Category: Health »
The Terrifying Building in Eyeville is a thoughtfully written and wonderfully illustrated children’s storybook app.
This is a very personal storybook developed by Joel Grondrup as his daughter was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the retina.
The Terrifying Building in Eyeville is an allegory for this cancer as a small man named Kanser arrives in Eyetown after falling off the back of a truck during a rain storm. He knocks on the door of Mr. Nice and asks if he can start building onto Mr. Nice’s home as he is a traveling builder who looks for houses to build onto.
Mr. Nice allows Kanser into his home where Kanser takes over building, spreading his strange project throughout the house, building upwards and outwards, affecting the entire community until Eyeville has to be removed to protect the entire country - a sad loss for all, but tolerable as another Eyeville, a town exactly like the first, can now be called home.
I can’t say enough about how impressive this story is. The illustrations are wonderful, quirky and stylized. The included narration is excellent, clear and easy to listen to, and the character of Mr. Nice is well developed.
The storyline of this tale is well thought out, with a beginning, middle and end which may seem obvious, yet my experience with other children’s stories is that not all writers have a handle on a dramatic structure, so when so very well done, it is worth pointing out.
I praise Grondrup’s ability to create the character of Kanser who is definitely ominous and foreboding - possibly more so for adults and older children who can see the ties to cancer, but without being overwhelming for young children.
The sadness of the devastation of cancer is also touched upon here with wonderful grace, again never maudlin or overly upsetting, yet quite moving in this town’s sad acceptance of their loss of Eyetown.
The layers of metaphor are very well incorporated without being over the top, such as the hero of this story being President Sharp, who organizes the removal of Eyeville for the good of the country when Kanser tried to build down the road, representing to me the spread of cancer to the ocular nerve, and surgical cure - that being the removal of the eyeball.
I have great ambivalence in critiquing this personal and in most regards is perfectly realized storybook, especially as this tale is not explicitly to be looked at as the perfect allegory for this disease. It gives me pause, However that Mr. Nice allows Kanser into his home, wanting in some way to help Kanser, as this allows the building to begin - even though express permission is never granted.
I actually find it quite captivating and a little sad how things became out of control after Mr. Nice takes a blind eye to Kanser’s antics - an excellent metaphor for finding a concerning lump or unusual bruising and making the assumption that it will just stop on its own, as failing to act on signs of possible cancer is not desirable.
I do wonder, however, if there are unintended messages about “nice” people or kids getting cancer because Mr. Nice does not stop Kanser, as he hated to say “No” and make people feel sad.
In some ways, I appreciate this moment as parents need to be advocates for their families even if this makes them not “nice” to some doctors when asking for a second opinion or when asking for their concerns to be heard when they have a feeling that their child is sicker than doctors have been able to determine.
Having said this, I do hope children will not internalize the moment Kanser is allowed in - a moment that is nicely touched upon when Mr. Nice, feeling guilty for allowing Kanser into his home, is calmed by President Sharp, who explains that Kanser will build wherever he goes and can’t be stopped. For many, this will negate my concern, possibly making this app a great tool for discussing the complex emotions that Mr. Nice feels that others may face during diagnosis and treatment as well.
I do, however, wonder about how Kanser moves into this town, as he travels to Eyeville on the back of a truck during a rainy night. This truck is “barreling” down the dark, slippery road and hits an old oak branch that had fallen into the street, swerving and dropping Kanser from a biohazard-marked box on the back of the truck.
I can’t help but wonder if Kanser would have bypassed this town if the truck had not been traveling at a more reasonable speed in bad weather, and if this detail to a link of cancer being triggered by a faulty gene or environmental cause - or possibly just a clever, cinematic way to introduce Kanser into this story.
I enjoy the fact that there is so much to think about in this multi-layered story and recommend this app for any family whether or not their family has been touched by cancer.
The message that stands out to me is that decisive action is necessary in the face of cancer, wonderfully expressed in this app. There are many ways to interpret this story, and I am sure different readers will enjoy it on many levels.
This app allows one to read, listen or follow along with text while also listening to included stellar narration. The pages of this book, when not in reading mode, turn themselves as if on Auto Play, which works well. I would also have liked a way to pause the page turns if needed as well as a menu of pages, especially as this story has a nice length to it, and it would be helpful to pick up from where one stops if necessary.
Even with these notes, The Terrifying Building in Eyeville is a memorable, beautifully crafted application that adults will enjoy, possibly on a different level from their children.
Brains My Body is a very nice interactive app for children which teaches about basic anatomy and diversity and includes fun facts about the body.
The look of this app is crisp and clean, with colorful, textured woven fabric used as the background for these activities.
Also of note are the layered ambient sounds heard throughout, consisting of a beating heart, blowing wind and wind chimes - interesting choices I have enjoyed listening to.
Eight sections are included, four of which are puzzles that ask children to re-build the body. I do appreciate how this puzzle includes multiple levels of difficulty, seen in each of these sections as these puzzles become more in-depth.
The basic body structure is covered as one adds the head, chest arms and legs into an outline of a body, while a second level breaks down these parts into smaller ones while chunky parts like head, chest, thigh or foot still remain.
There is also a puzzle focusing on facial features, as at first the face is divided into strips such as hair, eyebrow, eyes, nose and mouth - pieces that must be placed back into a face template. In the second level, these features such as both eyes and ears need to be placed back where they belong independently as well as other areas of the face.
It is especially nice how in this face puzzle section, one can choose between a variety of faces, including diverse choices such as an Asian character and darker skin-toned non-Caucasian to re-build, adding to the re-play of this section as well as the diverse nature of this application.
The skeletal system has its own dedicated section, optionally narrating these bones as one places them back where they belong inside a body outline.
At first these skeletal pieces are large, consisting of a single piece for the trunk, arms, and legs, while later, in the second and third levels, breaking the spine, pelvis and ribcage into individual pieces, ultimately including each side of the rib cage as a separate piece, as are the hands and feet, upper and forearms, shin, and shin bone.
The internal organs are also touched upon here, as one needs to place the organs back into the body where they belong.
Again, during the first level of this game, these body parts are grouped together, such as brain and spinal column, lung and trachea, large and small intestines, bladder and kidneys, each of these pieces then separated into individual parts ultimately adding the nose and mouth cavity, as well as also including the pancreas, spleen and gallbladder.
Three other activities are included, such as an activity to tap various parts of the body to peel back a level, such as from the chest to the internal organs to then see an x-ray view of the bones. A variety of skin tones and different heads are included. One can also scroll through with a tap, creating an anatomical model of the player’s choosing.
There is also a chance to interact with a beating heart, as tapping in time to the beats will fill the body with blood, allowing children to see the coronary arteries fill, delivering blood throughout the body. A mistimed tap will remove blood. There are three levels to this exercise, increasing the speed of the heart being pumped, thus increasing the difficulty of this interaction.
One also has a chance to see a cross section of a body in order to view digestion at work. Do tap the hose included within the stomach as this adds necessary digestive juices needed to move the food through the body and out the other end, complete with flatulence noises - appropriate for this app.
A memory game is also included where one needs to turn over tiles in order to make pairs, with three levels ranging from twelve to sixteen tiles in play.
Each of these sections includes a magnifying glass that one can tap to read an interesting fact. A camera icon is also included to take and save a screen shot to the camera roll of one’s device.
The main note I have is that the organization of these sections could be arranged together - including the most basic sections as well as the more in depth anatomy puzzles.
This is a very nice, very stylized app introducing the human body to young children. I do see this app as a good choice for toddlers and early preschoolers and beyond as well as their adults who will enjoy this app a great deal, as these puzzles are reminiscent of multiple-layered wood puzzles I have always been interested in.
Yummiloo Rainbow Power, from the developers at Night and Day Studio, is an absolutely delightful universal, top-notch interactive app that teaches about healthy food choices in a way most charming.
When first exploring this app, one will watch a short introductory video that I found hugely impressive, with great looking, bright and colorful animation and music to rival the opening scene of any highly regarded children’s television program.
Presumably computer-generated, this video includes animation at its height of quality, including the details of the fresh foods shown in this scene - rich with realistic details, such as showing the tender delicate flesh of raspberries and other fruits, making this animated video, as is true of this application in general, a love letter to produce.
The included cheerful music is wonderfully upbeat - memorable and fun, even for adults and reminiscent of an indie band’s album for children. Narration is included which I greatly enjoy as well, talking directly to the user - wonderfully effective to be sure.
Here you meet Rooty, a sweet little root vegetable character and friends from Yummiloo who need help as the Rainbow Machine which powers their carnival is out of energy. To get this machine going again, children will have to help Rooty gather up fruits and vegetables that will power up the Rainbow Machine.
The Rainbow Machine is a Seussian contraption, styled with different colorful sections that all have to be filled up with corresponding colorful foods that are found in the garden and need to be tapped and dragged to a basket - also nicely color-coded. I appreciate how one needs to wait to pull foods that are fully matured as well as adding other foods to the compost bin, which then gets emptied back into the garden - a very nice choice.
Children will enjoy this activity with mild arcade elements as they sort by color, also learning each fruit or vegetable by name as children’s narration notes each food's name when added to the basket - a nice contrast to the adult who narrates prompts during this game.
When all the colored sections of the Rainbow Machine have been filled, this game is complete and children are rewarded with a video of the carnival in motion - a glorious display and quite the treat for children who spent the time to complete each color of the Rainbow Machine.
It is also worth noting that although the de-fault of this app is a dragging and dropping motion from the garden to the basket or compost bin, one can change these controls to a simple tap - great for toddlers who will gain so much from the color sorting and learning the names of these fruits and vegetables such as yellow squash or jicama.
This is a terrific app to re-enforce good eating habits, allowing children to fully appreciate the term “eat a rainbow.”
There is so much to love about Yummiloo Rainbow Power. It is sure to be a hit not only with children but with their adults as well. I am thrilled that this app is the first from a series of Yummiloo apps that I am quite eager to review in the future. I don’t think toddler and preschool families can go wrong with Yummiloo Rainbow Power - a special app that families will adore.
Birds & Bees Connection: Girls Part 1 is a cute and educational app designed for moms to share with their pre-teen daughters about the upcoming changes girls will face during puberty.
Intuitive to use, this application opens up to a main menu page that lists such topics as getting taller, developing breasts, sweat and body odor, hair, acne, puberty and emotional changes.
This app is nicely narrated by a girl reading the questions, answered by an adult female narrator. I do love the voice of the woman answering the questions, warm and motherly, while offering straightforward advice for young people, reminiscent to me of how I imagine Judy Blume to sound like and I was impressed by her delivery.
This app includes very basic information for young children new to this kind of information, also including pop-up windows with other fun facts as well as questions for mom such as "Does mom remember her first bra?" By and large, I enjoy the content and agree with the information provided, including a mildly animated moment of a baby actively nursing - a moment I especially appreciate.
There are a few mild points that I wish were elaborated on such as how a popup window offers the advice of keeping a deodorant in one's backpack, but making sure one’s underarms are clean before applying. This may be difficult in public, and I don’t see the harm in a girl ducking into a bathroom stall to apply deodorant if she is feeling sweaty, even without first washing.
I do, however, really appreciate how this app re-enforces never sharing a razor with anyone, including friends or siblings. I also think it is good advice for girls to try to just shave their lower legs as many don’t need to shave above the knees, but this also varies from person to person. I do have my personal doubts that shaving upper legs will actually make the hair grow darker and more course as this app states, although the use of warm water and shaving slowly are good tips for girls to follow.
Likewise, I am not in full agreement with the section discussing acne, as this app focuses on dirt and grease trapped in the pores of your skin as a reason for acne, which may be true for some, but the issues of clogged pores and inflammation have other causes as well and are only briefly touched upon here.
I worry that this section will lead to over washing, especially a concern with the recommendation to use a washcloth and to vigorously scrub as shown in the animated illustrations of this section, complete with squeaking sound effects. I also doubt that a washcloth can rid the face of “germs and bacteria” as this app states any better than using one’s hands or cotton pads, and can also make things worse as washcloths can be a place for bacteria to breed.
It is worth noting that although hormones, puberty and the different emotions one may experience at this time are touched upon here, this app is mainly a good starting point about the changes girls will be going through. Likewise, this app does not offer specific information on periods, feminine hygiene products, any information on “where babies come from,” sexuality, pregnancy or diseases - topics that parents will still need to have with their children at a later date.
Although I do not know the content for the later installments of this app - part 2 and part 3, I will be curious to see which of these more advanced topics may also be covered.
Even if my advice to a daughter may be different from exactly what is offered within this app, I think this is an engaging way for mothers to start these kinds of conversations with their children, and I am happy to say that the illustrative style is fun and colorful, great for young tween girls whom this app is aimed at.
Oddly, this app mentions interactive illustrations which I am at a loss to discover, as this app plays pretty straightforwardly with arrows one can tap to turn pages, yet without any elements I could find that are truly interactive.
This is not a flaw as I do not think that this app needs any distractions to search for as girls and their moms share this time together. I do wish, however, that the iTunes description had less of a focus on interactivity as this promise may lead to disappointment.
Having made these notes, Birds & Bees Girls Part 1 is still an app that I recommend. I do hope parents will share this app with their children so they can add their own personal bits of wisdom as well, possibly opening the door for the more personal conversations to come.
Just Going to the Dentist - Little Critter is an adaptation of the title of the same name - part of the Little Critter series of storybooks now available in application form.
As the name may imply, this is the story of the Little Critter’s trip to the dentist. In this world, Little Critter is an anthropomorphic animal - a little boy who has been found to be relatable to by children for many years.
While reading about this trip to the dentist, I enjoy how some of this visit mirrors the experience my son has had while going to the dentist as well, such as the waiting room filled with toys and books, making my son desire to go to his bi-yearly appointment.
I am also glad to see Little Critter go back to the exam room to have his checkup on his own - something my son is now expected to do, which at first was stressful for both him and for myself.
Adults may note how some of the details included, such as the use of a spit sink or the archaic-looking x-ray machine might seem dated by many of today's standards, but this is by far an adult concern and I am happy that Little Critter is wearing a protective apron before the image is taken.
It is important to mention that in this story, a cavity is found on the x-ray, which needs to be filled. A syringe is seen right before Little Critter is being numbed for the drilling that can be heard faintly as an ambient sound.
Parents may have mixed feelings about this detail of the app, some believing that cavities and needles may be too scary for children in preparation for their first visit. Others, especially those with a history of cavities in older siblings or other family members, may feel the need to bring up the topic of cavities as Little Critter is a champ through this process - a good role model who does not fuss during the procedure, yet discusses the odd sensation of numbness - possibly helping children to be aware yet not afraid.
I do think that telling Little Critter that he will not feel anything during this procedure is a bit disingenuous as the needle is felt even if the drilling is not. Therefore, I do wish that the poke was mentioned if this book feels the need to include the filling of a cavity. This explanation, however, may make for wordiness in a way that these titles are not known for.
Personally, I could do without the lollypop offered after the filing - even if it is labeled “sugar-free,” but this is a book worth discussing because parents, I am sure, may want a book which brings up the topic of dentists and even cavities to prepare their children.
Like other books developed by Oceanhouse Media, Just Going to the Dentist includes narration, a mode allowing one to read this book by oneself, as well as Auto play, allowing one to enjoy this book being read by the delightful child voice actor as with the pages turn automatically in Auto Play.
Do tap on the illustrations as object are labeled with narration and text, adding more details to what can be found in an dentists office, such as x-rays or a light box, but I did wish this app would go into even further details instead of labeling many items as just "dentist equipment"
New to this app is the ability to record one’s own voice, download this recording onto any device, as well as sharing personal narrations with others who have access to this app as well.
The text is also highlighted when read - always a nice touch, as is the ability to tap a word to hear it spoken individually.
As is the case of the other Little Critter apps, one can find Spiders and Frogs hidden among these pages, seen as well in the original printed versions that now are included as a simple and sweet added hidden picture mini-game. These original illustrations are also shown with zooming and panning of these pages to draw the reader's eye.
Although this story may not suit the needs of all families who are looking for a story about visiting the dentist, other parents may appreciate how Little Critter handled himself during this visit as a way to prepare their children.
Sleep Well My Pet! is a simple and sweet collection of sleeping animals, relaxing to children, hopefully helpful in lulling them into slumber as well.
Easy to use, one can watch a slide show or scroll through these sleepy, charming images of animals such as dog, panda, pig or lion - all with their eyes closed as they rest. Non-mammal animals are included such as flamingos or green frog which are interesting as well as peaceful images.
Parents are also able to select or de-select images to focus on dogs or cats if they wish or to avoid an animal if they see fit.
One has a few musical choices to accompany this app, my favorite being the classical music piece Clair de Lune as well as an unnamed selection using the tankdrum instrument.
The images included here are lovely and are sure to be enjoyed by children of all ages, but I did notice as an adult that some of these photos, although nicely detailed, do have areas with a shallow depth of field which can create focus problems as well as an audio loop point that I found distracting - issues that I think would pass over the heads of the children this app is geared toward.
Even with this note, this app is a nice idea and may be effective in calming babies and other young children at bedtime or before their naps.
I do think, however, that the current price of this app at $3.99 is a little high compared to the content of other apps at this price point.
Having said this, Sleep Well My Pet! is a nice idea and may be effective in calming babies and other young children at bedtime or before their naps. Adults will also enjoy reading the included text with some insight as to how the idea for this app came about as well as some interesting information about the sleep habits of animals - a nice touch.