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Category: Middle School »

Little Dead Riding Hood Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 2nd, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

When I first read about the app Little Dead Riding Hood, I assumed that it was a novelty platformer with zombie elements, as these types of apps can easily be found in iTunes, typically devoid of any educational value.

I am so very happy that I gave this app a closer look because my assumptions were totally wrong, as Little Dead Riding Hood is an interactive storybook app with both English and Spanish translations included as well as the highest of production values - a refreshing tale on this classic story of Little Red Riding Hood. Although I highly recommend this app, this recommendation is a qualified one, and here is why.

There is a lot of the macabre in Little Dead Riding Hood, and as I was enjoying this app, I did say to myself a few times with a smile, “Well, they went for it” in ways that will please or displease families depending on their sensibilities.

This is the re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, who has died many years ago, along with her parents, who from the grave want to kill Grandma and steal her inheritance. To do so, they come up with a plan to poison Grandma by sending the corpse of Little Red to Grandma complete with utterly poisoned food and drink. Grandma does get poisoned, dying a gruesome death, after first having defended herself from Little Red, living up to her old nick-name “Ramba” using any and all fire weapons in a scene that is glorious with presumed cartoon violence that also made me smile.

Styled with equal parts Tim Burton, Eddie the Mummy and Seth McFarlane, this app, with wonderful, top-notch black and white illustrations and bold pops of color, is an acquired taste that will offend some families a great deal. Others will really appreciate the humor and biting wit that this irreverent app offers.

The included narration is perfection, as is the included music and I appreciate how the book of this app is lengthy, with a page of text found on pages complete with beautifully hand-crafted and sepia-toned drawings, lovingly distressed in keeping with the style of this app. Do also tap these characters to read speech bubbles that add to the richness and fun of this rather odd application.

This is a highly cinematic app, so it is a real treat that this app also includes the original sketches and productions while still showing the making of this app - quite interesting indeed. Also appreciated is the menu of pages, always helpful to readers.

Make no mistake, this app included a rather dead and decaying Little Red, the graphically poisoning of a family member, guns and other military-inspired weapons which get pointed and shot at Little Red, a vividly farting wolf who later gets attacked by snakes, maimed in a metal animal trap and stepping on a bomb which explodes and launches the animal into the air, plus other details I am sure I have overlooked - all at the height of storytelling.

This is an app that I have chosen not to show to my five year old son, as he is a sensitive soul who would not enjoy this adaptation at this time, and I can understand parents of toddlers and the preschool set not having much interest in downloading this app as well, but for grade school and older children through adulthood who have acquired a taste for gruesome humor and parody, this is a perfectly realized application in every way possible.

Even though this app is one that many families will disregard as maybe they should, I would like to recommend this app for older grade school if not middle and high school students, especially those in media study, as great thought was put into the developing of this app as is seen in the included sketches, and adults can talk a lot about the choices made in this app, from modernizing a classic story to the satire as well as the dramatic structure - well-crafted in every way.

This app demonstrates to older children that the envelope can be pushed while maintaining a level of quality that cannot be denied, even if certain subject matter may not be for everyone.

Families will need to make up their own minds about whether or not this app is for their family, but I can say that I personally enjoyed Little Dead Riding Hood immensely, and I welcome other tales like this from an incredibly talented group of developers.

DragonBox+ Algebra Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 30th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

DragonBox+ Algebra is an interesting puzzle game that focuses on teaching children the basic principles of basic algebra along the way.

This is a an app which I have completed, and my feelings towards it varied depending on how far I had gotten during this game.

This app consists of five chapters, each with twenty levels that each include a fantasy creature who slowly evolves as these questions are completed. Four personalized accounts can be created, complete with an avatar to keep track of different players' progress - ideal for school settings as well as home with multiple players as well. An important bonus section, also including five chapters, is also included, as is a variety of different languishes.

The first impression is how high quality a game this is, with soothing yet suspenseful music and a mildly distressed, textured and pleasing-to-the-eye background screen which is the backdrop for these puzzle questions that users will be gazing at for some time.

This app is scripted, and one follows along the text explaining first how there are two sides of the screen and one box, plus other tiles that have a variety of images such as monster faces, birds, dragons or dice. The object is to isolate the box, removing the other tiles from the box side, until this box stands alone. To do so, add the opposite tile, removing this from the puzzle.

It is here that those with a background in algebra will understand how these puzzles are slowly forming algebraic equations, adding opposite tiles together, much like one would add negative numbers in the interest of subtraction, or how one must add the same tiles to both sides of the screen as you would to both sides of an equation. Later, the box is changed to a “X” and division of fractions is also touched upon as is multiplication.

I do wonder if this app is not overly theoretical as very little to no math is included in this app. This application is not about solving these questions but whittling down these problems until the equation reads “X = ...” Now students could presumably use their math skills to solve these problems, making my mind journey back to high school math with a teacher who would only take a point off if the last line of addition was incorrect but the other work shown was accurate.

To me as an adult, this app is a very nice exercise in answering these problems “algebraically” instead of with arithmetic - a concept this same teacher was at a loss to articulate, a failing of his I remember to this day.

I have enjoyed this app a great deal, feeling that it would have gone a very long way if I had been taught with this app during this math class. I do have my doubts that although children with no math basics will find this app fun and novel, they will not also find DragonBox overly theoretical in terms of being able to understand math beyond being some sort of parlor trick. I also feel the idea that a child as young as my five year old son could solve or truly understand a math question reserved for high schoolers dubious as these questions do not solve any real math, being devoid of numbers, while teaching these concepts in a way that some may take to heart, possibly with very good results.

Having gone through the first two chapters, it is too early to tell if my son will gain an understanding of algebra from this app, even with my explanations of how this app relates to later math - an important insight for this app to be anything more than an interesting exercise in problem solving. I do believe that this is a time that “not knowing the child is learning math” takes away from this experience. It would also be nice if these problems could include the solutions as without any hints or answers, users can hit a frustrating impasse.

I do highly, however, recommend this app to top math teachers who can thoughtfully explain how this app relates to algebra, alongside questions that include numbers which can follow through and solve during the teaching of algebra itself.

I also recommend this app to homes where parents or other adults can sit with their children and help them work through these levels, explaining how these parameters relate to later math, giving them a bit of a head start, but I do not think this app can live up to its potential without added instructions.

I would also like to note the importance of the bonus levels, not only as the content here is quite high (including five complete chapters, much more that I expected from a “bonus” section of an app), but it is here that much of what is being taught “clicked” for me in terms of true algebraic significance.

Even if my son is too young to fully grasp what this app ultimately has to offer, I would still be quite happy for him to complete these puzzles as an exercise in logic instead of algebra - still thought-provoking and still wonderful for pre-math and thinking skills in general.

I do hope that what my son may learn from this app he takes with him into algebra, such as performing the same functions on one side of an equation as the other, but I do think he would need to re-visit this app at a later time to gain full insight into what this app has to offer.

I do not find these points flaws in this app, but please do not expect preschoolers to truly solve high school algebra. They may possibly be able to isolate X, but this is not to equate an answer for what X represents, and I am ambivalent as to could recreate the experience with a pen and paper. I prefer for my son to look at this app as a unique logic game for now and an algebraic teaching tool later on when this app can take on more relevance.

One note I would like to make, however, is that this app can be at times un-responsive when adding tiles together, to the point that those not certain of their correct answers may try another way of solving these problems - an issue that I hope can be smoothed out in an update soon.

Escape From Tokeru Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 26th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

It will come as no surprise to readers that I am often asked to recommend apps to family and friends, especially for those in grade school, as iTunes seems filled with apps for toddlers and those in preschool, but it can be harder to find apps for older children.

Parents looking for an interesting, thought-provoking app for this age set should take note of Escape From Tokeru, a puzzle game that includes an interesting back story, beautiful illustrations and moody, ambient background music.

Here, three Light Emitters have been kidnapped, and without their release, the world will be in darkness forever.

To play, one must lead the way for the light emitters to escape their captivity, opening and closing parts of a maze to create a channel for their light to flow, bypassing a dangerous sleeping dragon. When compete, tap the Light Emitters to see if the light flows only there if it is desired.

There are four sections to this application, each consisting of five boards. Each area will include new parameters of game play, such as choosing for light to flow horizontally or vertically and the use of light tunnels or directional switches one can rotate to direct the flow of light.

Each of these areas consists of a landscape seen behind the maze, beautifully illustrated in a raw, distressed fashion, including an ice and snow-covered mountains, earth tone rock formations, grey cavernous tunnels and a green forest scene with distant light seen from between trees as the Light Emitters make their way to freedom.

These images, combined with the interesting electronic background music, create a sense of fantasy and suspense bringing richness and to this experience.

I am very happy to report that this app also includes hints of these puzzles, showing players which of these locks should be opened and closed to guide the Light Emitters to safety - details I wish would be included in more puzzle apps.

I have really enjoyed the hand-made quality that is a part of this app as well as others from this developer, The Trustee for the Tokeru Trust, including Loopy Tunes and A Fine Musician, a music sampling and interactive storybook app, each crafted with a lot of love and craftsmanship.

I can easily recommend Escape From Tokeru for all ages from grade school and up, as these puzzles have a nice amount of challenge to them as well as the answers one may be looking for, which I am grateful for.

Cheesy Chess Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 24th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Cheesy Chess is a creative and fun mouse-themed logic game with heavy chess elements.

This app reminds me a lot of the slider puzzles I had as a kid where plastic tiles will ultimately make up an image but needed to be slid within this puzzle, keeping in mind that only one piece can be moved at once.

Here, imagine a mouse king who needs to progress through this slider puzzle at the top center to leave this board, but the other puzzle pieces need to be moved out of his way to do so.

The interesting chess elements included are that the pieces are each styled to look like chess pieces, with the option to view these puzzles using classic chess piece stylings or using mice which dressed as these pieces, such as king, queen, bishop or pawns.

As one may expect, these pieces move according to the rules of the classic game of chess - an interesting, effective set of parameters for this game of logic.

I appreciate how as each piece is moved, the other pieces now opened up are highlighted in green, and one can drag or simply tap these pieces to move them to their next spot on the board.

This is a very nice game for children new to chess, as it will re-enforce how these pieces as well as the other pieces move as well as how to look at the bigger picture of the chess board, planning future moves as well as seeing multiple options.

It is worth noting, however, that these puzzles become increasingly difficult rather quickly, so I would hope early chess players will be able to share this app with adults.

It would also be nice if each of these levels has the correct answer or hints available - an important inclusion often overlooked in puzzle apps such as this, but I do appreciate the chance to take a step back when the board is deadlocked to try more changes for a better outcome.

The mouse-player board is fun and charming with minor animation included as a reward for a completed puzzle - fun for children. The classic puzzle pieces mode will appeal to adults and older children, and with 100 levels among five stages, there is certainly a lot of content that older players will gravitate towards.

Although I can recommend Cheesy Chess to children new to the rules of chess, don’t let the name fool adults into thinking that this is simply a children’s game, as adults and teens will feel challenged in these upper levels as well, making this an interesting logic puzzle game that I can recommend to a wide age range.

Mystery Math Town Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 17th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Mystery Math Town is a wonderful new math app that will engage both children and adults.

I am really impressed with this app, as players here guide a friendly ghost who has agreed to help release fireflies that have been caught in jars hidden among rooms and outdoor spaces of wonderfully stylized houses - per the plead of their firefly mom as seen in an introduction to this creative math application.

To do so, one will need to gather numbers that are to be used in math problems that one will come across in order to enter or leave any of the rooms of outside spaces connected to the house, be it by simply crossing over a threshold of a door, climbing up or down stairs or a ladder or even levitating outside the house as well as other unique ways of coming and going.

The amount of time and care that went into the developing of this app is quite obvious as these houses, eight in all, are stunning in their details and decorations, creating a Victorian feel with damask wallpaper, vintage artifacts and other interior design details lush with colors and elements that will make users want to keep exploring and solving math problems. Do tap around the page as sometimes the objects found include mild sound effects or other interactions that add even more richness to this app. Also note the portraits found within these houses that will sound when touched a well.

I also greatly appreciate how these math problems are presented as the answers are given and users will need to come up with the numbers to get to this sum, working in reverse - wonderfully unique as well as another level of thought process for children as well as adults.

I definitely found myself strategizing while playing this game, especially on the harder levels as the houses one must search are quite cavernous with multiple rooms and levels that one is best not getting lost in as one looks for numbers to collect and fireflies to free. This game makes me flex my sense of direction as well as my math skills.

Because one can hold only a set number or numbers, players will find themselves leaving numbers where they found them, deciding what numbers may be more helpful instead of redundant, back-tracking their steps to find the leftover digits that they now realize are needed to unlock areas of these homes.

Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are all possible functions covered as well as including numbers represented as dice and tallies, which are possible options as this app nicely allows adults to personalize the experience and difficulty level from older grade school up to adult.

I found that reverse engineering these math problems, even on the easiest level, was a thoughtful challenge - great for not only learning basic, beginner math but also for exercising knowledge of math foundations as these fundamentals will help students do the work of more advanced math with greater ease.

The amount of content is vast, and I enjoy the fact that even when the fireflies have all been released, one can go back to collect gold coins via the same gameplay to collect the portraits found in these homes to one’s personal gallery where these paintings can again be tapped to hear witty comments.

Not enough can be said in terms of the quality of the look of this app as well as the usefulness in terms of working on math problems. I found myself deeply engrossed in these houses, enthralled with the styling of each room I came across.

I cannot recommend this app more to both parents as well as teachers, especially with the inclusion of multiple players being able to keep their games separate - a necessity as few can finish this lengthy app in one sitting.

I have had a few issues with this Mystery Math Town crashing, but luckily this app saves the progress of the player mid-game, allowing me to pick up where I left off seamlessly. I would, however, love to see this issue smoothed out if possible.

I have few other notes for this game, but I would love to be able to watch the plea from the mother firefly at will instead of only as an introduction at the beginning of this app, as I found this scene quite impressive in terms of style and even emotion.

Artgig Studio, the developer of this app, has a nice collection of other educational titles as well that I can also recommend, some of which have also been reviewed here at GiggleApps. They are worth looking into, and I am very much looking forward to new apps by this developer in the future. The love that has been put into Mystery Math Town is obvious and is absolutely worth the purchase.

Futaba Classroom Games For Kids Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 25th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Futaba Classroom Games For Kids is a unique game app for children, educational as well as fun.

This app, a digital quiz game for both multi - as well as single players, really stands out because an adult can program the questions children answer to a wide age range of abilities from preschool age through the 10th grade as well as easy, medium or hard questions for these grades.

Up to four players can gather around the iPad which shows a question center screen, slowly revolving so all players have a chance to see and then answer the question with a tap from one of three possible choices at the bottom of their place at the screen.

A practice mode is also available that allows one player to use this app by himself.

The look of this app is quite nice, clean and sophisticated with a natural wood look to the background of this application as well as very nice music included to listen to - both relaxing as well as adding a bit of suspense to these games.

Also nicely styled are the questions which are included within a circle. With each correct answer, an area of this circle is highlighted until ten questions are answered correctly and a “Futaba” is earned - a citrus fruit that is a consistent theme in this educational app.

From animal recognition to the Table of Elements, different shapes to counting money and even learning about languages different from English, this app covers a vast array of questions that can be included.

It took me some time to understand how to create my own games using the filters provided, and I personally think it is easier to choose from all the subjects available instead of trying to filter these choices by grade or difficulty, as after going down the extensive list, I can simply check off the questions I would like included - down to the specific questions, and not just what themes to focus on.

I admire how multiple games can be created to allow children of different abilities to play this app at different times, making it a great choice for school settings as well as use in the home, especially for families with children of different ages and subjects to focus on.

Be it alone or with others, I can see children of all ages as well as adults enjoying these quizzes a great deal. I also appreciate how the plethora of questions for children from preschool into high school allows this app to grow with children, as well as to be a great teaching tool for the classroom as well.

Meet the Insects - Village Edition Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 18th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Meet the Insects - Village Edition is an excellent educational app that contains a vast amount of insect facts that will delight all ages from toddlers up through high schoolers and beyond.

Few apps have such a wide age range as Meet the Insects - Village Edition - one in series of bug-related apps. I am very impressed with the inclusion of narration for the majority of this app, making reading not a requirement to enjoy this application, although there are a few areas that will best serve older children who can read and write.

From the home page, one will see this app broken into six sections. I personally think that this app is best appreciated if one starts off with the “Insect Story,” which covers such topics as explaining what insects are vs. other creatures such as spiders - that are not, as well as insect life cycles, how insects pollinate flowers, the sounds insects make, and other interesting facts about flies in a household setting.

This section includes illustrations with light animation as well as video clips of insects and delivers a plethora of information which will make entomologists smile. I have learned a lot from listening and watching this video, with very good, clear and concise narration. I was simply blown away by how much information has been delivered this way.

Once this terrific overview is finished, venture over to “See the Insects” which will introduce users to different orders of insects such as Hemiptera insects which have needle-like mouths, or Diptera insects, with a single set of wings. Selections can be made by tapping insects directly or by choosing an order to scroll the different bugs to learn about. I love how butterflies are also represented as well as beetles and crickets and other types of insects that make noises.

Each of these insects is represented with well-written and narrated text which further explains a great deal about these bugs including a description of their appearance which can be seen in photos or video clips. A tap of the insect in question may make it move slightly for a great effect as these bugs look as if they come alive for a brief moment, as well as sometimes having the chance to use a magnifying glass to look at the creature in question up close. Fun facts are included which add whimsy to these insect areas as this app takes its bugs quite seriously. I am glad that cute yet still factual info is also included such as “Why do grasshoppers hate spinach” to keep this app light and cute for kids to enjoy.

A multimedia area is also available to see all the included photos and videos of insects accessible from a single place - each impressive in their details as well as the colors that can be seen in each insect. The videos include a simple narrated description of what is being seen, while the text found in the photos offered from this section are not narrated so parents may need to assist children in this area.

The Quizquiz is an area that uses tests to determine what children have learned with insect photos in this fun and interactive mini-game consisting of both multiple choice as well as a true and false question mode. These written tests without narration makes these quizzes great for older children or those who might need help from a parent as well.

An observational journal allows children to take a photo or use one from the photos on their iPad to then write about a subject - presumably about insects. I enjoy this opportunity for older students which can be saved and looked at in the future.

I enjoy being able to explore this app in both daytime as well as nighttime settings found on the home page, allowing for the nighttime bug sounds to be heard as well - a nice touch - as is the other glossary of insects that one can use to search for these insects by order as well as color, also including insects not covered in this specific app but may be covered in the other apps from this series.

There is a tremendous amount of information about insects in this highly educational application. I recommend this app to all families who enjoy insect information. I look forward to more of the apps from this series as well as other apps from this developer in the future.

Whack A Bone Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 8th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Whack A Bone is a wonderful app for iPad that is truly an educational delight, teaching about the anatomy of bones found in the human body.

Nicely sectioned into groups, users will learn about the bones that make up one’s core, such as cranium, sternum or vertebrae which is grouped here into three different categories - cervical, thoracic and lumbar, as well as the arm and leg bones, each consisting of its own section as well.

To play this pirate-themed anatomy game, place the bones from the different sections back to their rightful places inside a skeleton with the direction of a talking parrot whose attitude kids will find witty and fun.

It is also great that the entire skeleton is included, having players remember all of what they have been taught, including such differences as metacarpals vs. metatarsals as well as the correct placement of the different vertebrae included.

I appreciate that this is a great teaching aid for both those who need to study the bones in the human body including those new to this subject as the puzzle one fills in a labeled skeleton in the first half of these sections so that players will learn as they go.

Next, the parrot will quiz users on these bones by naming bones that need to be tapped as quickly as possible, and if successful, a bronze, silver or gold star is given based on speed.

I have had some issues with accuracy as I may tap the ribs when I was aiming for clavicle, and these mistakes are compounded by being timed.

Because of this, it would be great if the timer aspect of this app could be removed as an option, although I did like that if the player seems stuck during the quiz, the bone in question was highlighted to help. These answers, however, are not credited towards getting these bones as correct answers, and players are asked at the end to place the incorrect bones back where they belong and then need to re-build the bone puzzles again before being re-quizzed.

Although the adult human body consists of 206 bones, this app condenses the number being taught down to 24, with eight bones to learn per section - a very nice amount of information for children as well as adults to study.

This app is undeniably an excellent way to help students of all ages learn this information. The pirate theme is well-done and nicely stylized without getting in the way of what is being taught, and the salty attitude of the parrot keeps this game light and fun with just the right amount of competition that will be appealing to grade school children who otherwise may not been keen on studying the same topic over and over again.

I also appreciate that the music - ambient sound effects and parrot voice volume - can be adjusted independently.

I have certainly learned what has been taught within Whack a Bone, and I do wish this app were available when I was learning about anatomy as well, and I would love to see more educational apps like this developed in the future.

Geography Drive USA Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 11th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Geography Drive USA is a wonderfully engaging educational app that teaches about American geography in ways children will love.

As one can imagine, it is not uncommon for friends and family to ask me to recommend apps for their children in grade school as many apps out there are for preschool-aged children. Geography Drive USA is a title that I can easily recommend as an application that is both highly educational and a lot of fun.

The main focus of this app is the ability to drive around a provided map of the U.S., traveling to neighboring states, answering geography and state history questions, gaining money along the way. I also enjoy how as one visits each state and the gas gets used up, one needs to answer questions to earn more fuel for the trip.

Do study the visitor center as this section contains information to read about each of the 50 states as well as a collection of both regional and state maps.

There are over 750 questions included in this game that covers things such as capitals, flags and postal abbreviations, plus much more.

There are also some additional fun activities such as a few mini-games like the Hawaii spelling bee or a visit to the state fair where one can gain a lot of money for correct answers to customize one’s car.

I really like that this app is intended to save the game that one has played for future dates, as there is a plethora of questions to be answered and trophies to win when regional areas of the map are filled in as well as other elements too numerous to list in this review.

The look of this app is also quite polished, bright and engaging for older children starting in grade school through adulthood.

Added elements such as upbeat music and a narrator congratulating players are appreciated, especially as the narrator brings a great deal of richness to this app with an inviting, perfect-for-radio voice and comments that go beyond the canned “good job” or clapping heard in other applications.

I have always been uniformly impressed with the apps from Spinlight Studio as they have done something I have not seen executed by other developers.

Spinlight Studio has been able to develop a variety of apps for all ages from a first app for the youngest players through grade school and beyond - each with the highest quality, whereas other developers have more of a niche that they stay in.

Each of Spinlight Studios apps may share the same sensibilities in terms of graphic design and bold colors used, but they cover themes ranging from apps focused on teaching letters or numbers to young app users as well as a“choose your own ending” storybook board game for preschoolers.

Also included in their catalogue is a retro-inspired carnival game high on style as well as serious educational apps for grade schoolers such as a math app with a terrific spy theme, and now a geography app which is full of whimsy and reminds me of the best moments as well as music reminiscent of “The Price Is Right” to keep kids learning as well as entertained.

I strongly invite readers to learn more about Spinlight Studio. I am eager to see what new apps they develop next.

A Christmas Carol Drawn & Told Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 19th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

A Christmas Carol Drawn & Told is a stellar universal adaptation of the class Dickens tale of the same name.

I am very impressed with the quality of this app which includes more than 300 beautiful drawings, as highly these stylized images are used to illustrate this lengthy story, complete with fabulous narration.

Users simply sit back and listen to this classic story, gazing at wonderful artwork which brings great dimension to this Dickens tale.

These images are often dark, moody and simply gorgeous to look at, making this not just a topical app for Christmas, but ideal for anyone who needs to study A Christmas Carol in school, especially those who enjoy graphic novels as they are often haunting as well as edgy at times as well as beautiful to look at, making this app stand out from other re-tellings of this story.

There is also a slight use of the Ken Burns effect - the panning and zooming of these illustrations to draw the eye - quite effective in the support of this storytelling.

The narration is top-notch in every way, if not spoken a little fast, but not difficult to get used to hearing. A few other voice actors are also incorporated for a great effect which I really appreciate.

I remember reading this lengthy book in high school, and I would have really appreciated this app a great deal. For me, my best comprehension came from both listening to a story at this point from a borrowed set of records from our public library, reading along word for word. This is how I read works like Shakespeare, Catch-22 or Native Son, and it really worked for me quite well.

This app does not include the text, but the illustrations are so very vivid, students of all ages will find themselves engaged, fully understanding and even enjoying this story, especially those students not looking forward to reading Dickens by themselves.

I appreciate that this app is broken down by chapter and allows readers to pick up where they left off as well as including information about Dickens that I found interesting.

I highly recommend this app for all students who are reading A Christmas Carol as well as for teachers in a classroom setting, especially at such an affordable price. I am unclear if this is an abridged version of the classic, but even if so, with almost two jours of narration, there is enough content here to be a valuable adaptation worthy of being used in class to understand the major plot points and concepts.

I would love to see more classic literature adapted this way, as this is a perfectly realized re-telling of a classic story.

iActive Christmas Carol - Unabridged Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 18th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

iActive Christmas Carol - Unabridged, as the name may suggest, is an unabridged adaptation of the Charles Dickens Classic Tale: A Christmas Carol.

This app is without narration but includes both Victorian-inspired drawings as well as interactions that one can explore when reading this story.

The pages of this app have distressed edges, adding a vintage feel to this app that I appreciate, but the total lack of sound comes across as unfinished. I would rather listen to ambient sounds such as the crackle of a fire while on text pages or the sounds one would expect to find while performing included interactions, such as metallic or subtle ticking sounds one may expect if a watch were bouncing around the page or liquid sloshing sounds as a wine bottle is being tossed around the screen. I also find some of the interactions to be a little on the nose but can be fun to move about the screen.

I do wish page numbers could be included to keep track of one’s space in this book as there is no place-saving included.

It is worth noting that this app will open to the last page if iActive Christmas Carol is left running in the background of one’s iPad. This feature should be included intentionally as well.

A menu of pages is included that one can go through, but from a distance each of the pages without interactions looks the same. Readers can still take a few minutes to find the place where they left off.

Even with these notes, iActive Christmas Carol is worth taking a look at if one is in need of an unabridged version of this story that includes some interactive elements and illustrations.

Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 6th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride is a splendid educational app for iPad 2 and beyond that does a thorough job of explaining the American Revolution and the details of Paul Revere’s ride.

Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride is a new app in a series of Ansel & Clair apps that revolves around intergalactic travelers Ansel, a travel photographer from planet Virtoos and Clair, the Virtoosian robot who accompanies Ansel to Boston at the start of the American Revolution to take historical photographs used to teach other Virtoosians distant history.

During their visit, children, along with Ansel and Clair, will be led through a collection of scenes that bring much life and detail to the American Revolution through a variety of interactions, such as the ability to take photographs of important people and events or meet key characters who explain the issues of the day such as the Boston Tea Party in ways that will stick with children.

Children will also be quizzed on what they have learned along the way as well as incorporating puzzles, mini-games, poetry and art, all bringing great richness to this experience.

I have enjoyed Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride a great deal, learning a lot of historical details I had forgotten many years ago, and I am sure this app would educate children about the American Revolution as they are kept engaged and entertained. An excellent use of music is also present, creating a lot of drama and suspense that will keep children engaged as they learn about American History.

I also really appreciate the mild science fiction aspect to this story when Ansel & Clair are discovered and are allowed to tag along as observers as long as they do not affect the history unfolding, bringing another layer to this experience.

Multiple players can keep create accounts holding their space through this lengthy application - a very nice touch.

There is so much to say about all the details included within this Ansel & Clair app that reviewing it is a daunting process, but I do feel very excited to recommend this app to all ages of children - older preschool through fifth grade and beyond.

As the weather gets cold and families travel, parents begin looking for applications to entertain their children for long stretches while feeling good about the screen time their children are exposed to.

Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride consists of many hours of historically accurate information and a sizable amount of interactions and activities that will leave children with a greater sense of understanding of American history after they have completed this app, making the time they have spent with Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride well worth it.

Do be aware that this app would also make a wonderful gift of substance for other families as well as those who have access to an iPad 2 or higher.

Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride is a stellar choice for the educational setting, as this information is delivered in a way most multi-sensory, making great use of iPad technology, especially for students who may be reluctant readers who would thrive on meeting the historical cast of characters who talk about their lives first.

I sincerely hope Cognitive Kids continues to add applications to this series as Ansel and Clair apps are perfectly realized educational apps every child could benefit from.

Disney American Presidents Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 5th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Disney American Presidents is a impressive app for iPad which contains a great deal of information on each of the U.S. presidents in a way that is humorous and engaging, based on the Disney DVD series, The American Presidents.

Styled as the “Un-official Oval Office Scrap Book,” there is a page dedicated to each president and consists of a handful of items pertinent to these leaders that can each be tapped to learn more. Also included are fun sound effects and short written sections that include more information about each president or the time period in general.

A short sound bite is also included that can be heard with a tap, consisting of a few words that express what stands out most about each of these presidents.

By far, the best feature of this app are the videos included for each president.

I admire the use of multimedia within these videos, making them utterly engaging and oftentimes showing off a smart sense of humor as well as interviews from such knowledgeable people as Bob Woodward, Mo Rocca or Sam Donaldson.

Disney American Presidents is a terrific app for grade school children. I do appreciate that the good as well as the bad moments in office have been discussed, creating complex characters for kids to think about such as Richard Nixon, as well as unflattering details like the unpleasantness of John Adams, which will seem relevant and honest to children.

I also enjoy that the lesser known presidents are also represented here and given the same general lengths of time, this app doing their best to make the story of these presidents as interesting as the rest.

A few options are included, such as being able to choose music to coincide with the era a chosen president is a part of or a common theme song for this app, Battle Hymn of the Republic. One can also see as well as gain access to all the presidents laid out on a single page, arranged in order as well as color codes by era - a nice touch.

Adults may find the wit displayed in these videos familiar as Disney has teamed up with a producer from The Daily Show and Colbert Report to create these shorts which surpass the category of being solely for children, as my husband and I have really enjoyed these modern takes a great deal.

Some parents may raise an eyebrow, however at the mention of an inappropriate relationship with an intern during Bill Clinton’s video, but as this was an important detail leading to his trial for impeachment, this detail needs to be touched upon, which it is within this video in a delicate nature I was satisfied by.

It is worth noting that I have had problems with the sound portion of this app, as the music, sound effects and sound bites have at moments stopped working during my time exploring this app - a disappointment that I hope can be fixed in a later update. Luckily, the videos have not been affected, so there still more than enough content allowing me to easily recommend this app.

I would also like to note that although I really appreciate not needing an internet connection to use this app, but the size of this app at 1.02 GB is quite large - large enough in fact that some families may have issues downloading this app to their iPad in terms of space.

Although I find this app important enough in terms of wonderfully educational tool to make room for it on one’s iPad so that children can learn from this resource, I would love to see this app optimized in the future.

Only time will tell if this app is updated to reflect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, an update I would love to see included in the future.

PHLIP Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 17th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

PHLIP is an interesting and engaging puzzle app for both children as well as adults. It is a universal app, but do note that a camera is necessary to make this app compatible with one’s device.

Said to be a combination of the words Photo and Flip, PHLIP is a really creative puzzle app where one uses a photo from their device or snaps a new image to include as the background of an intriguing puzzle app.

Once a background is selected, players can choose the number of pieces their new puzzle will contain - between four and twenty tiles that will rotate independently, breaking up the original photograph.

Gameplay here is simple to grasp yet these puzzles can become quite complicated to complete, as one can tap to select tiles to either rotate or lock as players tilt their device clockwise or counter-clockwise to make these tiles rotate into their rightful places.

I appreciate how the same photo can be an easy or more difficult puzzle, depending on the number of tiles included, making this app a great choice in puzzle activity for children of all ages - preschool and up - as well as adult.

There is a very nice level of polish that has gone into this app, as fun, quirky sound effects are included each time a tile is rotated, and players are also able to see the completed puzzle with a tap, allowing players to also go back and complete their work after being given help if feeling stuck.

The number of moves needed to solve these puzzles is retained but is unintrusive enough - good to know as I don’t always find that score-keeping adds to my enjoyment of a game or activity.

Another function of this app is the ability to challenge friends and family who have downloaded this app with solving puzzles that one has personally created - a nice touch as I can see puzzle enthusiasts sharing photos among friends, sending these puzzle backgrounds back and forth via email.

Although players are encouraged to create intricate photo experiences to capture in order to make unique and creative puzzles, I have had very good success in finding images from my camera that I have enjoyed turning into photos, as my son has taken to creating architectural photographs of his Lincoln Log structures that he enjoys building which have become great fodder for some interesting puzzles.

I enjoy the interactive elements included within this app as well, as players need to select, de-select, and re-select tiles to be rotated, giving busy fingers and minds a lot to focus on, as does the tilting of the device in a way that I think could be very engaging as well as calming to my sometimes antsy son.

Although not specifically educational, I enjoy my own thought process as I work on these rotated puzzle elements, looking for pieces with recognizable landscapes and working my way out from there.

Depending on the image used, these puzzles can be simple, difficult, or simply time-consuming, often requiring focus and patience that adults can adjust for their children or themselves to be challenged at a level they will get the most from.

Although this app was designed for one to create stylized photos to thoughtfully make puzzles, I think this app could creatively take photos very much in the moment that adults and children could enjoy as they are out and about, making this a wonderful puzzle choice to pass the time for all ages.

PHLIP is truly an app that you make not only your own, but you get what you put into this app in terms of creating the perfect puzzles to spend time with.

Magic Forest HD Pro Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 9th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Magic Forest HD Pro is a physics-based game for iPad with a lovely sense of style, including eighty unique levels to explore. An iPhone version of this app exists, as do free iPad and iPhone versions with advertising.

There are many variations of this style of game in the iTunes store such Cut the Rope, but I enjoy the look of this app, with backgrounds reminiscent of water color or batik artwork and include forest motifs that I find appealing and a little different from what is commonly found in a game such as this.

Here, one is looking to help these pets into their basket, breaking glass bricks or other obstacles that prevent these animals from typically falling into where they belong.

Many of these levels also include other elements that a small amount of text will explain regarding new game play details such as the use of logs, jelly or balloons as well as other objects that can increase one’s score such as candy, gems or coins.

Fun, almost Victorian carnival-like music is included, also adding to the mystical tone that has been created here that may be of interest to both adults as well as older children who enjoy flexing their logic and reasoning abilities as they need to select what bricks or other items to wisely remove first.

I do recommend that if this app is purchased, there is an adult seasoned in games such as this to help out at trickier levels.

It would be nice if a hint button could be included within this application to aid children who come to an impasse so they could get full use from this application, possibly highlighting the object to remove in sequence, walking children through a level if necessary.

Such a button is not traditionally included within these types of applications but would be a worthwhile addition that would make this app really stand out as a good choice when purchasing a physics-based application for children.

The ability to skip a level is included as an in-app purchase - an option that would be nice if hidden so that a frustrated child does not feel the need to spend extra money within a paid application - a great pet peeve of mine.

Instead, I would love to see this app break convention and leave all these levels unlocked, allowing users to skip levels as I have never found being locked out of part of an app ever added to my sense of accomplishment in the least.

Even with these notes, I do really appreciate how pretty this game is and how nice the music is to listen to.

I also enjoy how nature is depicted here very much and although he is young for this app now, I would be happy for my son to spend time figuring out how to get the animals into their baskets.

Nevertheless, I believe my boy would enjoy this game more with hints that he could access himself when stuck instead of asking an adult for help.