The Strange and Wonderful World of Ants is a marvelous app for iPad that brings a lot information about ants in a way that is beautifully crafted.
My son and I enjoy this science app very much, as it is loaded with very interesting ant information that I was very impressed with, as I have never spent much time thinking abut ants except for how to avoid any possible infestation. This app taught us about many different types of ants and how they serve the larger goals of the group, be it feeding, protection, or sleeping. I can say that although I would still not a fan of ants if I ever found them in my house, I have a new-found respect for them as a hard working group of creatures that work for the common good. I am very happy for my son to learn this information as it is both fascinating and educational. Non-fiction science apps are not commonplace in the iTunes store; this is a lovely change of pace from our usual storybook apps.
I am impressed with the inclusion of 3 reading levels that will be appropriate for a large range of age groups, as the vocabulary and number of words increase in these sections, making this appropriate for preschool and up to adulthood. The intermediate and advanced sections go into more specifics, which is something older kids and adults will enjoy, but I also admire the quality of writing in the beginner section for its simple prose and almost poetic style of writing.
Narration is included in the beginner section, which is excellent. I really enjoy the narrator's voice which has a sincere quality and is very well recorded. Music plays throughout this app, which is equally well-done, relaxing and transcends simple background music to something I truly enjoy listening to.
It is nice that one can change the reading level during the use of this app without having to start over from the beginning, an interesting touch that is fun to experiment with while reading this book. The lack of narration in the two more detailed sections encourages older children to read more difficult sections by themselves, but I think narration would be a nice option as well, especially since children may benefit from hearing the more advanced vocabulary like “bivouac” spoken.
What I appreciate the most about this app for my son is how it explains in great detail how wonderfully ants get along and work with each other, a great example in cooperation and socialization that my son, a soon-to-be preschooler can learn from.
The illustrations of this app are simply wonderful, black and white drawings that lush with tremendous detail. I really like how these pages are also filled with a lovely palette of colors like mustard yellows and earthy greens that create large graphic shapes that move and envelope these pages when the pages turn, adding to the beauty of this app.
An interactive feature is also added where one can tap an extremely realistic black ant as he crawls across each page. Here, one gets to read first-person commentary from this ant named E.O. hearing his point of view on what is being covered in each page. I like how even E.O.’s comments are specific to the reading level, I am very happy to read the speech bubbles of E.O. for my son, as I think my reading these short sentences nicely complemented the narration in the beginner section. It would be nice however, if EO’s words were also narrated, they would be understood by pre-readers when they listen to this section alone.
The one thing I don’t understand is why this book states early on that “Ants aren't very strong. Ant's are not very very smart” when they, as it is my understanding, are very strong for their size, routinely being able to pick up or move objects that are larger and heaver than their own bodies. To call ants "not very smart" may send the wrong message as this app goes into detail about how sophisticated they are in many ways. In further pages, E.O. also says that ants are smart, leading to more confusion for myself, but not my child who is unfazed by these issues.
Except for the line of the book which gives me momentary pause, I think this is a very special science app. The narration, drawings, and other elements are top-notch in terms of quality. I really appreciate the added glossary and thoughtful questions that parents or teachers can use to lead discussions about lessons learned from this application. Other resources about ants are also included, something very nice for both home and classroom settings. I would love to see more apps from this developer as I would love to hear more about science from their point-of-view.