March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Things That Vroom | Touch and Go

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From Max Holecheck’s Edsel McFarlan’s New Car to Byron Barton’s Boats, we’ve reviewed a number of apps featuring vehicles and transport in our column. But as long as there are kids fascinated with the topic, we expect the books and the apps about them will keep rolling in. Here are a few of our recent favorites.

Hand-painted watercolor illustrations pair perfectly with the sound of the classic children’s tune in Cat Doorman’s Little Red Wagon (Night & Day Studios, Inc.; $2.99; PreS-K), a single from Cat Doorman’s Songbook, available for the iPad. The app opens instructing users to choose musical accompaniment—a guitar, a piano, or a “full band” of sounds. Once a choice is made, a young girl dressed in a bright orange dress starts on a walk through the countryside pulling the eponymous wagon.

As the child strolls along, sheet music scrolls across the bottom of the screen, and viewers can tap on images of woodland animals, trees, the sun, and other natural elements to trigger slight animations and a few sound effects. The first stop is a bakery where cakes and breads are loaded onto the wagon until the child cheerfully croons, “that’s enough,” and continues on her journey. After visits to the dairy to collect cheese and milk, the garden for an assortment of colorful vegetables, and an orchard for apples, the little girl is joined by her animal friends and together they set off to find a picnic spot.

Children (and adults) are likely to consider the next scene a misstep; instead of eating all the food, the picnic-goers are seen tossing it into the air. Despite that curious scene, children will want to return to the app for its pleasing music, easy navigation, and interactivity.—Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library & Museum, Southington, CT

Do your students and know the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine? In Fire Station (JumpSeeWow, $2.99; PreS-Gr 2) Clover the Rabbit takes kids through a cheery animated town where 10 documentary videos on the firehouse and firefighters’ equipment are embedded. Intuitive picture cues are tapped to launch the short films, which range in length from one to five minutes.

The narrated video clips include tours of the two aforementioned vehicles and the station. They star actual firefighters who describe their daily tasks, point out and name the different parts and functions of their vehicles, and demonstrate how they operate. (Two of the videos are available for preview at the JumpSeeWow site.) Children can easily navigate the app independently, swiping across screens to move through scenes. A few of the images around town are also interactive, but there are no cues to find the interactions. One video is of the baguette making at the bakery, which may not interest children invested in the firefighter theme.

The app would work well in a preschool or early elementary setting as part of a unit on community workers, and is sure to appeal to those children who can’t get enough information on the subject of firefighters. Firefighter Dress-Up (Jump See Wow, $.99; PreS) is a related app with the same cartoon characters available to color and dress. There’s no text and the interface is clumsy. The clothing doesn’t snap into place easily and users must exit the app to clear the picture. Stick with Fire Station; young enthusiasts will find much to revisit in that production.—Shelley Harris, Oak Park Public Library, IL

Interior image from ‘Recycling Truck’ (GoodGlue)

GoodGlue is a developer that’s created a number of apps around transport vehicles including Recycling Truck; Garbage Truck! Phoenix, AZ; Dump Truck!; and Railroad Boom Truck (all $.99; PreS-K), among others. On the surface these are games, but children are bound to learn a bit about the different functions of these machines while operating the apps. For example, in Recycling, the truck travels through a neighborhood stopping at trash cans; with a tap to the screen an automatic arm lifts the container and dumps its content into the truck, where the refuse is compacted. On goes the vehicle until viewers decide to head to the Recycling Sorting Center.

At the center, viewers are instructed on how to get the recyclables out of the truck and onto a shoot (“Touch the orange handle…”), and rewarded with praise when the job is completed. Next, children can sort the trash into colorful labeled bins (paper, plastic, glass, and metal) as it passes along a conveyor belt. When that’s done, it’s back to the street to collect more recycling. In Dump Truck! viewers help load the vehicle with gravel, stones, or dirt using a backhoe or another piece of equipment, and deliver it to construction sites. After visiting a few of these locations, the loop around town begins again. In both apps, sound effects add to the fun. Consider these for heavy-equipment aficionados. Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Dump trucks, delivery trucks, bucket trucks, and cement mixers—all sorts of oversize vehicles doing their jobs—rumble by cities and towns and through tunnels and over bridges in Byron Barton’s Trucks (Oceanhouse Media, Inc. $1.99; PreS-K), based on the book of the same title (Crowell, 1986). The vibrant colors and bold images outlined in black that generations of Barton’s fans have enthusiastically responded to will also be appreciated in the app.

In the digital version, kids can slide some of the trucks about and hear a range of background sounds from horns beeping to workers’ conversations. Users can tap different items on the screen to have labels appear, such as “tree” or “road”—a useful feature for emergent readers. With the sound option “on” the story is also narrated and words highlighted as they are read. Large, directional arrows turn the pages and there is a home button on each page to return to the main menu. A surefire hit with the young truck-loving set.—Kari Allen, National Writing Project in New Hampshire,  Plymouth State University

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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.



  1. Vicki Kouchnerkavich says:

    My 2 1/2 year old grandson cannot get enough of the Byron Barton book apps. I think we have trains, planes, boats & trucks. They are awesome for vehicle/transportation lovers.