April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Ghouls, Ghosts, and ‘Frankenweenie:’ A Collection of Holiday Apps

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From witches and monsters to haunted houses and headless horsemen, there’s something for everyone this holiday season.

It was a stroke of genius to combine augmented reality technology and a collection of ghost stories. Horrible Hauntings is a free app (Trigger) that works in conjunction with Shirin Yim Bridges’s book of the same title (Goosebottom Books, 2012; Gr 5 Up). Each of the 10 folktales and legends begins with an excerpt followed by a history of the story’s origin and reports of sightings of the ghost or ghoul in question. Illustrating each tale—from “The Flying Dutchman” to “Bloody Mary”—is an oil painting by William Maughan depicting a variety of settings for spectral viewings: a dark forest, an unlit gallery, a shadowy moor, The Tower of London. Viewers are instructed to hold their iPad or iPhone device directly over the illustrations and watch as the apparitions appear. On one screen a woman in a brown dress floats down a deep staircase accompanied by eerie music; in another, the Headless Horseman charges off the page; and in a third, a skeleton clanks across a stone floor. The trailer will give readers a peek at this exciting technology.

For the younger crowd, there’s Charles M. Schulz’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Loud Crow Interactive; K-Gr4; $4.99), narrated by Peter Robbins, “the original voice” of the comic strip character on the big screen. As our reviewer Melissa Murphy notes, “In addition to listening to the story of the Peanuts gang on the eve of Halloween, children can interact with this app. Sometimes it’s as simple as touching a character to make him or her move or speak, while at other moments it’s helping Lucy bob for apples, or playing the piano with Schroeder. Many of these actions aren’t apparent at first glance, so exploring each page is essential.

Readers can jump into the story by creating their own avatar, but this requires an account (email and password necessary). While it’s free to make the avatar, access to costumes requires coins. These can be earned by unlocking rewards or they can be purchased. Once the avatar is created, it will appear in the story. Overall, a fun retelling of a holiday classic that have readers and listeners wanting to hit replay, but they should be cautioned about potential costs.”

Fans of popular culture will also want to take a look at Frankenweenie: An Electrifying Book (iBooks2; Free; Gr 6 Up), a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated film (Disney, 2012). “Frankenweenie” is the story of a boy who resurrects his dog, and kids are encouraged to Frankenweenie-fy their pets (Disney; Gr 3 Up; Free) with that app. Selecting a photo of a favorite animal from their camera roll or Facebook album, viewers can manipulate the image by adjusting the contrast or selecting a backdrop, or adding a name, the “Frankenweenie” logo, or a new set of eyes or ears before saving or emailing the black-and-white picture. Photos of friends and family will likely be fair game when this app gets in kids’ hands.

Interior art, “Frankenstein” (Dave Morris/Inkle, Ltd.)

For a “sophisticated take on Mary Shelley’s classic,” try Dave Morris’s Frankenstein (Inkle, Ltd.; Gr 8 Up; $4.99). In this version, readers are asked to choose the direction of the story. Our reviewer found the artwork “delightfully atmospheric.” The ideal audience for this app?  “Readers who couldn’t get enough of  Darren Shan’s horror series, moved on to Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor, and [are] drawn to Rick Yancy’s “Monstrumologist” books.” A trailer is available.

Each knock in Peekaboo Trick or Treat with Ed Emberly (Night & Day Studios, Inc.; PreS; $1.99) brings one of 14 creatures to the door, until all the characters assemble for a quick dance. When viewers bid this friendly group farewell, they’ll see the silhouette of a witch as it passes through moonlight, and a final scene where a gorilla, robot, and puppy snore soundly while a bat hangs upside down, eyes wide open, and “Happy Halloween” is heard. The bold, flat colors of the story will appeal to the intended audience. Listeners can choose between a child or adult narrator. With the sound off, emergent readers can practice their developing skills on the one word that appears on each screen.

And for the youngsters who want their thrills “without the fright,” don’t miss Go Away, Big Green Monster! (Night & Day Studios, Inc.; PreS-K; $2.99), based on Emberly’s popular title featuring die-cut illustrations. Read the full review of this app, and take a peek at the trailer…this is one production that will have children and adults tapping their toes.

A young girl in a witch costume lets her dressed-up friends know, You Can’t Scare Me! (Auryn; K-Gr 2; $.99) in the Wendy Wax story, but inadvertently scares herself when she sees her own image in a mirror. The simple rhyming text and the pictures—a collage of photos against colorful interiors—aren’t particularly exciting, but children will have fun playing the “Match” and “Spot the Difference” games, and personalizing the app.

Screen shot from “Meet Heckerty” (Broomstick Productions)

In Meet Heckerty! 
(Broomstick Productions; PreS-K; Free until 10/31/12) children encounter a 409-year-old witch who wakes up one morning to discover she is covered in warts. The wrong spell, chanted with the help of her cat Zanzibar, doesn’t reverse this condition, but leaves Heckerty hopeful that viewers will still want to be her friend.

And finally, don’t miss the MeeGenius! Bookshelf collection of narrated holiday stories—each title can be sampled before purchase. Sesame Street’s Michaela Muntean’s Which Witch is Which? (Sesame Street), Steven J. Simmons Alice and Greta, Barbara Barbieri McGrath’s The Little Green Witch, and Haunted Party by Iza Trapani, are a few of the available titles.


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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.