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Category: Geography »

Hoopa City Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on July 15th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar ::
Hoopa City is a creative city building app allowing kids to build their own landscapes.
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There’s a Map on My Lap! Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on November 25th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: MAP APP
There’s a Map on my Lap! is an educational app that teaches young children about many map-themed topics.
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Jazzy World Tour- Musical Journey For Kids Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 28th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Jazzy World Tour is a delightful exploration of music around the world, including the same characters and watercolor stylings as seen in the earlier companion app, A Jazzy Day.

This app opens up with different countries marked with a flag on a world map. Tap to select a flag to explore the related country.

Three sections are included, specifically Learn, Play, and Create.

In Learn, readers will be taken to the country in question, allowing them to read a nicely written section which includes an overview of each area, such as a specific city of note, language spoken and other basic information about geography and culture.

A wonderful variety of instruments as well as animals native to each country are also included. Tap to hear each name, be it of animal or instrument, spoken by a narrator, as well as hear the related sounds, be it creature or musical. Other important items of each country are also represented.

The Play section of this app allows one to tap the animals one has learned about in order to trigger their playing of the instruments - a cute section children will enjoy, complete with slight animations.

Create works much like a sticker book, allowing children to drag animals, instruments and other objects onto the page complete with a country-specific landscape, but this app also adds mild animated elements as well as musical sound effects among these stickers, allowing the animals to play their instruments so that there is a video including these stickers being dragged around the screen during the recording. Save videos as well as photos in the section My Travel Book to view later.

Adults will appreciate the sophisticated instruments included, such as the Oud from Egypt, Agogo from Brazil, Cajon from Spain or Sarangi from India, allowing children to hear instruments they may not typically have the chance to hear played.

I also enjoy the bright and colorful illustrations with marbled watercolor details - a nice touch. It would be nice, however, for the full paragraphs of text to be narrated as well - not just the title word - allowing children to get full use out of the app when spending alone time with the iPad.

Even with this note, parents will be happy to read the many thoughtful facts included within Jazzy World Tour.

Ansel and Clair - Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Dinosaurs apps Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 9th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I would like to introduce readers to a trilogy of dinosaur apps from the Ansel and Clair series of educational applications.

I am a huge fan of these apps, as Africa and Paul Revere’s Ride, and now the dinosaur time periods have each been visited by Ansel, a travel photographer from the planet Virtoos and Clair, a Virtoosian robot companion in order to gather photos to teach about these moments in history back on their home planet.

There are three sections broken up into different times, specifically the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, that each goes back to explore the world, learning about the unique dinosaurs what differenceates each of these periods seen in the landscapes of each of these apps, such as the Triassic period which was less green and more barren than the other periods of time

Narration, extensive facts, interactive animations, photos and more are also used to create wonderful multimedia experiences that take advantage of all the iPad has to offer.

Each of these apps includes a dinosaur dig site where one can meet a paleontologist who explains about the site and gives information about each time period using a time line as well as explaining all about fossils and giving children a chance to dig up dinosaur remains themselves with the use of tapping and swiping.

These bones can then be used to help the time machine that Ansel and Clair fly in to identify the correct time period to explore, bringing the duo back to a time long, long ago, wonderfully demonstrated with bright and colorful landscapes.

I do appreciate a great deal how these apps follow the same blueprints, allowing one to tap around the page to search for hidden hotspots that add slight movement to the dinosaurs around the page, but also how each creature includes a triangle to tap, bringing readers to a more detailed section about each dinosaur, as Clair explains all about the history of each creature, again using videos, photos and interactive animations, often helping Ansel interact in some way with these subjects.

These apps could have easily been overwhelming with information, but the format of Ansel asking questions that Clair answers keeps this information light and conversational as users help this team take photos of each dinosaur as Ansel needs to complete his photo album before flying home. Stickers are also collected after tapping to learn in even greater detail about some of these dinosaurs - a nice touch.

Everything these apps have to offer is perfectly realized in terms of delivering education material dealing with paleontology. This app will be adored by children of all ages as well as adults and pre-readers alike.

The illustrations are bright and colorful and also include the phonetically written dinosaur names and well-spoken narration to aid users in correct pronunciation of these names. I have noticed that the dinosaurs and other objects found in this app can be a little buzzy around the edges - a minor note in an overall wonderful set of applications.

Also included in the Triassic and Jurassic apps is the chance to build one’s own custom dinosaur with included elements such as head, body, or tail - a section to be added into the first Cretaceous app at a later date.

Four different user accounts can be created, great for school and families to allow small groups of children to work on this app at their own pace - a nice inclusion in this high-content group of apps that may need multiple sittings to explore all that has been included.

I cannot be more enthusiastic about recommending this app for children and adults of any age who are interested in dinosaurs. This app is comprehensive as well as charming and fun. I hope to see more adventures of Ansel and Clair in the future as this format is highly educational as well as engaging. Do check out each of these three apps for more details in iTunes.

Zachy the Robot: Quest for the Museum Treasures Review

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

Zachy the Robot: Quest for the Museum Treasures is a terrific interactive app that delves into different topics of natural history in a way that is sure to captivate children and their adults.

This is the second Zachy the Robot app. This one takes place again in Robocity, focusing on a group of robot friends, the Robocity Repairbots, who help their town with their problems, as their wheelhouse is fixing structural issues in buildings, as seen in the first app which focused on engineering.

Here, the gang is brought back to add exhibits to the newly built and empty Robocity Natural History Museum, explained in the bright, colorful and fun animated intro. I love how excited these characters are by the topic of natural history - an enthusiasm that parents will hope rubs off on their children.

Three sections are included, as the gang collect fossils, minerals and dinosaur bones to be later displayed in this museum.

The Fossils section begins with a map showing ten dig sites to choose from to search for relics. After choosing a site to work in, one will then use a chisel to dig under the ground to find buried fossils.

Once the treasures are dug up, a matching section is to be completed as index fossils are explored and the newly dug treasures are matched to boxes of previously dated fossils - though not yet unpacked.

Next is a maze area through which one needs to help a robot move in the museum with the exhibit - a space crowded with clutter and other objects not yet unpacked which creates the maze and the obstacles that one needs to navigate with the tilting of the iPad.

Once users are past the maze, the fossil is placed in the exhibit, and more is learned about what has been found. As other fossils are collected, do look back at this area of the app of Invertebrate Fossils ranging from both the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras.

In the mineral area, a list of minerals one can choose from is offered to the user, and once a choice is made, a map will show the different areas of the world where this mineral is sourced, sometimes including more than one location that one needs to explore in this content-rich educational app.

To source these materials, one must complete a simple logic puzzle that uses different minerals to complete the correct pattern. After the minerals are sourced, the mayor of Robocity appears to tell the workers that he needs various supplies for the city that are manufactured with the mineral in question, teaching children the practical uses for what was found, such as drill bits from diamonds, or zinc for sunblock.

Because of this, children will then need to sort mineral pieces for the museum worthy for showing as well as the more industrial samples and waste rocks that need to be discarded.

A nice animated section explains how the raw material is sent to a factory to ultimately be transformed into a useful product.

It is worth noting that both minerals and elements are included, sectioned accordingly in an area that saves the found materials to be read about later - a great resource to read to oneself.

The dinosaur exhibit section is just as interesting, allowing children to choose a dig site from a world map, dig for fossils as well as put these bones back together in a puzzle activity. Also included is a dinosaur-viewing screen allowing children to see with animation what the dino in question may have looked like when alive many years ago.

I really appreciate how the background seen at all the various dig sites from each of these three sections includes a specific scenic backdrop as well as related music that teaches a little about each area of the world visited - a nice touch, to be sure.

There is a vast amount of information for children to explore in this app developed in association with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, giving children many hours of science fun that parents will feel great about.

This is the second Zachy the Robot developed, and I can say we have enjoyed both apps very much. I can count the first app, Episode 1: the learning tower of robocity, on the short list of applications that my son often re-visits long after having been released. For a while now, he has been asking me when a second app would be available, and I can say that it has definitely been worth the wait.

I hope more apps from this series will be developed in the future as well because they are uniformly bright and colorful, both quite fun as well as highly educational, worthy for use in both home and in educational settings.

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.

Scholastic First Discovery Dinosaurs Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 13th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Scholastic First Discovery Dinosaurs is a universal educational app that teaches about dinosaur facts in ways fun and interactive.

After really enjoying the other Scholastic First Discovery app, The Forest, as well as being a fan of the traditionally published book about dinosaurs on which this app is based, I was eager to review this new application as well.

I was honestly a little surprised how the content of this app varies so greatly from the book my son and I know and love - a simple non-fiction picture book including transparent, illustrated pages has been transformed into a heartier, if not as cohesive an experience, although the style of dinosaur illustrations remains true to the published book. Having said this, I appreciate all that there is to learn about dinosaurs as well as discovering all the educationally-driven interactivity.

Narration is included and, unlike other applications, reading the full text is not offered as this is less of a book and more of an interactive app - worth noting as this may not be suitable for use as an early reader, but this is in no way a flaw as this application, with its numerous facts spoken will teach not only about prehistoric times but will aid in strengthening listening comprehension as well.

This app can be enjoyed two ways - either by turning the pages of this app the way one traditionally would or choosing chapters to explore via the included menu.

Topics such as different sizes of dinosaurs are touched upon here, as a tap will enlarge the creature to show the scale next to a child and adult, as well as the narration to fully explain the size difference. I also appreciate how sometimes these dinosaurs are so large that only a piece of them can be seen, and one needs to pinch the screen to re-size the image to see the dinosaur fully as well as the humans, who are now smaller in comparison.

The differences of carnivores and herbivores are elaborated on as narration offers facts that allow children to categorize these creatures into either the hunter or non meat-eating category.

I also like that a few different possible reasons why the dinosaurs became extinct are included, be it from a series of volcanic eruptions, a meteorite hitting the earth or the inability of the dinosaurs to be able to adapt to changes in climates.

Fossils are explored, and I did find the completing of a dinosaur skeleton with other bones in a museum setting to be unintuitive, as the added 3-D effect complicated this activity. This page, taken from the book would be been better served in a more low-tech approach of completing a simple puzzle.

I do, however, really enjoy looking through the dirt in search of fossils that come alive with a tap as well as dragging a finger over skeletons to see who these bones belonged to in a way that is quite detailed and a lot of fun.

I also like exploring the globe, learning about animals who have been in some way related to dinosaurs, such as the Marine Iguana from the Galapagos Islands or the Cassowary from New Guinea, but I found that the globe one interacts with a touch too sensitive, moving to quickly to the point of distraction.

Although I enjoy these chapters very much, I do think this app lacks a proper introduction about dinosaurs and opens up onto a page allowing one to tap on eggs to hatch into these creatures - a page that one is unable to return to as it is not part of an included chapter. Likewise, the first section available is a single page discussing sea life which are not dinosaurs and therefore does not fit in well with the other content. This chapter would have been well-suited to being left out during the editing process.

Having said this, I do enjoy this app as will other fans of paleontology - young and old alike. Those familiar with the book will recognize certain elements as they explore this version created with interactivity in mind.

Although there are a few issues I would like to see smoothed out, there is a plethora of content as well as nicely detailed dinosaurs including ones that may be less common to some, making this an app that I can recommend.

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.

Scholastic First Discovery: The Forest for iPhone Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 13th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Scholastic First Discovery: The Forest for iPhone is an impressive adaptation of the printed non-fiction title “In the Forest” A First Discovery Look and Learn Book from Scholastic. A version of this app is also available for iPad.

The Forest is an impressive application about nature, with wonderfully bright colors and robust details on each page bringing the sights of forests to devices. Instead of text that one would read, this app consists of very good narration that leads children through interactive exercises that will teach them a lot about the forests of North America.

Six chapters are included that cover a lot of ground, such as learning about both deciduous and coniferous trees, tapping leaves or branches to learn about the trees they belong to, also allowing children to drag these realistic bits of foliage around the screen.

The seasons are explored by asking children to rub the forest shown with a finger, triggering the changes one would expect during the changing seasons, from dense green forests to the leaves turning brilliant fall colors and then the shedding of these leaves in winter.

Children will enjoy seeing the colored leaves fall onto the screen, needing to clear their device of them to continue - a fun interaction that lets children gaze at very realistic, colorful and pretty leaves close up to show detail - a very nice touch.

Forest animals as well as insects are also explored, as children search thick forests for animals hidden out of plain sight, nicely showing the depth and 3D effect this app consists of, as well as introducing insects to children, wonderfully enlarging these creatures to show details. Children will also enjoy the ambient sounds found throughout these chapters, but most notably here as these animals make their sounds then tapped as well as identified by narration. I enjoy this section a great deal, but I wish that an interesting sentence were offered for each of these creatures, not just including each name.

One very unique section is the chance to see a large variety of flowers bloom with the tapping of a colored dot found close to the ground as well as folding themselves back down into the earth with a second tap.

The details of each flower are quite impressive, watching over a period of a second or so what could take weeks to unfold in nature, complete with musical and other sound effects that bring richness to the experience, also found in other sections as well.

I appreciate that children here are warned that the foxglove is poisonous, but I wish more about these plants were included as well as information about other plants to avoid contact with.

Another interesting section is the ability to gather wildly grown berries, nuts and mushrooms into a basket, presumably for eating later. Watch as these foods become enlarged to show detail as well as labeled by the included narration. I value the explanation about how some items found are not edible, yet the only mushroom warned about is the fly agaric, shown here with a distinct red color that kids may now know to avoid at all costs.

Other mushrooms safe to consume and included here are the parasol, hedgehog, chanterelle and porcino mushrooms, yet it does make me nervous that children may fancy themselves knowledgeable about wild mushrooms after exploring this app - a serious concern as even adults can make mistakes identifying mushrooms, as some innocuous-looking poison mushrooms exist and deaths have occurred.

The illustrations are detailed and certainly beautiful to look at, and I as an adult have enjoyed comparing fancy mushrooms that we may see in stores, but I have always told my son never to touch or eat any mushrooms grown in the wild, and I would feel the need to repeat myself even more strongly after the use of this application.

The same is also true about the wild berries found, as the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and black berries are good to ingest, but holly, with its red berries, could be inviting to a child and is toxic if consumed. I do wish some other poisonous berries were also touched upon, such as ivy berries that look like grapes or pokeweed and chokeberries that many kids could mistake for blueberries or cherries so that children and their parents will know they exist as well, and that not all “berries” are safe to eat - especially those with red flesh.

Trees also also cut down in the forest section of this app, yet it is also nice to see new trees planted in their place, and children will find it quite interesting how forests prevent avalanches.

A globe is also offered to allow children to rotate, choosing forests to look at closely, learning about the Northern Boreal, temperate forests of Europe and North America as well as the tropical forests.

Before diving into the global section, I was asked for access to my Locations Services, for what I assumed to be more specific information about forests in my area of the world - personalization I do not mind, but I did not see anything specific that would need my location. After I turned off permission to my location services I saw no differences in the application, leaving me to wonder why this app makes this request with a pop-up window children will not understand and should not be dabbling in.

I wish the iTunes notes had more information about this issue, and that this was a setting adults could control instead of being accessed during the app itself.

Having said this, I have been very impressed with the great amount of details and lush colors found within this app. The sounds of the forest are also nicely executed as is the level of interactivity. I do wish that a few more facts could be included, not just the names of the objects found within. This app would make a great starting point for curious children to ask questions and do more research of their own, as this app will be of interest to a wide range of children through grade school and beyond.

As my son and I go for walks, we come home during the fall months, especially, with a variety of leaves, pine cones and other treasures. I often choose a perfect leaf for my son as a gift, especially as the leaves start to change, but I was unable to identify these leaves when my son asked. Because of this, I was quite intrigued by learning the names of the trees that have until now simply been familiar to my family. For this reason and more, I do recommend this app to families, even with the concerns I have raised.

The Forest is an app based on the First Discovery Look and Learn Books from Scholastic. I hope to see more from this series in the future, as the quality of this app is quite high - engaging as well as educational.

Ice Is Nice!: All About the North and South Poles Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 9th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Ice Is Nice!: All About the North and South Poles is a very enjoyable as well as educational app adapting the book of the same name, part of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library.

As the name may suggest, Ice Is Nice does indeed give a lot of great information about the earth’s North and South Poles, as well as animals found in these areas that children and their adults will enjoy a great deal.

As with the other titles from this series, go on an adventure with The Cat in the Hat, Dick and Sally as well as Thing One and Thing Two, who are all here to learn such topics as the harsh temperatures found at the Poles or why there are six months of darkness or perpetual sun.

I also really have enjoyed the information about the animals found in this book, such as how certain creatures are camouflaged with white to blend into the snow, and then become darker to hide in nature when the snow melts and flora blooms as well as great details on different types of penguins.

The author took a little bit of poetic license in the interest of Seussian rhymes, explaining how polar bear hide is made of hollow hairs, while the definition of hide is the skin under the fur. Yet this information, while a bit askew, does a nice job of showing how these animals stay warm in treacherously cold temperatures in spite of the slight misuse of the word “hide” - not a huge flaw in this science app.

Fans of Dr. Seuss books will appreciate how the original illustrations are always included within these applications using pan and zoom technology to draw the reader’s eye. I also enjoy how the books from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library often contain mild moving elements as well as items one can move around the page for a nice effect.

Simple animated moments are also included within Ice is Nice, thoughtfully explaining the earth’s orbit around the sun, demonstrating this in a way that will become quite clear to children, possibly more so than just seeing this demonstration in a single drawing.

Also included are a few words found in bold text that after being tapped, a dictionary entry is both seen as well as heard to further explain these complex words - a really nice touch and a way of including the glossary of words sometimes found at the end of these children’s books.

Although one has the choice to read this book to oneself, it has been my great pleasure to listen to the wonderfully conversational narration by John Bell, a narrator who really understands what he is reading, with a pitch perfect cadence, making this accessible and easy to understand. I hope to continue to hear more of his stellar work in the future.

As always with Oceanhouse Media apps, Auto play is available, allowing young readers to simply enjoy these storybooks without having to turn the pages - always a nice touch.

Ice Is Nice!: All About the North and South Poles is a great book choice for children as well as adults who may have been confused about whether it is warm at the South Pole as opposed to the North Pole, or the Arctic Ocean with Antarctica, wonderfully explained in this fun and cute science book for children of all ages.

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.

The Blues Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 21st, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: INTERESTING :: Read Review »

The Blues is an interesting educational comic book app, the first of its kind to teach about the Blues style of music to school children.

This comic book does a very nice job teaching about the history of Blues music and the influence the Blues has had on other musical genres. Topics such as Geography and African-American history are also presented in a thoughtful way, and I appreciate how this information is made personal with the use of main character Otis's first-person accounts.

This comic book is set in present times, with Otis looking back on his life to tell the story of the Blues, and the first time he heard this style of music. Flashbacks are incorporated to show how after running out of his house one night to chase away an intruder, he instead makes his way to a Juke Joint for the first time, adding a nice coming of age element as well.

I appreciate how history is taught in a conversational style, a terrific way for school aged children to absorb this information about the history of African Americans, including slavery, sharecropping and the invention of a mechanical cotton picking machine that lead to the great migration up north.

It is also great to learn how people made their own musical instruments, as well as background information on spirituals, “call and response’ songs, famous blues artists such as Muddy Waters and the transition to Rock ‘N’ Roll music including Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, as well as Elvis, the Rolling Stones, plus many other musicians to numerous to list.

The illustrations look great, as is the music that accompanies this app, introducing the different styles of music one reads about. It is also a nice touch that one can double tap the page to enlarge this comic book app to see details and have an easier time reading the text.

Students will find this app engaging, especially as Otis seems as though he is looking and talking directly to the readers throughout as he explains how one can write their own blues song, including a template of sorts to help first time song writers.

It would be nice, however if students had the option to type their new song lyrics directly onto the iPad, as well as tapping the elements of their new blues name from a provided list, adding an some interactivity to this app as well.

It may be worth noting that this app is without narration, and Otis’s dialect is written into the narration, really giving Otis a voice and authentic manner of speaking, but this imperfect writing style may be difficult for some new readers to understand on their own. This would be a great app to share with children however, in both a home as well as a school setting.

Adults will especially enjoy the famous Blues artists touched upon here, and an impressive list of links one can use to gain more information about the Blues. It would be nice, however if the music used throughout this app was properly credited allowing children to learn more about specific musicians they have felt especially engaged by, information that could possibly be added in a future update.

Please note that this app will also be on sale for the month of February, Black History month.

Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo

Posted by Sarah Reidy on February 14th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo, part of the Humongous game series, which is owned by Atari, is an interactive story and puzzle game developed for children ages four and up. The goal of the game is to reunite six baby animals (a giraffe, hippo, snake, seal, lion, and elephant) with their parents so that the zookeeper may open up the Cartown Zoo. Each page has interactive features that include music, cartoons, mini-games and hidden tools that will assist your child in finding and rescuing each animal. There is also an opportunity for your child to learn about each animal as he or she plays, as well as animal habitats, such as Grasslands, the Artic, and the Jungle.

When I first took a look at the Putt-Putt app, I thought that the style and concept of the game would be too young for my seven-year-old son. I asked him to give it a try, however, to see if maybe the game had some hidden treasures not immediately obvious. After making it through the beginning song and game set-up, my son realized that there is more to this app than meets the eye. It is necessary to navigate Putt-Putt the car through various winding roads and different zoo exhibits in order to locate the baby animals. In addition to needing a basic sense of direction, the game also challenges players to collect tools along the way to help them remove obstacles and rescue the animals. Sometimes, a hidden object is missed the first time around, and your child must use problem-solving skills to check areas again and must brainstorm what tools might help out in each situation. This involves memory skills, strategy, and the ability to reverse directions to get back to the desired areas.

Once my son realized that this game in many ways resembles some of the puzzle and escape games that his older sister plays, he became very engaged in rescuing the animals and solving the puzzles. He played it for about an hour before bedtime, but was not able to successfully rescue the last of the six animals. He had to be convinced to wait until the next day to continue playing (in fact, I almost had to rip it out of his hands!). With fresh eyes the next morning, he was able to rescue the last of the baby animals and complete the game.

It is very clear to me that this app has become one of his all-time favorites. Although both he and I initially thought this game was geared toward younger children, we now agree that kids under five will probably require help from their parents in order to find the all of necessary tools and know what to do with them.

My son is a true animal lover and so it is no surprise that he said that the best part of the game is rescuing baby animals. He loved collecting tools to help him along the way and felt a great sense of accomplishment when he completed all of the game’s tasks. I think he even got a kick out of the cartoon-style animals and musical numbers. His sister, age ten, has now caught on to the charm of Putt-Putt, and she, too, has started playing it. When asked if he had anything else to add to this review, my son said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’m glad we didn’t, because we truly did find a hidden treasure. Challenging, educational and pro-social, Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo is a winner!

Thumbnail Theater: Macbeth Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 2nd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Thumbnail Theater: Macbeth is a wonderful educational resource and a terrific universal companion app to those who are studying Macbeth in school or are simply fans of Shakespeare.

I am very excited to be introducing this app to readers as this app features Michael Mills's Nine Minute animated adaptation of this tragic Shakespearean play.

Michael Mills is a British-born animator, director and producer - possibly best known for his Oscar-nominated animated shorts - ‘Evolution’ and ‘History of the World in Three Minutes flat.’

I do love his take on Macbeth. The animation style is sly and sophisticated, and with a tongue-in-cheek and will impress all ages.

Not only is this animated short included, but a terrific section, The Self Guide is also included with an impressive amount of information, both specifically about Macbeth as well as about life during this period of time in general.

There is so many great sections to explore, such as the main characters from this play and the complete text of Macbeth as well as the other works of Shakespeare. The Life and Times of Shakespeare and historical information about Scotland are included as well as information about theaters of this time period and a fascinating section on The Symbolic and the Supernatural.

Each of these topics is further broken down into sub-categories - some of my favorites being the discoveries and Inventions touching upon the scientific concepts of Copernicus and Galileo, the great Renaissance man - Leonardo da Vinci, and the importance of Gutenberg’s printing press, comparing it very wisely to today’s internet.

I think it is also great how the other works of Shakespeare are mentioned, such as the Sonnets, Poems, Folios and Quartos, as well as a section dedicated to famous Shakespearean quotes.

Other interesting information, like how the use of children instead of women as actors is touched upon, and I really enjoy how the superstition of the title Macbeth - never uttered while this play is under production - is also incorporated into this very rich encyclopedia of all things Shakespeare.

An impressive three hours of content is included that older grade school kids as well as adults will find very fun and informative. I appreciate how the included text can be narrated by Mills as his narration is wonderful, also allowing children who may be reluctant readers to gain a lot from this app by listening to it alone.

An interactive timeline and world map are also thoughtfully included that students of all ages will enjoy. Do tap on the animations as well, as some fun hidden hotspots are included, triggering some wildly witty animations.

It is great that an interactive mode also exists where one can watch the video and tap icons placed at the bottom of the page that will bring one to the corresponding informational section of this app, allowing one to gain further insight while watching the included animation.

This is very helpful in learning more about the various subjects within this app, but I did have some issues with getting back into the story after I perused the added info.

it would be nice if some sort of button was able to be tapped that would bring viewers back to the area of the video they were watching last. I also felt that the Self Guide of information took some getting used to in terms of its basic navigation -issues not too terrible but which could possibly be smoothed out in a future update.

I enjoy the additional clips of Michael Mills himself found within this app as well, exploring details further or giving instructions on how to best enjoy this app, but I found these clips to be of lower resolution, noticeable but not in a way that took away from the enjoyment of his presence, although the images of Mills himself are quite small, especially on the iPhone.

I also noticed that a few pages from the Self Guide did not have the included narration one would expect from this fully narrated app - an issue I hope can be worked out in the future.

Even with these minor notes, Thumbnail Theater: Macbeth is an app that I greatly enjoyed, both on its own merits and also because apps for older children are not as common as I would like in iTunes. I highly recommend this app to any student who is reading Shakespeare as well as to adults who would like to know more about this time period in general.

I am thrilled to learn that this app is first in a series like it, I will be on the lookout for more of these Thumbnail Theatre apps in the future as this one was terrific.

Monsters & Mutants Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 2nd, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Monsters & Mutants, as the name may suggest, is an informative application for iPad that includes the stories behind some of the world's best known monsters and mutants, along with other fun information.

This app for iPad contains 20 creatures, each colorfully illustrated with lots of details that fans will enjoy. Without narration, this is an encyclopedic app that will require reading skills of either the app user or an adult to help read this text out loud.

I am impressed with the content of this app, nicely re-telling the stories that have made these scary subjects part of pop culture.

It is nice that readers tap to hear the noises these creatures make, as well as quizzing themselves on the correct size of these subjects, allowing readers to scale both adult male and monster images to see how correct they can get in terms of relative size in this interesting interactive application.

Where in the World is another interactive section allowing one to pinpoint sightings of these monsters with surprising accuracy - thanks to Google maps.

A gallery of images that demonstrates the story being told includes a monster close-up, also allowing one to create a coloring page as well as the use of the AirPrint. Some fun Did You Know? facts are also available.

There are a few ways to arrange the icons that each represents a character from this app, either in a grid or spread into a circle, randomly across the screen or in a pile. From here, one can move these images around the screen, further sorting if one is interested, creating a nice trading card feel that I appreciate. One can also re-size these icons, with small, medium and large choices if one so desires.

These beasts can also be grouped in a number of ways, such as their origins around the globe or type of creature, such as Mythological Monsters, Modern Monsters, Ancient Legends and Folklore and Movie Monsters. One can also rate these characters, splitting up and organizing these monsters this way as well.

The organizing by sub-categories is a good idea, but it is unfortunate that the an important aspect of crypto zoology was left out of the “Modern Monsters” section as these creatures such as Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster or the Jersey Devil are interesting and important because their differentiation between fact or fiction has never been truly proven or disproven.

Developers may also want to change the chupacabra’s category from Ancient Legends and Folklore to Modern Monsters, as this blood-thirsty creature is described as a “modern menace of the Americas,” having first been described in 1995. Japan’s Oni, Western Europe's Kraken and the Native American Thunderbird should possibly be best moved from mythology to Ancient Legends and Folklore as well.

I have also found that tapping on these monster icons in the interest of exploring these creatures further is sometimes unresponsive - something that I hope can be worked out in a future update.

Even with these issues, I have really enjoyed reading about these creatures. This is an app that I would have enjoyed this app a great deal in grade school and middle school, as this app will be a hit with fans of this subject matter.

It may be worth pointing out that some of the stories re-told about certain characters, such as the Reptoid Alien are rather disturbing if taken literally. I mean this is a good way, of course, in terms of the children who will naturally gravitate toward this application, but this app may be too intense for younger children, so my son will have to be older before I can share this app with him.

If interested, apps focused on vampires and dragons are also available from this developer, please check out iTunes for more information.