May 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Best of Apps & Enhanced Books | September 2013

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National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America. National Geographic/IXONOS. 2012. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 3.3. $9.99.

Gr 4 Up-No longer must fledgling birders juggle a field guide, a journal, and a pen—all they need is this app, and voilà, they’re ready to go. The app, like the print version of the guide (2006; Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer, eds.), offers an overview of avian species on our continent, their appearance and behavior, as well as labeled color images and habitat and range maps. Giving each animal a voice is one of the features listeners are sure to sing about. On the trail, users can sort the creatures by name, family, taxonomy, color, size, habitat, month, region, and abundance. Once a bird is spotted and identified, the journal feature allows users to document the sighting, automatically identifying the location, time, date, and weather. Users also have the option to add notes and/or a photo and share the event. There are quizzes of various levels to take, more than two dozen up-to-date news articles to read, a toolkit that includes a glossary, and 16 short videos. Whether visiting a park, forest, meadow, the shore, or just sitting in their own backyards watching winged wildlife, viewers are sure to appreciate this extraordinary guide.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LA

Poems by Heart. Inkle/Penguin Group USA. 2013. iOS, requires 4.3 or later. Version 1.1. Free. $.99 per additional add-on bundle.

Gr 7 Up-The stickiness of this app isn’t in the modest selection of well-known poems, or the serviceable narrators who will read them aloud to you. It’s not the pleasant design or the intuitive navigation. It’s the surprising realization that you want to memorize poetry! Tap the tempting blinking triangle labeled “Learn this” and you find yourself choosing words from a box to fill in the missing words of the poem, line by line. Your mistakes will be instantly corrected and you’ll get a score for your progress stanza by stanza. Want to try again? You can, you’ll do better, and you’ll get a higher score. Soon, you’ll know the poem by heart, and you can record yourself reciting the verses you memorized. The free app comes with two poems, and additional thematic four-poem “bundles” are available for purchase. Each poem is labeled for level of difficulty. Selections range from Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat” to Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” The game of poetry is unexpectedly satisfying.–Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Library Teacher, Seattle School District, WA

A Word’s A Bird: Spring Flies By in Rhymes. Orel Protopopescu. illus. by Jeanne B. de Sainte Marie. Syntonie & Actialuna. 2013. iOS, requires 5.0 or later. Version 1.0.1. $2.99.

PreS-Gr 4-Have you ever lamented that insightful yet accessible poems for children are hard to come by? If yes, then this may be the app for you. Written by award-winning author/poet Protopopescu, this four-poem collection introduces children to the power of language by encouraging them to explore metaphors through sight, sound, and touch.The first selection illuminates the collection’s title. The three poems that follow offer unusual, and playful, glimpses into the natural world during the spring months. “May,” for example, opens with a text scroll descending toward a cardinal pecking in a meadow. The words, “A bloom’s a room/you seek/when you want/to sneak a peek/at nectar sippers,” are highlighted, one by one, as they are read aloud. A tap to a scroll and the verse replays, while a touch to an underlined word brings forth a definition. For “May,” readers and listeners learn that “nectar sippers” refers to insects and “a bloom” is “another way to say a flower.” Clearing the scroll from the screen brings the scene to life through animation and interactivity. In this case, the cardinal flies to a garden of closed peonies, an inchworm creeps out from under a leaf, and the “blooms” open to “rooms” and reveal “nectar sipper” bees hiding inside. So clever! The hand-painted watercolor illustrations created by Jeanne B. de Sainte Marie portray a bright and idyllic world of duck ponds, lily pads, and weeping willows. Realistic sounds and hidden surprises abound in this delightful production.–Kathleen S. Wilson, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, New York, NY

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2013 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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.