February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Taming First-Day Jitters—On the Tablet | Touch and Go

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It’s back-to-school for children around the country, and for those with first-day jitters books can provide comfort and reassurance, while the interactivity of the apps may offer a little bit of (playful) control as they work through the experience.

pandaLike the other productions in the “Dr. Panda” franchise, the play in Dr. Panda School (iOS, S2.99; Android, $2.99; PreS-K) is open-ended with no defined goals or winners or losers. As a result, youngsters play to learn.

To begin, the animal cast arrives at school on a bus. Users tap the bus doors to have them open  and drag and drop the critters into the building. Once inside, there are more characters(19 in all) to add to the scenes; clothing and hats to redress the creatures; and opportunities to move into different areas of the building. The classroom, art room, nurse’s office, and schoolyard come with a variety of activities, e.g., math equations to complete in the classroom, lunch to navigate in the cafeteria, temperatures to take in the nurse’s office, and a seesaw to ride in the schoolyard. The custodial closet and bathroom have less to offer but round out the school experience, and are sure to pique the interest of the curious. Users can assume the role of  teacher, student, nurse, or custodial staff and/or join the animal characters as his or her invisible hand draws on the blackboard, sculpts the clay, shovels the dirt, and so on. In the second situation, the user is not represented as a character, but this doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of the app. Dr. Panda School is available in multiple languages. A trailer is available.—Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library, CT

toca school

Children will enjoy creating their own stories in Toca Life: School (Toca Boca AB, iOS, $2.99,  Android, $2.99; also Kindle, Windows; PreS-K), the third entry in the “Toca Life” series. The wordless app encourages nonlinear storytelling as users move from scene to scene by tapping locations on an animated map.

Children can choose from a cast of multicultural characters to add to each scene as they attend chemistry class, eat in the cafeteria, play sports on the playground, and jam with a band in the “youth club.” They can also interact with the many props available in each location, and there are activities to engage in such as matching shapes, and creating a sandwich. Messy rooms can be tidied (reset) by tapping an icon on the home screen. Colorful cartoon-style artwork, along with a variety of sounds effects from ringing bells to band practice, and upbeat background music contribute to the playful atmosphere. A recording feature captures scenes for users who wish to narrate and save their stories. Design notes for parents offer tips on accessing characters, recording, and settings. An engaging app that encourages play and just may help alleviate some pre-school jitters. —Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal’s dedicated app 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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