February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Traveling Back in Time: Ancient Civilizations | Touch and Go

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Many students begin learning about ancient civilizations around sixth grade, within the target audience for the productions reviewed here. Ancient Egypt and Greece are also high-interest topics for many kids, who can be found poring over the pages of books on mummies, pyramids, and the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus. If you are familiar with Kids Discover apps (see Cells and Galaxies, for example), you’ll recognize the combination of pertinent facts, sharp images, and engaging interactivity that Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece bring to the screen. These apps also feature virtual tours. For a peek at that technology as seen in Ancient Greece, explore this scene of the Parthenon. Be sure to move your mouse or iPad around to get the full effect.

Looking for a way to bring students back in time to Ancient Egypt? Linda Sher’s Ancient Egypt (Kids Discover, $3.99; Gr 4-7), is one way to do just that. Readers will explore the Nile River, learn about mighty pharaohs, discover how pyramids were built, read about mummification and the preparation for the afterlife, and more, with this interactive app.

The numerous images include color photos of artifacts such as clay sculptures, pieces of furniture, and free-standing statues, as well as drawings depicting daily activities and close-up views of hieroglyphic writing. Tapping on designated pictures will elicit pop-up facts while other images–including King Tutankhamen’s gleaming gold-and-glass funerary mask–allow for 360-degree views. What begins as an aerial shot over the Great Sphinx of Giza swoops down and around this monolithic statue, while a wipe-away screen allows users to see inside a pyramid. A few embedded video clips and animations are also found in the app. Sound effects, including the cackle of a torch’s flames, and music, add to the atmosphere. Viewers can choose chapters or pages via the visual table of contents, a drop-down menu, and/or thumbnail images along the bottom of the page, or travel screen-by-screen through the app. Along the way, they can create favorite pages.

An activities section offers a pyramid maze, a memory game (of Egyptian gods), an image depicting the moon god Thoth to color, and a short quiz. A resource page includes direct links to websites and Amazon pages for titles on Ancient Egypt.–Joy Davis, Ouachita Parish Public Library, Monroe, LA


Packed with highlights about one of the world’s oldest civilizations, Ancient Greece ($3.99; Gr 4-7) covers daily life, Athens, the Olympics, famous Greek citizens, and lasting achievements in government, drama, philosophy, literature, and architecture. It also features high-definition videos, 3-D models, and a highly accessible text. Based on the Kids Discover issue by Stella Sands, this interactive app offers a fresh approach for young historians wanting to learn more about life in the ancient world. 

The attractive presentation contains pop-up windows on nearly every screen, lively animations, and a breathtaking virtual tour of the Parthenon. Students will discover many surprising tidbits about the ancient Greeks, such as the first Olympiad had only one event, Olympic athletes competed in the nude, that chariot race collisions were common, and that boxing matches could go on for hours.The Trojan War is introduced with some basic information on the legend and the lore, and a brief animation of the Trojan Horse as it rolls up to the gates of Troy, complete with the sound of rumbling wheels.

In addition to 3-D models, there are photos of sites and artifacts, maps, drawings, and a few reproductions. Other helpful features include a Greek alphabet chart with an audio pronunciation guide, and several kid-friendly websites on Ancient Greece, though all but one include advertising. Quizzes and games add a fun element to an already stellar package. A solid production sure to spark kids’ interest.–Celeste Steward, Alameda County Library, Fremont, CA

For additional app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.


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.

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