February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! | Touch and Go

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Once again we celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2) with a round-up of his stories and Seuss-inspired titles, released as apps within the past 12 months. These include familiar tales and several new additions to the “Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library.” For a full list of what’s available, be sure to visit the Oceanhouse Media website. To date they’ve produced more than 40 Seuss titles (on sale for the b’day); a few free, lite versions; a Seuss bookshelf to store the digital editions; and some games and novelty items including the free Dr. Seuss Camera–Happy Birthday to You! Edition, which allows users to create birthday cards to decorate and store or email. To further extend the fun, don’t forget to check the Internet for one of the several available recipes for oobleck and bring a little science into storytime.

photo-196Readers won’t find many bells and whistles in this version of Dr. Seuss’s Bartholomew and the Oobleck (Oceanhouse Media, $4.99 for iOS, Android, and Nook; PreS–Gr 2)–the primary nod to the new format is found in animated scenes of green oobleck dripping, then dropping, then pouring down over the original black-and-white artwork (Random, 1949).

The long-playing story–a favorite among children–features the same boy children first met in The 500 Hats of Bartolomew Cubbins (1938), who here must deal with a bored King Derwin of Didd, now tired of the usual rain and fog and decides he would like something else to fall from the sky. The text is broken into manageable chunks, with one print page becoming two or three digitally, while the illustrations shift or zoom at each page turn. Interaction is limited to tapping a word or part of an illustration to have it labeled and spoken, keeping focus on the story. Children can choose to read to themselves, listen to the narrated version, or record a one of their own (it’s easy). There are added sound effects, and snatches of music open and close this story that incorporates a message about being able to say, “I’m sorry.” While not flashy, this version is likely to appeal to Bartholomew’s fans.–Shelley Harris, Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IL

Screen from 'Daisy-Head Mayzie' (Seuss)

Screen from ‘Daisy-Head Mayzie’ (Seuss)

Based on the Dr. Seuss book published posthumously in 1994 (Random), Daisy-Head Mayzie (Oceanhouse Media, $4.99, iOS, Android, Nook, PreS-Gr 2) is the outlandish tale of a girl who sprouts a blossom from her head. The girl is given the nickname of Daisy-Head Mayzie by her amused classmates while her distraught teacher seeks a solution to the daisy dilemma. After consulting with various experts, the girl embraces the growth on her head, goes the commerical route, and lives a life of fame and fortune until she realizes how much she misses her friends and family.

This lengthy story offers readers three modes: “Read to Me,” “Read to Myself,” and “Auto Play.” Playful music and sounds effects may be switched on or off, and users have the option of recording themselves reading the book. Children will enjoy the brightly colored illustrations based on sketches found in Dr. Seuss’ original manuscript. The humorous voices (especially the W.C. Field-inspired principal) provided by John Bell, complement this nonsensical story by Seuss.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

Screen from 'I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today' (Seuss)

Screen from ‘I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today’ (Seuss)

Three classic Seuss stories (Random House, 1969) come to life in I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today, and Other Stories (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $5.98; Android, $4.99; PreS-Gr 1), a touch-friendly app. The title story follows a boastful character who brags about being able to beat “30 tigers.” He soon realizes his folly when the big cats show up, and his “30” slowly decreases until he skittles off without delivering one lick. The monarch in “King Looie Katz,” recruits a subject to carry his royal tail around the realm. The nonsense escalates until everyone in the kingdom is holding the tail of the animal in front of them. “The Glunk That Got Thunk,” demonstrates the power of imagination when a young girl thinks up a creature that materializes and proves difficult to get rid of.

The original Seuss art and text is presented along with a few opportunities to interact with the whimsical tales. The professionally narrated “Read to Me” option features characters with distinct voices. Children follow along as highlighted words are pronounced and can touch objects to hear their labels voiced. (When choosing “Auto Play” viewers must listen to the entire story as a “Home” icon is not available in this mode.) Added features include the ability to record a personal narration, allowing endless possibilities for creative expression and fun; tips for parents; and a user-friendly interface. Dr. Seuss’s silly rhymes and subtle life lessons shine through in these lesser-known tales, and their availability on phones and tablets will keep his magic alive for generations to come.–Diane Sustin, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH­­­­

photo-200Bonnie Worth’s If I Ran the Rain Forest, (Random, 2003; Oceanhouse Media, iOS $5.99; K-Gr2 ), takes viewers on an informative tour of this lush and leafy habitat. In this addition to “The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library” children learn about the types of rainforests, their different levels, and some of the plants and animals and that live and thrive in each one. Each colorful page features bright illustrations by Aristides Ruiz (many labeled), sounds from the animals that inhabit the rain forest, as well as musical interludes. Along with The Cat in the Hat, who guides the tour, Thing 1 and 2 make appearances, adding information and defining words. There are minor animations throughout and users can move some characters and creatures about in the scenery. A menu for parents explains how to use the app, but children will find it easy to operate on their own. In addition to a narrated story, users can choose to read on their own, or record a narration. There is loads of information here for children first learning about the rain forest.–Omar Ramirez, Northlake Public Library, Northlake, IL

Screen from 'Miles and Miles of Reptiles.' (  ) Riuz

Screen from ‘Miles and Miles of Reptiles.’ (Rabe) Riuz

Adopting characters and a rhyme scheme from Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, this version (Oceanhouse Media, $3.99; Gr 1-Gr 2) of Tish Rabe’s Miles and Miles of Reptiles (Random, 2009) offers beginner readers a basic introduction to some cold-blooded creatures. The wily feline of Cat in the Hat fame invites Sally and Dick into his crocodile car, where his sidekicks Thing 1 and 2 accompany them to visit various reptile habitats. Users can choose to listen to the enthusiastic narration, or read the text on their own, with an option to record their voices. Narrated text highlights each word as spoken, offering pop-up definitions for bolded text. A tap to any item elicits its spoken name.

Illustrations by Aristides Ruiz of lizards, snakes, turtles, tortoises, crocodiles are included with many facts about the species. Things 1 and 2 enter scenes holding signs with related information or definitions. Some animation is incorporated such as the repetitive flick of tongue that catches a fly; viewers will also witness the chameleon’s change of color when adopting a fighting stance. Users can move reptiles and figures about on the screen. A tap to an arrow will turn a page or provide menu options.– Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Screen from 'Clam I Am' ( ) XXX

Screen from ‘Clam I Am’ (Rabe) Ruiz and Mathieu

The shore and its wildlife are explored in Tish Rabe’s Clam-I-Am! (Oceanhouse Media, $5.99; PreS-Gr4) based on the book of the same title (2005) in Random House’s  “Learning Library“ series.  While out movie-making with a fish, The Cat in the Hat, Things 1 and 2, and  Clam-I-Am, the children Dick and Sally explore the coast. Together they learn about horseshoe crabs, sea stars, mollusks, the varieties of seaweed, sand fleas, seagulls, sandpipers, jellyfish, and barnacles as well as tides and tidal pools. Children’s tools for examining the shore and recreational activities are defined and people’s effect on the coastal environment is subtly referenced. In a sequence called “Go Ask the Fish” questions answered include: why the ocean looks blue, why sea water is salty and getting saltier, and how wind causes waves.

Beginning readers, English language learners, and children studying characteristics and needs of living things will find this a useful informational text. Minimal animations are accompanied by the sound of waves splashing. Tapping on items in the illustrations by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu will bring forth  a label and voiced word, while a tap to a word in bold font draws a definition. Written in simple four-line rhyme scheme, Clam-I-Am presents facts in a way children will remember.–Karen Jeremiah, Mary Scroggs Elementary School, Chapel Hill, NC

Screen from 'My, Oh My - Butterfly"

Screen from ‘My, Oh My – A Butterfly!’ (Rabe) Ruiz and Mathieu

With traditional Seuss characters and a rhyming text, the infamous feline in a red-and-white striped hat teaches Sally and Dick about the butterfly life cycle from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to My, Oh My–a Butterfly! (Oceanhouse Media $5.99; K-Gr 4), in an app based on Tish Rabe’s book of the same title (Random, 2007), illustrated by Artistides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu. Thing 1 and Thing 2 tag along and help, offering viewers further explanations. By the conclusion, children have been introduced to several butterfly species, including the Tiger Swallowtail and Monarch.

A “Read to Me” option features a well-paced narration with a varied and engaging inflection. Words are highlighted (and enunciated) as they are read. Custom background sounds are present throughout the book. Readers also have the option of recording their own narration, and these personalized recordings may be shared with anyone who has the app.

Interactive features are both entertaining and educational. A tap defines words in bold and allows readers to see and hear the name of any object. A blinking star on the screen, when touched, provides further details. Children are able to move and manipulate all the animated pictures on the screen. Navigation is seamless; a quick tap to the downward arrow at the bottom of the screen provides a simple menu with options for home, page selection, voice recording, and parents. Overall, this is a welcome addition for all Seuss fans and budding butterfly enthusiasts.–Amber Hooper, Oak Park & River Forest High School, Oak Park, IL

 For last year’s selection of Seuss apps, see “The ‘Very Serious Nonsense’ of Dr. Seuss.”

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




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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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