May 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Axel’s Chain Reaction | Touch and Go

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While the title of this app might lead you to believe that this is a story to share during science class, our reviewer noted that Axel will best serve character education or art units. A free, lite version of the app is available for previewing. 

Title screen from 'Axel's Chain Reaction' (Pomenta)

Title screen from ‘Axel’s Chain Reaction’ (Pomenta) Cubic Jigsaw/Higuera. Illus. by Mónica Armiño

Axel, an accident prone and quirky kid, is introduced via this original story by Allison Pomenta (Cubic Jigsaw/Higuera Studios, $2.99; Gr 1-4 ) for iOS devices. Although he’s a creative artist and inventor, Axel is teased by his peers and has trouble fitting in at school. When his teacher introduces a kinetic art project, the boy finally has a chance to share his talents with the class. He works hard at home to create the perfect sculpture, and although he runs into problems, he preservers until he’s satisfied with the results. When disaster later strikes during the school art fair, Axel’s creativity saves the day.

Interior screen from 'Axel's Chain Reaction' (Pom  )

Interior screen from ‘Axel’s Chain Reaction’ (Pomenta) Cubic Jigsaw/Higuera. Illus. by Mónica Armiño

Axel’s Chain Reaction is well written and provides multiple avenues to explore in a classroom, including a nonfiction investigation of kinetic art and opportunities for use in character education programs. The illustrations by Mónica Armiño are attractive, bright, and visually engaging. The book incorporates a number of interactive elements. For example, gestures such as shaking, pinching, and tilting are required to advance the storyline. There are embedded videos, frequent animations, and an open-ended creation activity where students can build bugs out of household “junk.”

Extras include directions to create kinetic sculptures, biographies of three kinetic artists, and a glossary. When interacting with the book, users have the option switch the narration and music on or off and enlarge the font size. The reading experience is slightly marred by the simultaneous animations which can become distracting; because actions occur in line with the narration, it’s impossible to watch both the movement and read the words. Overall, an engaging story with lots of quality interactive features.–Lindsay Cesari, Baldwinsville School District, NY

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.