Polar Bear Horizon - Smithsonian Oceanic Collection is an interactive application based on the book of the same name and now part of a series of Smithsonian applications developed by Oceanhouse Media.
Like other apps by Oceanhouse Media, this application includes the choice to listen to narration allowing readers to follow along the included text which becomes highlighted when words are spoken, or to read this book to oneself. Auto-play is also an option.
Do tap around the page to see objects or animal characters labeled by both text and narration when touched - as are single words or entire paragraphs with the tap of a finger, and the zooming and panning of these pages helps focus readers' attention nicely and at times create moments of an almost animated quality.
There is a lot to really enjoy within this application including superb illustrations, soothing music, gentle sound effects of animals, water and wind as well as relaxing narration.
It is great how this app includes a vast amount of information about polar bears in a way that is still conversational and entertaining in a calm, thoughtful manner.
My son really absorbs science and nature details when he is exposed to stories such as this, which nicely merge nonfiction into storytelling, often relaying information he has learned from others and has really enjoyed this story as well.
I also appreciate a great deal the way the topic of the polar bears feeding off of seals is handled in a way that is very tactful yet accurate, allowing adults to fill in any details children may ask about this subject with information that their families feel is appropriate.
I remember when my son heard from a TV show that dolphins, a favorite animal of his, were “predators” - really heartbreaking for him to have this information explained in this way, until I told him that by this definition we too are “predators.” I am glad to say this this story doe not use such heavy language, glossing over the actual killings of the seals which are totally off screen and never truly explored, making this app very age-appropriate for preschoolers and up. It does, however, lack some of the details older children may feel are necessary to properly tell this story.
For me, it is lovely that this app also includes a moment of text and narration that explains how the baby polar bears are nursed by their polar bear mom, although not expressed directly within the illustrations.
I also love the choice to include the Northern Lights for a beautiful effect - a special moment within this book - as well as mild moments of drama and suspense when they come across other animals in the wild.
An additional section is included, “About the Polar Bear,” offering more interesting facts about these creatures, all of which may encourage children to learn more about these animals as well. For these reasons and more, I recommend that parents and teachers look into this application.