March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

An Endearing Creature, A Forbidding Environ | Touch and Go

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Spring may have finally arrived here in the Northeast, but penguins are never out of season with kids. The latest entry in Nosy Crow’s “Rounds” series is a blend of fact and fiction offering information on the life cycle of these endearing aquatic creatures, while Antarctica by Kids Discover delivers photos and text on one of the places these birds can be found. If it is photos you’re looking for, don’t forget to take a look at Matchbook Digital’s Our Amazing World: Penguins, a spectacular collection of color images by wildlife photographer Wayne Lynch, reviewed earlier in Touch and Go.


In Barry and Emma Tranter’s engaging Rounds: Parker Penguin (Nosy Crow, $4.99; PreS-Gr 2), a gregarious emperor penguin cheerily relates salient facts about his species and Antarctica. Readers first encounter Parker as a young fledgling standing expectantly against the frigid backdrop of the South Pole, with snowflakes falling gently around him. Soft, lullaby-like music by award-winning composer Robin Beanland plays in the background and complements the crisp, wintery illustrations.

Viewers track the bird through various stages of his development as he glides and swims in his icy habitat, hunts food, avoids predators, meets his mate, Penelope, and helps hatch their chick, Percy. Per the “Rounds” series title, the life cycle story begins again with Percy, followed by his son, Peter.

The jocund narration is charmingly voiced by British child actors. In the “Read and Play” mode, words are highlighted as they are spoken; with the independent reading option, children can manage the length of time the text appears. In both modes, users tap light blue dots that appear on the penguins and their surroundings to glean additional information about the animal’s habits and habitat.

Sweeping fingers across the screen will cause snowflakes to swirl; tilting the device propels Parker across the ice and into the water with a splash. Animation standouts include the lively penguin mating dance, and Parker’s age progression cleverly juxtaposed against the rising and setting of the sun.  The app has excellent sound design with realistic penguin vocalizations interspersed throughout the story.

Parker Penguin’s seamless presentation of nonfiction content in a captivating and informative manner makes it an essential purchase for burgeoning digital collections. A trailer is available.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA


Children learning about the continents are sure to appreciate Linda Scher’s Antarctica ($2.99; Gr 2-5) by Kids Discover. Jam packed with facts, figures, and stunning images (archival and contemporary), it’s both visually arresting and informative. Separate sections delve into Antarctica’s geography, climate, and “cold critters,” expeditions to the frozen land (current and historical), and its importance to research scientists. There’s even an interview with a support staff member on her first trip to the McMurdo Station. The app’s maps, quizzes, animations, and short video clips make it a valuable resource for a range of learners.

The app is user-friendly and navigation is easy—from the visual table of contents to the discretely placed tabs and arrows. One of the interactive highlights is the penguin egg that users can hatch by tapping the screen. Images are crisp and bright. A  five-question quiz culminates the storyline. Children who choose incorrect answers are encouraged to try again and rewarded with applause when they respond correctly.

Other in-app activities include a penguin word scramble and a cartoon figure to dress for the frigid environment (layers being key). A suggested extension activity involves making a glacier (with snow or shaved ice) in three quick steps. A short resource list of Web and print resources are appended. All in all, an app that is sure to please parents and educators as well as youngsters.—Morgan Doane, Kent District Library, East Grand Rapids, MI

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek 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.