. Sliding the cards back into place returns the critters to their original positions. As the cards shift, so do the eyes of the creatures. An added feature lets users create framed animal pictographs (confetti flies when complete), which can be emailed or saved in a photo album.

Navigation is intuitive, allowing children to explore the app on their own; a catchy tune can be switched on or off with a tap to an icon that appears on each page.The app’s colorful graphics and simplicity are sure to charm both children and adults, with the benefit of pull-tabs that won’t be damaged with repeated use.–Kari Allen, National Writing Project in New Hampshire

Endless Alphabet (Originator, Inc.) 2013. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 1.6. $5.99. Android, requires 2.3.3 and up. Version 1.2.0. $4.99.

PreS-Gr 1 –This playful letter-matching, speech-developing app opens with a parade of colorful, Pokemon-like creatures dancing across the screen. The host, a horned blue monster, then settles into place with his mouth open to reveal a carousel of 59 alphabetically arranged cards, each one featuring a word and one or more characters ready to frolic (word selection is regularly updated).

Clicking on a card scatters its letters across the screen as a stampede of creatures tears across the display. Letter-shaped spaces are left behind, and users drag the colorful letters to their correct spots to move to the next challenge, providing an easy and enjoyable way to boost letter-recognition skills. Audio assistance is provided by the letters springing to wiggly life as they are dragged, insistently emitting “their” sound. Dragging the “y” of yawn, for example, starts a creature yelling, “yuh-yuh-yuh,” which halts when it is placed correctly (users hear a sad “uh uh” if the letter is brought to the wrong place). Upon success, the word jumps around in celebration and a little monster acts it out (lying down and doing an exaggerated yawn, for example), while a voice recites its definition, a recitation that can be activated at any time by pressing a small “word” button. This creative offering will be popular with preschoolers generally, but its boisterous audio feature will be particularly useful with children in speech therapy who need a boost to get them talking or speaking more clearly.–Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Library Journal

The Consitution. (Kids Discover) 2013. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 1.0. $3.99.

Gr 4-8 –Kids Discover continues to engineer their award-winning print magazines into well-designed apps. This one provides history aficionados with a thorough introduction to the idiosyncratic state politics leading up to the drafting of the Constitution. Also highlighted are the role of James Madison and his Virginia plan in instigating not only a revision of the Articles of Confederation, but a drafting of a new document. One of the outstanding interactive features of the app is an historical map of U.S. expansion. Upon tapping a year, the states fly into a map, giving viewers an animated experience of the growing territories, underlying the need for a central government despite well-founded fears.

The content–a mixture of live video, cartoon drawings, animation, sliding captions, question-and-answer flip-cards, scrolling introductory text, and a virtual tour of the Supreme Court–will keep youngsters engaged. Most of the information is in paragraph-length captions to photos, archival images, or well-rendered watercolors. The succinct descriptions of the amendments will be useful in the classroom, as will the discussion of ratification, judicial review, and the debate between originalists, and those who deem the document as “living,” flexible enough to respond to unforeseen social and technological changes. The recent refusal to hear a case regarding surveillance as unconstitutional is a timely example of judicial review. The “Constitution gone Crazy” game where viewers swipe selected red words of the Preamble until they get the right one is like a multiple choice mad-lib game and not to be missed. For more in-depth information, consider some of the free, text-heavy apps that cover aspects such as Constitution and Federalist Papers (Multieducator Inc.; in-app purchases).–Sara Lissa Paulson, PS 347—“47.” The American Sign Language & English Lower School

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Starting Shakespeare | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/starting-shakespeare-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/starting-shakespeare-touch-and-go/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 15:25:19 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=85082 photo 189 300x225 Starting Shakespeare | Touch and Go We’ve reviewed a couple of truly remarkable Shakespeare apps in this column including The Sonnets by William Shakespeare (Touch Press), with 154 video recordings of noted actors reciting the Bard’s poems and video commentary by scholars, and Othello, one of the “Shakesperience” iBooks, from Sourcebooks featuring annotated text, audio and video recordings of film and stage actors in performance, photographs, costume and set drawings, production notes, tools for note-taking, and more. Starting Shakespeare, reviewed here by Kathleen S. Wilson, is something altogether different, and a great resource for classroom teachers, who will want to project and share its content with students .

Shakespeare’s plays tend to leave high school students running for the hills, turned off by the language and ultimately missing out on some of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces. Is there a solution to this problem? Australia’s national theater company, Bell Shakespeare, thinks so. They’ve teamed up with the developer Deeper Richer to create Starting Shakespeare ($4.99; Gr 5 Up), an iPad app designed to help teachers introduce Shakespeare to students before they even get to high school. This cleanly designed and easy-to-use app provides brief historical overviews of Shakespeare’s world and work, as well as a variety of avenues for getting to know his plays, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, through narrated synopses with video dramatizations, short text and video profiles of the characters, enactments of “Key Scenes,” and fun, interactive “Learning Journeys.”

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Oberon and Puck watch as Titania, under a spell, falls for  ‘Midsummer’s’ Nick Bottom in ‘Starting Shakespeare’ (Deeper Richer)

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

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

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

 

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The Wagner Files | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-wagner-files-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/the-wagner-files-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 23 Jan 2014 12:22:06 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=84551 The past year has yielded a number of terrific apps on music including The Orchestra, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Liszt Sonata in B Minor (all Touch Press). Today’s app is a graphic biography of Richard Wagner. A trailer is available.

Blaring trumpets, rumbling timpani. Dramatic surges of volume followed by ominous moments of quiet. Nobody has ever accused German composer Richard Wagner of subtlety.

photo 185 170x170 The Wagner Files  | Touch and GoThe Wagner Files (Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion, $1.99; Gr  9 Up), a graphic novel, creates a vivid portrait of the 19th-century composer covering his personal life, political activities, and music from the years 1848 to his death in 1883. The  story is told by the German conductor and composer Hans von Bülow. Loaded with quotes, Wagner emerges from the history as a self-centered, profligate figure who blames his setbacks on conspiracy and sabotage and for whom no praise is ever sufficient. He overspends, cheats on his wife, and constantly repays the kindness of others with selfishness and betrayal. What a relief–a graphic novel biography of a noble, humble classical composer could be terrifically boring.

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Interior art, ‘The Wagner Files’ (Gebrueder Beetz) Scorpia

The art, by Flavia Scuderi, matches the bombastic tone of Wagner’s life and music to a tee. Architecture, settings, and costume are beautifully and accurately rendered, while characters gesture dramatically and cast impassioned glances at each other. A narrator with a nice rumbly voice and good pronunciation, backed by colorful music–Wagner’s, of course–makes the zoom-and-pan autoplay option a real treat, but users have three other navigation modes to choose from in this long-playing story.

Notable extras include etched or photographic portraits of Wagner and his contemporaries, original recordings, and primary documents such as letters, essays, and scores–with translations. An excerpt from his 1866 essay “Judaism in Music” presents Wagner’s antisemitic views in his own words.

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Plan for the Festival Theatre, ‘The Wagner Files’ (Gebrueder Beetz )

Also on offer are short (2- to 3-minute) video interviews with Wagner experts from the 2013 documentary “The Wagner Files.” These comments, subtitled in English, are more about the music than the man, and offer important perspectives on why his operas are performed and studied to this day.

Repellent human being, influential composer–Wagner is a great discussion starter. This app will add fuel to that fire! Available in French, English, Japanese, and German.–Paula Willey, Pink Me

 

 

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Lessons from Aesop | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/lessons-from-aesop-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/lessons-from-aesop-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 16 Jan 2014 13:36:34 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=83783

photo 179 225x300 Lessons from Aesop | Touch and Go It’s been my experience that second and third graders most appreciate listening to and reading fables. They can laugh at the foibles of some characters, admire the cleverness of others, and the stories’ morals appeal to their sense of what is true, and right. For educators and parents there are so many versions to choose–from Michael Morpurgo’s  The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fables (2005), illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, to Christopher Wormell’s Mice, Morals, & Monkey Business (Running Press, 2005) featuring a morals-only main text and gorgeous linocut artwork. And not to be missed are Arnold Lobel’s modern-day Fables (HarperColllins, 1983), and the many single-story versions including  B. G. Hennessey’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf  (S & S, 2006) illustrated by Boris Kulikov, and Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion & the Mouse (Little, Brown, 2009). While versions of fables can be found in most media, if what our reviewer notes is true–that we’re not as familiar with fables as earlier generations were–it’s time to pull these titles off the shelf, and perhaps, download an Aesop app or two onto our iPads. The app reviewed today is free, and can also be viewed online.

The Boy Who Forgot to Charge His Phone?  The Girl Who Lost Her House Key?  We’re not a generation that draws our lessons from animals or the natural world, so The Aesop for Children (Library of Congress, Free; Gr 1-5) provides a window for today’s children into a past where the way a crow manages to get a drink from a bottle and the consequences of goats facing off on a narrow bridge prove instructive for real life.

photo 183 300x225 Lessons from Aesop | Touch and Go

“Belling the Cat” from “The Aesop for Children” (Winter)

The app includes about 140 fables, illustrated by the finely detailed original artwork of Milo Winter (Rand, McNally & Co., 1919).  Some of the illustrations include a small animation (a swish of a tail, a blink of an eye, a leaf that falls from a tree, etc.) that adds delight to the story. In “Belling the Cat,” the feline peeks out from behind a wall, then disappears. Other images direct readers to touch an object to trigger an animation, and a few include a charming short animated video. Not all animations connect well to the story. Occasional, appropriate sound effects are heard and enhance the storytelling.

Navigation is simple from the table of contents, though once you are in the app there is no choice but to read the tales in sequence. Elementary children may enjoy having a few fables read aloud to them at a time, but are likely to need some help with vocabulary and understanding the relationship between the story and the moral. Older students learning about ancient cultures may appreciate the lesser-known fables. More elements of an eBook than an app, but you can’t beat the price.–Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Library Teacher, Seattle School District

 

 

 

 

 

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A Bevy of Alphabet Apps | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-bevy-of-alphabet-apps-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2014/01/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/a-bevy-of-alphabet-apps-touch-and-go/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:35:23 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=82867 Judging from the number of alphabet apps, it appears that every major and minor developer has created at least one. This week we look at five of them, each worthy of a child’s attention. From Alphabeasties Amazing Activities color and draw opportunities to those vocal, wiggly letters that must be dragged into place in Endless Alphabets, each app includes some level of interactivity.

Auyrn, the creator of a number of award-winning apps, offers its Alphabet Animals (reviewed here) free of charge until February 15, 2014. The California-based company has recently moved their substantial collection over to their new StoriesAlive app. StoriesAlive can be downloaded for free, and along with it comes a number of apps, including Alphabet Animals.

 

photo 176 300x225 A Bevy of Alphabet Apps | Touch and Go

Screen from “Alphabeasties Amazing Activities” (CJ Educations) Werner & Forss

Based on the popular book by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss (Blue Apple, 2009), Alphabeasties Amazing Activities (CJ Educations Corp. iOS, $3.99; PreS-Gr 1) provides a fun way for young children to learn to write both upper and lowercase letters before they have the fine motor skills to hold a pencil. In the “Read & Write” section of the app, children have the opportunity to uncover an animal illustration by correctly writing each letter of the alphabet—“E” for elephant, “M” for monkey, and so on. Animated arrows model the proper stroke order of each letter, encouraging  children to trace the letter on the screen with a finger. The app is either very exacting or slightly buggy in this mode; it can take several tries before the app will accept the child’s efforts, even when the line appears perfectly placed. After the child completes the strokes, their hand-drawn letter is transformed into a typeset version, introducing the appearance of different fonts.

This app addresses the needs of both visual and aural learners with its appealing colors and engaging animation, as well as a cheerful voice announcing each letter and corresponding animal name. Users  will delight in anticipating what color “ink” will be used to write each letter, and guessing what animal will ultimately be revealed. The app also features a “Color & Draw” section with mazes, virtual stickers, and matching games that reinforce the letter knowledge gained in the “Read & Write” component, as well as a “Learn” section featuring basic flashcards that voice the letter when tapped.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, California

photo 174 300x225 A Bevy of Alphabet Apps | Touch and Go

Interior screen from “Alphabet Animals” (Auryn) MacDonald

Suse MacDonald is known for her colorful picture books, including the Caldecott Honor Alphabatics (S & S,1986). Fans of that concept title will enjoy Alphabet Animals: A Slide-And-Peek Adventure (Auryn, 2013; iOS, Free until 2/15/14; PreS-Gr 1), which highlights a succession of expressive creatures set against boldly colored backgrounds, each representing a letter of the alphabet. Each screen features an animal posed in a way that corresponds to the letter it begins with. For example, a rotund orangutan becomes an “O,” the horns of a yak form the arms of the letter “Y,” and a seated zebra mirrors the shape of a  “Z.” Sliding out a pull-tab on the edge of the images animates the animals; on “H,” the horse lifts its tail and right front leg. Friendly voices identify the individual animals and letters when tapped. Sliding the cards back into place returns the animals to their original positions. As the cards shift, so do the eyes of the creatures. An added feature lets users create framed animal pictographs (confetti flies when complete), which can be emailed or saved in a photo album.

Navigation is intuitive, allowing children to explore the app on their own; a catchy tune can be switched on or off with a tap to the image of a musical note that appears on each page.The app’s colorful graphics and simplicity are sure to charm both children and adults, with the benefit of pull-tabs that won’t be damaged with repeated use.Kari Allen, National Writing Project in New Hampshire

photo 1711 300x225 A Bevy of Alphabet Apps | Touch and Go Children can choose to be read to, or read Dr. Seuss’s ABC (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $3.99, Android, $3.99; PreS-Gr 2, originally Beginner, 1963) on their own; both modes are available in this app. Emergent readers may choose the first option initially as Seuss’s nonsensical language can be a challenge. However, like this developer’s other productions, the text is highlighted as it is read and tapping on a word or an image will cause its name to be voiced.

Each letter is presented in its upper and lowercase form, introduced here as “BIG” and “little” and followed by a verse (“T…..T/t…….t/What begins with T?/Ten tired turtles/on a tuttle-tuttle tree.”) containing examples of words that begin with it, and an illustration. Fans of Seuss will recognize his familiar style of art, and perhaps, a character or two. Sound effects and music have been added (with on/off options), as well as a feature that allow users to record their own voices.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

photo 177 300x225 A Bevy of Alphabet Apps | Touch and Go

Interior screen from “Elmo Loves ABCs” (Sesame Workshop/Symbio)

In Elmo Loves ABCs (Sesame Workshop/Symbio, iOS $4.99, PreS-K), children are greeted by the familiar–and ebullient–Sesame Street character who shares his alphabet love and encourages children to choose from the 26 letters framing his image. For each one selected, upper and lowercase letters (identified as such) appear, as do dotted lines demonstrating to children how to trace them with their fingers. Prompts and congratulations from Elmo are offered along the way.

Once children finish this exercise for an individual letter, three items corresponding to it appear on the bottom of the screen. For “M,” it’s milk, a mountain, and a mouse; for “Z,” zucchini, a zipper, and a zebra. Tapping each picture elicits a related Sesame Street video clip, an animation, or a live-action clip of children and the featured item. Additional game-like activities are included (identifying the correct letter from a group, etc.) that reinforce the concepts, as well as a few videos from the television series: songs and sequences devoted to the entire alphabet.

With help from an adult, children can personalize the app by adding a name, photo, audio, and video. There is also a “tracker” feature that may interest some parents. It records their child’s “favorite letter,” “favorite activity,” and “average time played,” etc.

The familiar, beloved character and literally hours of engaged learning will bring children to this app again and again.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

photo 172 300x225 A Bevy of Alphabet Apps | Touch and Go

Screen from “Endless Alphabet” (Originator, Inc.)

Endless Alphabet (Originator, Inc., iOS $5.99. Android, $4.99; PreS-Gr1), a playful letter- matching, speech-developing app, opens with a parade of colorful, Pokemon-like creatures dancing across the screen. The host, a horned blue monster, then settles into place with his mouth open to reveal a carousel of 59 alphabetically arranged cards, each one featuring a word and one or more characters ready to frolic. At the bottom of the screen is a dial for choosing whether to play with all the words or just the new ones (word selection is regularly updated).

After scrolling through and selecting cards, the fun begins. Clicking on a term scatters its letters across the screen as a creature stampede tears across the display. Gray letter-shaped spaces are left behind, and users drag the colorful letters to their correct spots to move to the next challenge, providing an easy and enjoyable way to boost children’s letter-recognition skills. Audio assistance is provided by the letters springing to wiggly life as they are dragged, insistently emitting “their” sound. Dragging the “y” of yawn, for example, starts a creature yelling, “yuh-yuh-yuh,” which halts when it is placed correctly (users hear a sad “uh uh” if the letter is brought to the wrong spot). Upon success, the word jumps around in celebration and a little monster acts it out (lying down and emitting an exaggerated yawn, for example), while a female voice recites its definition, a recitation that can be activated at any time by pressing a small “word” button. This creative offering will be popular with preschoolers generally, but its boisterous audio feature will be particularly useful with children in speech therapy who need a boost to get them talking or speaking more clearly.—Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Library Journal

 

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History in the Making | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2013/12/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/history-in-the-making-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2013/12/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/history-in-the-making-touch-and-go/#respond Wed, 18 Dec 2013 15:15:09 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=80419 Kids Discover began the year with a promise to produce one app per month, each based on one of their thematic magazine issues devoted to topics from Galaxies and Space to Matter and Ancient Civilizations.The Constitution is reviewed here.

Con 1 300x225 History in the Making | Touch and Go Kids Discover continues to engineer their award-winning print magazines into well-designed apps; The Constitution (iOS, $3.99; Gr 4-8) provides history aficionados with a thorough introduction to the idiosyncratic state politics leading up to the drafting of the that historic document. Also highlighted are the role of James Madison and his Virginia plan in instigating not only a revision of the Articles of Confederation, but a drafting of a new document. One of the outstanding interactive features of the app is an historical map of U.S. expansion. Upon tapping a year, the states fly onto the map, giving viewers an animated experience of the growing territories, underlying the need for a central government despite well-founded fears.

Con 2 300x225 History in the Making | Touch and Go

Interior image from ‘The Constitution’ (Kids Discover)

The app opens to a Table of Contents organized into visual quadrants. The content—a mixture of a scrolling introductory text, live video, cartoon drawings, animation, sliding captions, question-and-answer flip-cards, and  a virtual tour (of the Supreme Court)—will keep young people engaged. Most of the information comes in paragraph-length chunks as captions to photographs, archival images, or well-rendered watercolors. The succinct descriptions of the amendments will be useful in the classroom, as will the discussion of ratification, judicial review, and the debate between originalists, and those who deem the document as “living,” flexible enough to respond to unforeseen social and technological changes. The recent refusal to hear a case regarding surveillance as unconstitutional is a timely example of judicial review. The humorous “Constitution Gone Crazy” game where viewers swipe selected words to fill in blanks in the Preamble until they get the correct term is like a multiple choice mad-lib game: “…In order to form a more smelly sock?!” and is not to be missed.  For more in-depth information, consider some of the free, text-heavy apps that cover aspects such as the Constitution and Federalist Papers (Multieducator Inc.; in-app purchases).— Sara Lissa Paulson, PS 347 – “47″ The American Sign Language & English Lower School

SLJ’s “Top 10 Apps of 2013″ is now online.

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Out of Australia | Haunting Stories for Tweens and Teens http://www.slj.com/2013/12/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/out-of-australia-haunting-stories-for-tweens-and-teens/ http://www.slj.com/2013/12/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/out-of-australia-haunting-stories-for-tweens-and-teens/#respond Thu, 12 Dec 2013 14:58:46 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=79613  

artifacts 300x225 Out of Australia | Haunting Stories for Tweens and TeensBehind the Australian app developer Slap Happy Larry is Lynley Stace, the author and illustrator of sophisticated original stories for tweens and teens. In “The Artifacts, (Gr 4-9), 13-year old Asaf is a collector—of caterpillars, and jars, baubles, and objects that others have discarded. When his family moves and intentionally leaves his treasures behind, it’s words and ideas he begins to accumulate. Her latest app, “Midnight Feast” (Gr 6 Up) is the story of Roya, of a young girl living in a future world, who escapes the grim reality of food shortages and drought through her imagination. Both stories are haunting tales that use color, music (Chris Hurn), sound, and interactivity (Dan Hare) to great effect. They are also terrific choices for classroom discussion.

You have illustrated both of your stories. Do you consider yourself an artist or writer foremost?
I consider myself a writer. That said, I spend a lot more hours illustrating than writing words. In picture books the words and illustration work in tandem, whereas in story apps there’s that third element of interactivity. Each of these three things depends upon the others to work, so I should probably consider myself a ‘storyteller’.

photo 159 300x225 Out of Australia | Haunting Stories for Tweens and TeensThere aren’t many original story apps created for tweens and teens…Why this audience?
I didn’t write The Artifacts with an age range in mind. When I wrote Midnight Feast I had a better idea of who might be interested in hi-lo reading material. It just so happens that teachers have been looking for illustrated stories which interest an older age group.  Even for fluent older readers, short works are useful for introducing or reviewing various concepts in a short space of time. Short texts can introduce nonfiction topics, or can serve as an introduction to novels with similar or contrasting themes.

While The Artifacts and Midnight Feast are very different from each other, in both you so clearly capture the interior lives of your adolescent protagonists. Are you in touch with that time of your life? What was it like?
It only dawned on me recently that maybe there are adults in the world who don’t remember much of adolescence. I remember the feelings very well. Like Asaf and Roya, I had a rich inner life. At around age 12 the world opens up but closes behind us in equal measure. This fascinates me.

photo 160 300x225 Out of Australia | Haunting Stories for Tweens and Teens

Interior screen from ‘The Midnight Feast’ (SlapHappyLarry) Stace

Your stories are moody and dark—The Artifacts features a teen whose parents are fairly clueless about the person he has become, and in Midnight Feast a future world’s food shortage plays a major role.
While there are plenty of dark picture books about—take the original Grimms’ fairy tales for starters—there are some heavy ideas specific to modern times, and those are ripe for exploration in this medium. The Artifacts explores a very modern dilemma, applicable to those of us living in rich countries: How best to deal with the over-accumulation of material goods? As for Midnight Feast, food shortage has long featured in traditional tales (take Hansel and Gretel, for instance) but despite the breadth of modern education and round-the-clock world news, it’s perhaps easier than ever to ignore inequalities. The very screens that allow us to see the rest of the world in all its unequal glory can function equally as distractions.

photo 163 300x225 Out of Australia | Haunting Stories for Tweens and Teens

Interior screen from ‘The Artifacts’ (SlapHappyLarry) Stace

The interactivity in both stories is great, but not always intuitive, was that intentional?
We include some deliberate ‘easter eggs’, that’s true. We aim to reward re-reading. The balance between intuitiveness and exploratory tapping is critical, because we want to discourage the touchscreen equivalent of keyboard-mashing. That would work against the dreamy, slow nature of the stories. With heavy interactivity you inevitably create a work of metafiction, in which the readers never forget that they are Using A Touchscreen Device. Although Midnight Feast is very slightly metafictive in the way it asks readers to examine their own use of screens, we aim for full story immersion. So our story apps are not challenging in a gaming sort of way. In order to advance the plot, readers can tap any part of the screen. This should feel no more intrusive than turning a page.

Have you ever been a teacher? On your website there is so much useful material for teachers on Midnight Feast, including a discussion of the choices that went into your work.
I did teach high school Japanese and English in New Zealand during my twenties. I was a little hesitant to release those close-reading notes, which I wrote as part of my own planning process. In the end I have to trust they’ll be used as I mean them to be used—as no more than an insight into the kind of thinking that goes into a picture book. There are as many interpretations of a story as there are readers, so I hope my own intentions for the story don’t end up being authoritative simply because I’m the author.

Eds. Note: The Midnight Feast was selected as one of SLJ‘s “Top 10 Apps” of 2013.

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

 

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SLJ’s Top 10 Apps of 2013 http://www.slj.com/2013/12/reviews/best-of/sljs-top-10-apps-of-2013/ http://www.slj.com/2013/12/reviews/best-of/sljs-top-10-apps-of-2013/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 00:00:23 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=77137 SLJ1312 SLJTop10 Logo 200pix SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013

 

 

Whether it’s happenstance or the fact that digital producers have heeded the call for more nonfiction materials across formats, it’s been a robust year for informational apps. Top developers such as Touch Press continue to create innovative works of stunning quality and depth, and a host of newcomers have joined the game. We’ve seen more museum and magazine apps, or in the case of Kids Discover magazine, issues-to-apps. Producers of digital stories and book-inspired titles have also released works of visual distinction and engagement. Bookshelf collections such as Storia and Reading Rainbow have expanded, and others by individual publishers keep sprouting up. What follows is a list of some of our favorite productions, selected to represent the range and variety of materials available for children and teens reviewed by School Library Journal since late 2012. As in the past, our number one is a developer—our way to sneak in more than the allotted “10” apps.


 TouchPress SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013With striking high-resolution visuals, spectacular 3-D imaging, and quality texts to match, Touch Press’s apps remain frontrunners in the field. Among its noteworthy productions this year was The Orchestra ( Gr 3 Up), brimming with videos of musicians demonstrating the qualities and range of their instruments, orchestral excerpts, thoughtful commentary, and an insightful text. It’s a captivating—and complete—package that is also an indispensable resource for students of music. On a very different topic, Touch Press offers a thrilling virtual tour of Egypt’s Giza Plateau for those who venture inside Pyramids 3D (Gr 6 Up). Navigating the ancient necropolis, viewers can explore nine sites, all yielding information on the chambers, wall carvings, and paintings deep within. Film enthusiasts will marvel at Disney Animated ( Gr 4 Up), a treasure trove of movie clips, images, and information about the history and production of the studio’s 53 animated feature films. Embedded interactive workshops let budding animators try their hand at industry techniques.


RedRidingHood SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013A classic fairy tale receives an invigorating update in Nosy Crow’s splendid Little Red Riding Hood (PreS-Gr 4). Along with its playful nonlinear storytelling, a winsome narration, and vibrant artwork filled with humorous—and wacky—touches, this flawlessly interactive app includes games and activities that propel the story forward and send this big bad wolf on his way.


WOndersWorld2 SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013Based on the popular BBC science series hosted by the renowned physicist, Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe (HarperCollins/BBC; Gr 9 Up) immerses viewers in a spectacular look at the mysteries of our solar system and beyond. Cox is an engaging guide who instills in his viewers the awe appropriate to these otherworldly topics and scenes. Add an incredibly deep text, animated images, infographics, high-resolution 3-D images, and hours of video clips, and you see why it’s no wonder this app made our list.


MoWillems SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013Mo Willems’s titles are de rigueur in classroom collections where children are learning to read. His Pigeon Presents: Mo…on the Go! (Disney Publishing Worldwide Applications; PreS-Gr 1) provides a look at the author’s repertoire of earnest and exuberant characters, while also offering his fans storytelling input and entertaining game and drawing activites. Upbeat music, honking horns, quacking ducklings, plus a dancing elephant and cameo appearances by Willems add to the fun.


Roxie SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013It’s fascinating to see how a developer takes the format of Roxie Munro’s maze books and creates a challenging digital product, Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure (OCG Studios; PreS-Gr 6). These 16 landscape puzzles, each with multiple levels of difficulty, will turn kids into champion problem solvers as they hone their visual and fine-motor skills. Seamless interactivity, intuitive navigation, and cheery art add to the appeal of this winning production. Depth, detail, and loads of fun for a range of ages.


NationalGeo SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013No longer must fledgling birders juggle a field guide, a journal, and a pen on the trail. All they need is National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America (Gr 4 Up) and voilà, they’re ready to go. The app presents an overview of 995 species with labeled color images, habitat and range maps, video clips, and options to create photo-enhanced lists. From the caterwauling of a pair of barred owls to the warble of a hermit thrush, the opportunity to listen to each creature’s sounds is truly something to sing about.


Matter SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013It was no easy feat selecting our favorite Kids Discover production. These apps have been released one per month, each based on a nonfiction topic initially featured in the print magazine. Like its companion apps, Matter (Gr 5-8) features superb illustrations, clear diagrams, and informative videos. The vivid visual interpretations go a long way in illuminating the concepts here. Be sure to explore the other science and social study topics in this engaging series.


MidnightFeast SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013In Lynley Stace’s Midnight Feast (Slap Happy Larry; Gr 6 Up), a short story for tweens and teens, a young girl living in a not-too-distant future world escapes the reality of her dark existence through her rich imagination. Music, sound, color, and interactivity are used to great effect, adding layers of meaning to this sophisticated tale. Extensive “Key Questions and Close Reading Notes” are included for classroom use.


CaptainUnderpants SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013Serving truth, justice, and tighty-whities, Dav Pilkey’s underdressed superhero reigns supreme in the Adventures of Captain Underpants (Scholastic; Gr 2-6). Along with the full text of the immensely popular print title, the app’s awesome animation and games, recording options, and irresistible Flip-o-Rama pages will make fans of uncouth humor want to linger over this story. Will adults consider all the sound effects enhancements? Unlikely, but kids will love them.


Niko SLJs Top 10 Apps of 2013A sword-wielding boy on a quest, monstrous obstacles, and scenes engulfed in flames. What more could fans of graphic novels and adventure stories ask for? Niko and the Sword of Light (Imaginism Studios; Gr 4-6) delivers all that and more in colorful, animated panels featuring speech bubbles that translate into a pitch-perfect narration and a whopper of a tale.

 


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‘Niko and the Sword of Light’: A Graphic Novel in an App | Touch and Go http://www.slj.com/2013/11/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/niko-and-the-sword-of-light-a-graphic-novel-in-an-app-touch-and-go/ http://www.slj.com/2013/11/reviews/apps/touch-and-go/niko-and-the-sword-of-light-a-graphic-novel-in-an-app-touch-and-go/#respond Thu, 21 Nov 2013 13:04:45 +0000 http://www.slj.com/?p=74803 A sword-wielding boy on a quest facing monstrous obstacles against a dramatic landscape–what more could fans of graphic novels and adventure stories ask for? ‘Niko and the Sword of Light’ delivers all that and more in colorful, animated panels and a pitch-perfect narration that translate into a whopper of a tale.

 

photo 156 170x170 Niko and the Sword of Light: A Graphic Novel in an App  | Touch and Go During the war between dark and light, darkness emerges from a volcano. As it travels the land it devours any light in its path and enslaves anyone who stands “in it’s way.” Niko, the last of a people whose village was destroyed has taken up the fabled Sword of Light to defeat the darkness forever. The app is presented in the form of an interactive graphic novel with animated panels. Readers are quickly drawn into Niko and the Sword of Light, (Imaginism, Free; Full Story, $3.99; Gr 4-6) a story incredibly rich in detail and illustration, as the boy travels to confront the forces of the dark. Along the way he encounters a variety of fantastical creatures both good and evil, and a number of geographical obstacles from the “whispering swamp” and “eerie hills,” until he reaches “the cursed volcano.”

photo 157 170x170 Niko and the Sword of Light: A Graphic Novel in an App  | Touch and Go

Interior screen from ‘Niko and the Sword of Light’ ( Imaginism Studios)

Dramatic music plays in the background and listeners are encouraged to use headphones for the full effect. Individual panels can be replayed. Although the dialogue is spoken by the voice actors (each with a unique, well-cast voice), it also appears in the traditional speech bubbles common to the genre. Brief expository bits of text are peppered throughout the story and read in a voice reminiscent of Vincent Price’s. There is little interaction with the story itself beyond tapping the icon to move between pages.

Niko’s exciting, adventure-filled story is one that will captivate readers of graphic novels and fans of anime series such as “Naruto.” Once the first few free chapters of the story are read, viewers have the option to purchase the entire story for one price. A cool concept, well executed. —Wayne R. Cherry, Jr., First Baptist Academy, Houston, TX

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