June 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Best of Apps & Enhanced Books | February 2013

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Tomb from - Pyramids 3D, Touch Press ©2012 Sandro Vannini.

BiblioBoard. BiblioLabs LLC. Version 2.0.1. 2012. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Free. $9.99 to $15.99 for individual anthologies. 

Gr 10 Up–As first glance, the Biblioboard app is equal parts inspiring and overwhelming. It offers more than 100 anthologies, and, within each curation, access to free content.

The 60-plus volumes in Brontë Sisters: A Historical Collection provides selections under “Novels,” “Poetry,” “Biographical Works,” “Critical Essays,” and “Images.” It affords a rare glimpse into the sisters’ lives through traditional biographies as well as a series of well-organized letters to and from Charlotte, Anne, and Emily, their father, and friends. Readers can also examine portraits of the women, their home, and a reproduction of each sister’s pen name signature, all of which are likely to ignite a discussion of a woman’s place in the literary world of the 19th century. It would be difficult to find a more complete anthology of the Brontës’s work in one place with such a small footprint.

John Keats: A Historical Collection presents such telling works as A Day with Keats, by his contemporary May Clarissa Gillington Byron. There are also romantic gems such as Keats’s Letters to Fanny Brawne, written to his fiancée from Rome before the English poet succumbed to tuberculosis at age 25.

Keats’s poems are represented as is his correspondence. Completing the anthology, which totals more than 70 volumes, are “Memoirs,” “Critical Essays,” “Souvenirs,” and “Images.” Viewing pages of the original editions of the poet’s work evokes the romanticism these verses warrant, while the color illustrations add a dimension and context not often found in other resources.

On the topic of Socrates: Father of Western Philosophy, there are a number of biographical and contextual essays that offer a look at the philosopher’s daily interactions and the era in which he lived. Scholarly revelations about Socrates’s influence on the writings of Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes are also presented. The depth and language of these works makes them most suited for advanced placement or college students, but items such as the reproduction of a papyrus Fragment of a Third Century Copy of Plato’s ‘Republic’ provides relevance for any reader.

While some may value these collections as primary source material or historical artifacts, there is much here for students of literature and philosophy to peruse. They’re sure to find something that speaks to them.—Danielle Farinacci, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, San Francisco, CA

Pyramids 3D: Wonders of the Old Kingdom. Zahi Hawass and Sandro Vannini. Touch Press/ Heritage World Press/ Laboratoriorosso; 2012; Version 1.0.1, iOS, requires 5.1 or later. $13.99.
Gr 6 Up–On opening this app, viewers soar over the Giza Plateau under the bright desert sun while the sounds of birds and the wind are heard in the background. In all, there are nine “Places” to visit at this ancient necropolis from King Khafre’s Tomb to The Great Pyramid. Tapping on the entrance to a monument will bring viewers inside. Once there, they can take a virtual tour of the pyramid or tomb, methodically following arrows and using the floor plan as a guide, or touching the floors and walls to move about independently within the labyrinths. The “Expert Intros” for each location, the only audio provided within this app, are informative, yet all too brief.

A menu at the top of each screen provides an index of sites to explore and “Quick tips” explains how to navigate within the monuments. Illuminated areas signal statues, wall carvings, and drawings that offer additional information. A tap on a picture label provides a description of the work. Throughout the app, scenes offer a “Then and Now” feature allowing users to toggle between the clean lines, vibrant colors, and smooth surfaces that artists imagine these walls and items had millennia ago, and the fading colors and damage wrought by time, and in some cases, vandalism.

An “Objects” option presents viewers with a collection of 40 artifacts, each of which can be enlarged and rotated 360 degrees. The clarity of detail is noteworthy. Particularly stunning is the “Golden Mask of Tutankhamun,” which shines as users tip their iPads to fully appreciate the pairing of ancient artistry and modern technology. Other artifacts include statues and statuettes, a gold-handled knife, and a piece of jewelry. For each item, details (size, material, etc.) and notes are provided.

The accompanying text offers chapters on topics ranging from “A Brief History of Ancient Egypt” to “The Discovery of the Solar Boats.” Fascinating details along with a timeline and numerous images of the site and artifacts are included. A postscript by the author and noted Egyptian archeologist Hawass discusses recent political developments in Egypt, the plans for the Giza Plateau, its protection, and continued excavation.

Both the spectacular photography by Sandro Vannini and superb 3-D imaging will impress viewers, who will undoubtedly wish the app contained a larger collection of images and locations to explore. A splendid production.–Deirdre Reddington, Uniondale High School, Uniondale, NY