148 Apps on Facebook 148 Apps on Twitter

Category: Nature »

On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 20th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects is a thoughtful adaptation of the book of the same name, part of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library developed by Oceanhouse Media.

Here, children will learn about many bug-related topics as they enjoy the Seuss-like illustrations and rhyming text to which this book is fashioned as The Cat in the Hat, along with Thing One and Thing Two, introducing readers to many fun bug facts such as basic anatomy, natural defenses or the strength of insects such as ants.

As is the case with other adaptations by Oceanhouse media, one has a chance to both read this non-fiction book to oneself or enjoy expert narrator John Bell’s stellar narration as he reads not only the original text from the published book, but also the added word definitions triggered by the tap of an insect-associated word seen in bold text, defining many bugs that are included in the book but never fully explored in the picture book, as this app includes many more words than the short glossary at the end of the printed version.

Also new to this experience are ambient sound effects and mild animated moments, as well as the ability to tap on objects or characters to see their corresponding labels both spoken as well as seen on the page. There are a few moments where one can also drag insects around the page as well as other such interactions.

Seussian books can be wordy but make up for this in the use of shortened, more frequent paragraphs, and I like how these adaptations down even further as a single paragraph is seen per page as one progresses through this story, which includes the original images panned and zoomed to draw the reader's attention.

I am impressed with the amount of insect information included, such as the bad smell lady bugs give off when feeling threatened as well as the differences between butterflies and moths.

The addition of extra glossary words not included in the book, new additional information about creatures such as the diving beetle, dog flea or pipevine caterpillar make this app rich with content - a very nice choice of apps for all ages of children, including older grade-school age children who will learn interesting insect information as well.

Animal Planet Hide & Seek Pets Review

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

Animal Planet Hide & Seek Pets is a lovely application young children can explore, as this app includes a variety of pet-centric activities.

This app opens up to a unique menu page, that of a hamster on a wheel which when tapped will spin and ultimately land on one of six mystery animals who are introduced by both simple word questions and related icons, such as a bone for a dog, bubble for a fish or yarn for a cat. Later children play a game of hide and seek to find the animal in question, be it with a flashlight to discover a turtle, tap to remove flower petals to uncover a rabbit or cut tall grass away to find a hidden dog.

Once the animal is discovered, children will be able to interact with photo realistic animals, moving them around the page, dedicated to each of these creatures such as a fish in a fishbowl, complete with classic underwater toys such as a castle, chest of gold and a vintage diving man.

I really appreciate how many fun facts are included, heard when triggering a hotspot and complete with highlighted narration - a very nice element that children and adults can learn a lot from.

On the bottom of the screen, children have access to some fun activities, such as a puzzle to complete, a tracing section and a hide and seek activity. Each of these sections has both “easy” and “hard” modes, and is thematically specific to the animal in question, be it about a bird, turtle or bunny.

Also included is a painting section with a large variety of pictures to choose from and brushes to use, including a paintbrush, chalk, crayon, spray paint and “paint bucket” mode where a section of the drawing is filled in with a single tap.

A music area complete with animal piano is included, as well as a section with re-sizable stickers that one can move around the screen and a learning section for parents that includes topics of conversation to share with their children.

I appreciate how this app is intuitive and thoughtfully designed, avoiding some of the pitfalls I have seen in other applications. Coloring pages are often included in other such apps such as this which can seem like an afterthought, but very nicely done within Animal Planet Hide & Seek Pets.

I love the choice of the soft, sheer coloring choices of the watercolor paintbrush and the chalk, as these colors can be layered and mixed together while coloring for a very nice effect, and I am also impressed by the simple decision to allow children to “erase all” with a “yes” or “no” instead of red or green “X” or check - signs that adults may understand but that can be confusing for children.

Also of note is that when coloring within a specific section of an image, one cannot color outside the border of this section - wonderful for children who hate the sloppy look of coloring with a finger because without this feature, staying within the lines of a picture can be frustrating and difficult.

An eraser as well as “go back” buttons are included, and it is also great that the colored-in pages are also saved within this app to be worked on further in the future, as well as giving children the option to save to the camera roll of their iPad.

I also really like that within the tracing section, when children trace either the first letter of the pet, both in upper and lower case letters or the entire word in the harder section, this app includes the direction children should trace as well as being quite sensitive to the movements of the finger creating the tracing. It will not accept random scribbling over the template - an issue I have with most over-tracing apps.

There is definitely a lot of content to keep children occupied, with a fun mix of realistic animals as well as bright and colorful illustrated spaces for them to occupy and explore.

Because of this, Animal Planet Hide & Seek Pets is an easy app to recommend for toddlers and young preschool children who love animals, coloring, and other activities.

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.

Sleep Well My Pet! Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 27th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

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.

Otzi - App for Kids - Play & Learn Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 19th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Otzi - App for Kids - Play & Learn is an interesting universal app which introduces children to Otzi the Iceman, a mummified man found frozen in a glacier in the Otztal Alps, near the border of Austria and Italy.

This interactive app is nicely intuitive with different sections to choose from such as how Otzi was found in the ice, allowing children to swipe with a finger to help find his body as well as including a close-up of Otzi in a museum setting, also nicely showing what he presumably looked like when alive, which I found quite interesting.

The protective clothing he wore is also touched upon here, as users can dress Otzi as well as read about the clothing offered, such as the material used.

Be aware that close-up images of this mummified man are included after discovering him in the ice as well as in a tattoo section which allows children to use a magnifier to see the tattoos and other details of Otzi’s body. I think the educational value of this app is great, but I must admit I was momentarily taken aback by the close-up viewing of this ancient dead body, making this possibly not an app for all families. I would not, however, hesitate to show this app to my son when he is a little older, knowing that I will need to further explain what he is looking at and the causes of Otzi’s death a very, very, long time ago.

An “Insights” section is included which discusses possessions Otzi would have found important, such as a birch bark container to transport embers to light new fires with ease, as well as his dagger, used often in a multitude of ways, or even the use of a fungus found on birch - the birch polypore that can be used as first-aid to stop bleeding as well as an antibiotic - a detail from Otzi’s world that I found most fascinating. Also of interest is the “cold cell” used to further preserve Otzi.

Those with a camera on their device can also take a photo of a face that will be added to the illustrated body of an iceman such as Otzi, offering both a frozen icy backdrop as well as a more temperate landscape. It is worth noting that this app while using my iPad 1 without a camera crashed when I tried to use this photo function, an issue that I hope can be worked out in the future, possibly removing this section from devices that will not support picture taking instead of the app closing abruptly.

Developed in collaboration with the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, this app contains a nice amount of information with German, Italian and English languages offered, as well as being able to mute wonderfully atmospheric music and sound effects if one so chooses.

As this app is without narration, children will need to be able to read this text themselves or with the help of an adult - not as issue as this app is geared toward children 7-10 years old. Even with this age range given, I do think younger children as well can get a lot from this app if they are ready to view the mummified remains of Otzi.

I have enjoyed this app about Otzi, and without this application, it is doubtful that children would have such a close up view of this Iceman, also giving children topics that they can research further themselves.

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.

Rounds: Parker Penguin Review

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

Rounds: Parker Penguin is a delightful universal app that nicely blends elements of Life Sciences into the story of penguin life in Antarctica, the second in a series of Rounds apps from Nosy Crow.

Rounds: Parker Penguin wonderfully captures the life cycle of these creatures from birth to procreation, depicting three generations of offspring.

There are two basic ways of exploring Rounds: Parker Penguin. In Read and Play, follow along with highlighted text as one listens to narration. Tap the screen to interact with surroundings, especially looking for blue dots used to highlight interactive hotspots, also keeping in mind that Parker and other characters may also speak if touched.

In Read to Myself, the use of sound effects and music are still included, but the text is silenced allowing children to read to themselves, including the added dialogue of the penguins, now seen only as speech bubbles.

I really appreciate all the polish that has been included within the Rounds apps, as the interactions bring not only richness to this story but their actions often propel the narrative and are never random or distracting in any way and sometimes going beyond a tap or drag to create wonderful moments which add important facts or details to this application.

The palette used of blue, white and shades of grey captures Antarctica beautifully, as do the stylized illustrations with a heavy use of circles and half circles that I have come to expect from the Rounds series.

I admire the slow pacing of this app, as children will need to take their time allowing moments to unfold, tapping characters more than once to hear extra penguin facts. The included musical score, sound effects and whale sounds found within the ocean all work together to create a thoroughly relaxing experience children and adults will enjoy a great deal.

Although one can turn the pages at any time, this function is asleep and needs to be tapped twice to forward the pages before everything has been explored within, then becoming black and bouncing, letting readers know it is safe to turn the page - an inclusion I greatly appreciate.

As gentle as this app is, children will also have a lot of fun with the speed Parker can slide or swim, yet maintaining the serene environment - an element that has mild arcade elements while sustaining a relaxing tone. Likewise, I enjoy helping Parker feed, as he swims after little fish yet avoids larger fish who may also be hungry, nicely touching upon predator and prey in a way that is sensitive and age-appropriate.

As this app progresses, Parker grows into an adult and goes on a march looking for a mate. I love the music and dance used to express the mating ritual of these animals as well as the egg passing made famous by the movie March of the Penguins.

When it is time, help the egg hatch with a tap, learning about baby penguins along the way as this new penguin grows into adulthood as well, mating and becoming a father himself.

Three generations of penguins are included with different names but same life experiences as this app cycles over to great effect. I do wish, however, that parents had a choice to end the app after three generations if they choose to in order to create an endpoint often found helpful in reining in their children, especially at bedtime.

Even with this mild note, Rounds: Parker Penguin will be a wonderful addition to any digital library. The writing is thoughtful and is quite conversational, delivering facts about penguins that will stay with children for a long time.

I have also greatly enjoyed the first app in this series Rounds: Franklin Frog. I hope to see more of these apps in the future as they are top-notch in every way and are screen time that adults can feel good about.

Dr. Panda's Veggie Farm Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 1st, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I am very excited to tell readers about a new Dr. Panda role-playing app for kids - Dr. Panda's Veggie Farm - which does a lovely job teaching children where their food comes from.

This delightful app opens up at a farmers market with familiar animal characters from other Dr. Panda apps that arrive and ask for fruits and vegetables to buy from Dr. Panda, now a farmer as well.

From here, play a nice selection of mini-games which allows children to grow good things to eat, be it in a corn field, tapping clouds to make rain, protecting the crops from pests and shucking the cobs once grown, to the planting of raspberries in small pots presumably on the window sill of a home. I do love how realistic this app is, asking children to rip open a bag of seeds, plant them in soil and even turn them in sunlight to help them grow.

Fans of the other Dr. Panda apps will especially enjoy the five recurring animal customers included who may ask for any of the twelve foods available to grow. My son likes to pretend that the food grown here is brought to Dr Panda’s Restaurant or taken home for the little animals from Dr. Panda’s Daycare to enjoy.

Children will find this app utterly engaging as they watch the detailed growth over seconds that would take weeks to form, all with their own active participation, as this app includes twenty mini-games - each a step in the growth process.

I really enjoy so much about this app as each food to be procured includes a nice number of steps to work through, showing at least some of the hard work that farmers experience when growing plants.

The look of this app is bright and colorful and the game play is utterly intuitive, as are the other Dr. Panda apps.

It is also nice that different sized operations are also depicted, from a small amount of fruit grown by a window or in backyard garden to a larger operation, adding interesting variations as well as two other related activities such as a puzzle game where one puts tools away in their correct locations in a work shed.

Sometimes the animal characters will also ask for seeds or for help to grow a plant which they bring to the farm - nice touches.

I am happy to see so many new role-playing apps for children now available. We find them great for creative minds to immerse themselves in, as my son loves to play with play food, sometimes selling his wares or pretending that he is a farmer. My boy can live out these fantasies now on the go or while lounging in bed without any toys cluttering the bed or couch.

This is one of a few great role-playing apps from Dr. Panda. I home to see more of these kinds of apps from these developers in the future. They keep my son engaged as well as encourage him to re-play these activities later with toys as well.

Bambi: Disney Classics Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 27th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Bambi: Disney Classics is a charming retelling of this classic story that children and their adults will greatly enjoy, complete with vintage illustrations and a lovely Disney musical score.

What I appreciate the most with this version of such a classic story is how very family-friendly it is. Until now, Bambi is not a movie that I have shown to my son as the idea of Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters, along with the forest fire, would be too stressful for my sensitive boy.

I enthusiastically accepted the chance to review this application, but I hid it on an iPad that my son does not have unsupervised access to - unlike the one fully loaded with kid-safe apps that my son has full freedom with, as I did not want him to wander into an application which might cause him needless worry or to sleep badly at night.

I am excited to announce how happy I was to read this application and to find this version of Bambi without any dark material whatsoever.

Many elements are still included from the Bambi that parents remember, such as the cast of friendly animal characters and the episodic coming-of-age moments as Bambi grows from a baby into an older deer able to venture out on his own, making this an utterly relatable tale where one gets to witness such moments as Bambi’s first spoken word and beginning use of language in a most tender way.

I admire how subtly sophisticated the included vintage illustrations are, filling up the page with drawn elements until the image is complete, sometimes also including a pan or zoom to create movement or focus the reader's attention - all elements that will not register with young readers, yet will still seem more engaging than a stagnant page within a story of equal length.

Simple, sweet, animated moments are also included which bring life to this story without ever being over the top or distracting in any way which all ages can’t help but be smitten by.

One has the choice to read this story, create their own recording or listen to professional narration, following along with highlighted text. The included narration is especially good here, nicely articulated to aid young readers at following along without any hint of condescension that I sometimes hear with other narrations which try hard to be easily understand.

It is not uncommon these days to find a few extras attached to a storybook application. This is the case with Bambi as well, here including coloring pages where one gets to fill in a nice selection of colorless drawings from the story with a good selection of colors using a fine pencil point or thicker paintbrush tip, each including four specific sizes. An eraser is also included, but I do wish this tool also included different sizes as well.

One is also given the chance to tap to zoom into these images to work on smaller details, as well as continued taps that move one to other close-up sections of the chosen image. I appreciate the ability to get close - a necessity when it comes to effectively using the paint bush method of coloring, but I do wish that in the zoomed mode, one could simple swipe a finger to navigate the page instead of tapping to be brought around the page. When complete, users are also able to save work to the camera roll on their device as well as email to others.

It does not surprise me that a “memory” style game is also included - a staple among extras. I do enjoy here how the animations used are in keeping with the period look of this application. To play, tap flower buds for them to momentarily open, displaying their petal colors inside. I enjoy the detailed animation that went into the opening of each bud, especially as different styled flowers are used - a nice touch, as is the Disney score players listen to while playing this matching game.

Another extra is dedicated to music - a great choice as the music found in Disney movies is always a draw in and of itself. Three modes are included as one gets to listen, learn and have a chance at free play involving a lovely musical score, tapping flower petals, rain drops and flying birds to add musical elements to the background music.

The Listening section allows children to see the flower buds and other details highlighted when played, while the Learning section allows children to see the highlighting as cues to tap to play along as well as to improvise as they see fit. The Play section lets children experiment making music on their own without any background music. I do think it would be a nice option to include the background music as well within the free-play section.

It is possible that a cynic or a purist could accuse this version of Bambi as sanitized, but I greatly welcome a version of this classic tale that I can share with my son without any violence or scary moments. I am sure other families feel the same. Because of this, I recommend Bambi: Disney Classics whole-heartily for all ages.

Rounds: Franklin Frog Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 27th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Rounds: Franklin Frog is a charming universal app bringing wonderful non-fiction content focused on teaching the life cycle of frogs in a way that will be especially appealing to children of all ages and their adults. Both Read and Play, allowing one to listen to narration while reading along with highlighted text, as well as explore interactions is included, as is a Read to Myself option.

I simply adore Rounds: Franklin Frog, illustrated in a bold style consisting of circles as a whole as well as pieces thereof, as the look of this app is unique and sophisticated yet utterly appealing to children of all ages, as are the soft greens and blues found within, a personal favorite palette of mine.

Rounds: Franklin Frog does a wonderful job of balancing the cute anthropomorphic details and witty narrated lines of dialogue heard when tapping on the frog characters found throughout with some thoughtful facts about these interesting creatures both included as spoken lines of text triggers with a tap, as well as within the narrative itself.

This is the story of Franklin, a young frog who, along with the readers, explores his surroundings as well as hibernates for the winter, finding a mate and beyond - wonderfully narrated, engaging, and relaxing.

The interactions are simply delightful within this app, helping Franklin jump and swim, feeding him bugs with his sticky tongue and later helping Franklin find a mate by tapping and allowing other frogs to hear their mating call - all wonderful details that readers of all ages will appreciate a great deal.

I was taken a back at how moving this children’s story is, as the use of pitch-perfect music and stylized details demonstrates the change of seasons with use of moons floating past the sky, the plants dying away, and the use of snow falling as Franklin is safety tucked away.

Equally poignant was watching Franklin’s mate lay her eggs, watching them develop from frogspawn into tadpoles and later after sprouting legs and arms, developing into a frog after quite a metamorphosis.

Readers should take note that although the text within the pages of this story may have concluded, this app is intensely filled with important animations and interactions, wonderfully polished and beautiful to look at, yet charmingly sleepy in their nature and never over-stimulating.

Do wait for the arrow found at the bottom to become bold and bounce as this signifies that the major animations and interactions have been played out, although one can still enjoy oneself by tapping frogs to hear their added dialogue spoken as well as move them around the page.

I confess that the first time reading this book, I turned the page prematurely, missing out on some important transitions and interactions such as protecting frog eggs from hungry fish, or the full transformation from tadpole to young frog. The pacing of this app can be on the leisurely side - not a flaw at all, as this app does expect a level of concentration waiting out some animations much like one would in nature. Parents may want to familiarize themselves with all that this app has to offer to insure that their children do not turn the pages prematurely.

I also appreciate a great deal how this story plays itself out over three generations of frogs, teaching readers about life cycles as well as being quite interesting in terms of storytelling, but with no concrete ending, parents may find it hard to break their children away from this experience. Possibly an option could be included in the future that lets the three unique generations play out before this app comes to an end, just a thought for a future update.

I have been a huge fan of Nosy Crows and other storybook apps based on classic tales, but I think I enjoy Rounds: Franklin Frog even more. The experience is educational as well simply wonderful in terms of the narration, animated illustrations, interactions and a perfect use of music.

Rounds: Franklin Frog is an app that I highly recommend to both parents as well as teachers. Children will learn a lot about frogs from this application, I know I did. They will also be exposed to a beautiful story that I found at moments quite touching. Parents will be delighted to spend time with their children reading Rounds: Franklin Frog as well as for their children to spend time with this app alone.

I sincerely hope that Nosy Crow develops more non-fiction titles in this style. I could not be more fond of Rounds: Franklin Frog.

Polar Bear Horizon - Smithsonian Oceanic Collection Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 22nd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Polar Bear Horizon - Smithsonian Oceanic Collection is an interactive application based on the book of the same name and now part of a series of Smithsonian applications developed by Oceanhouse Media.

Like other apps by Oceanhouse Media, this application includes the choice to listen to narration allowing readers to follow along the included text which becomes highlighted when words are spoken, or to read this book to oneself. Auto-play is also an option.

Do tap around the page to see objects or animal characters labeled by both text and narration when touched - as are single words or entire paragraphs with the tap of a finger, and the zooming and panning of these pages helps focus readers' attention nicely and at times create moments of an almost animated quality.

There is a lot to really enjoy within this application including superb illustrations, soothing music, gentle sound effects of animals, water and wind as well as relaxing narration.

It is great how this app includes a vast amount of information about polar bears in a way that is still conversational and entertaining in a calm, thoughtful manner.

My son really absorbs science and nature details when he is exposed to stories such as this, which nicely merge nonfiction into storytelling, often relaying information he has learned from others and has really enjoyed this story as well.

I also appreciate a great deal the way the topic of the polar bears feeding off of seals is handled in a way that is very tactful yet accurate, allowing adults to fill in any details children may ask about this subject with information that their families feel is appropriate.

I remember when my son heard from a TV show that dolphins, a favorite animal of his, were “predators” - really heartbreaking for him to have this information explained in this way, until I told him that by this definition we too are “predators.” I am glad to say this this story doe not use such heavy language, glossing over the actual killings of the seals which are totally off screen and never truly explored, making this app very age-appropriate for preschoolers and up. It does, however, lack some of the details older children may feel are necessary to properly tell this story.

For me, it is lovely that this app also includes a moment of text and narration that explains how the baby polar bears are nursed by their polar bear mom, although not expressed directly within the illustrations.

I also love the choice to include the Northern Lights for a beautiful effect - a special moment within this book - as well as mild moments of drama and suspense when they come across other animals in the wild.

An additional section is included, “About the Polar Bear,” offering more interesting facts about these creatures, all of which may encourage children to learn more about these animals as well. For these reasons and more, I recommend that parents and teachers look into this application.

KidsMag Issue 03 Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 15th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

KidsMag Issue 03 is the third app in a series of interactive, educational apps for iPad, reminiscent of the children’s magazine Highlights.

KidsMag Issue 03 has a lot to offer toddlers, preschoolers and older kids as well. Consisting of 32 pages and over 50 activities, this app provides a nice amount of content that will keep children occupied for a long time.

My four year old son really enjoys this app, as such topics like pirates, the sea and trains are included - subjects that he has much interest in.

Structured like a magazine, one can tap on a cover story that is of interest as well as digitally flip through these pages. An interactive table of contents also allows one to view all the sections at once and then select a page with the tap of a finger.

Nice narration is included, allowing non-readers to enjoy the puzzles, stories, matching sections, pattern completing as well as other activities.

Do note the question mark also found top left of the screen available to explain how to interact with these areas.

I appreciate how many of these games include multiple pages one can gain access to with the shake of the iPad, greatly increasing the content beyond that found in a printed magazine which does not contain extensions of the same activity - be it a hidden object puzzle or sticker scene with a collection of different backgrounds to choose from.

Fans of the other apps in the series will be happy to see that the characters of Teo and Bianca are back. Here they visit the beach with their family. Parents will enjoy how this story is first told within a series of illustrations akin to a simple storyboard with no text or words, allowing children to use their imagination to tell their own story based on what they see. Children can also tap on an image to hear and see this story with included text and narration. Interactive elements such as helping Teo and Bianca pack their bags or tapping areas of a page dedicated to sea life are also included.

Letters and their sounds are also taught, as children are presented with objects found in the sea and are asked to find the item that corresponds to a letter in question - a section my son really enjoyed.

The topic of trains is nicely explored. Children will find a lot to tap on as they learn all about what one would expect to find at a train station and the differences between modern and old-fashioned trains. A highly interactive train dashboard is included, allowing children to tap, press or turn buttons, switches, levers and dials as they look out onto train tracks from the point-of-view of the conductor.

Numbers and shapes are also re-enforced with fun activities, and it is nice to see basic Spanish words introduced, both as nouns found in places like a farm, but also tackling adjectives in a matching game that teaches not only Spanish words, but opposites as well. This app also includes a glossary of Spanish words used in this issue of this magazine.

It is also a nice touch that links to sites about subjects like trains or pirates are also available in case kids want to learn more about these topics. Do shake the iPad to see a full list.

Kids Mag apps contain an abundance of interesting information that can really engage children for quite some time. My son loves these apps, and it is nice to see the same high quality from the first app to the third. I hope KidsMag apps continue to be developed in the future as they are wonderful choices for one’s iPad library.

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!

Discovery Kids Sharks Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 13th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Every week can be Shark Week when exploring Discovery Kids Sharks. This very content-rich app for iPad packs in a plethora of information about these aquatic creatures.

Six nicely interactive sections are included that teach kids about where sharks live, the types of sharks that exist, shark features, feeding and family life, as well as a sticker section that one can explore, adding sticker packs that one collects as the discovery challenges are successfully completed.

The question of where sharks live is nicely answered with a world map that is marked with shark hotspots. A tap in the correct space delivers a shark trading card of sorts that can be flipped over to read such details as the habitat in which these sharks live, the food they eat, info about the speed in which they swim, and the size they grow to. They also include a Top Fact about every fish, making each unique. These cards can also be shared by email if one chooses.

Once these sharks are found across the globe, one can partake in a discovery challenge to win a sticker pack. This challenge tests the info absorbed during this section, with element of fun as well.

Here, one must match the shark in question to its corresponding cutout, also answering the question about each specific shark. I appreciate the included puzzle aspect being incorporated, as this allows one to match the outline of each shark, making it possible for children to succeed here even if they do not remember all the answers correctly.

The types of sharks are explored as one goes on an underwater photo expedition, lining up sharks in the sight of one’s underwater camera. These photos are transformed into info cards full of interesting shark facts, the completion of this task leading to a discover challenge where one must match the color, markings and other details that make up shark features and match these skin swatches to a corresponding shark outline.

Shark feeding is accomplished with a fun game: after scrolling though possible choices, choose a shark with a tap and and check out what it likes to eat as well as other facts found within its included info card, tilt the iPad to move the shark around looking for prey, tapping a side button to eat the smaller creature.

The family life of sharks is introduced with a fun peek-a-boo game of sorts as one scrolls through the bottom of the ocean looking for movement or air bubbles coming from behind an obstruction which hides baby sharks. Here one is challenged by matching the shark to the facts offered and to the corresponding head of each shark, allowing kids to use the outline as a further clue. Questions including whether the pup sharks are born alive or if an egg is released are also included.

After each discovery challenge is complete, children will receive five new stickers per stocker pack to add to their underwater scene that one can decorate.

I like how here, one can scroll side to side, creating a lot of space one can decorate and adults will enjoy how these stickers are offered to the players in a small Mylar bag, reminiscent of how trading cards from my childhood were packaged.

There is really a lot of information offered within this app, making it a great educational tool. We enjoy shark week as well, but I worry that sometimes content may be intense for my sensitive son.

This is not a concern here, making it a great choice for shark lovers of all ages, but be aware that this app does not contain narration, making this a good choice for later grade school or younger children provided an adult or older child is willing to read the text out loud.

The look of the sharks and various other illustrations is terrific - very realistic and with the bold colors one would expect from marine life.

Each of these sections has an included video that plays as an intro to the subject matter. These videos look wonderful as well, sometimes including interesting electronic music that really adds to the experience. Other times, the music has a decidedly different tone more reminiscent of that from a horror film or akin to the theme from Jaws.

This choice may be appropriate for the feeding section, although no graphic footage is shown, creating a theme for this section that may be appropriate from the view of the creatures these sharks eat, as to them - these sharks are indeed very scary.

I don’t, however, understand the scary music choices for the videos chosen for the shark features or family life sections, as here the dark tone created by this kind of music does not add to the topic at hand and to me seems like a judgment call of some sort, negative to sharks in general.

The tone created with this negative, slasher-movie-appropriate music, although a very short sample and video, is in great contrast especially in the family video, as here a lovely scene of pups swimming in unison under their momma's belly are introduced with the use of aggressive music that does not at all illustrate the footage of family love.

The interesting electronic music used in the first two sections makes these video clips wondrous and even a little surreal - fantastic choices to go along with the videos in this app. The other, horror-like music, actually may make these videos less child-friendly to the most sensitive of children, which is the only flaw I found within this application.

I do enjoy everything else this app has to offer. The use of the trading cards that one can refer to later is a great way of organizing the vast amount of information offered within this app, which can also be emailed to a friend if one chooses. Each interactive section is intuitive and fun, as are the challenges.

I did, however, have some problems with the feeding section as sometimes the food listed was not recognized as a correct answer, now leaving the player to use trial and error to find the correct oceanic animal to eat - an issue I hope can be looked into.

Having said this, it is nice that this section not only allows one to tilt the iPad, but one can also tap the fish one is looking to eat as well, or drag a finger for the shark to follow - helpful for those not skilled at tilt games, such as myself.

This would make a great app for families or in an educational setting as the included games go a long way in introducing shark data in a way that stays engaging. I like that these challenges are in no way timed, and one can make wrong answers without any sort of penalty.

The theme music found on the main menu page is fun, upbeat and with a rock influence older kids and adults will enjoy, but I do take some issue with some of the other music used. Even with this issue, this is a very worthwhile app, especially to families that have a young shark lover.

WeirdButTrue Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 6th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

WeirdButTrue is a very fun and interesting National Geographic app that brings intriguing facts and an interactive design for both iPad and iPhone.

Very easy to use, the app is a random fact generator filled with interesting tidbits that kids and adults will enjoy. Each page has its own weird but true information, with bright colors and many vivid photos of related images used to illustrate what is being explained, and I also appreciate the creative use of fonts and design in general to fit the text onto the page in most interesting ways possible. These facts can be about animals, the human body, toys and other topics as the app has a plethora of information and it is great fun how varied sound effects are used per each page that in some way relate to the fact being presented.

Although this app is not narrated, I can’t imagine adults not enjoying these interesting facts on their own as they read these pages to their children. Nicely interactive, children will enjoy turning the page as a very satisfying flip sound is heard, as well have the ability for a variety of animals to singularly pop onto the screen saying “That’s Weird,” when a button is tapped from the menu bar to the right of the screen. One can also mark a fact as a favorite, and it is fun that the information is saved within this app with the tap of a heart icon, making the heart bounce around the screen like a ball in a pinball machine - a nice interactive touch. One can also email friends facts if one wishes, and there is a Weird-o-Meter included as well which allows readers to give feedback to National Geographic about how weird one thinks specific facts are. This information is then compiled in the “Top Weird-O-Meter Facts,” letting app users see what others think is the oddest information.

I really enjoy this app. I have always been a fan of this type of information, as I have very fond memories of shows like “In Search Of” and later “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” as a child, and I am happy that this app brings this strange but true information so conveniently to devices.

I also enjoy the facts that National Geographic has chosen to share here, as there is a very nice balance between weird and child-friendly. This app may be an acquired taste of sorts, but I have not found any facts that I think would be inappropriate or too scary for children, except for maybe the most timid of children who are obviously not a good fit for this application.

There are a lot of memorable facts used here, most of which adults will enjoy as much as children will, like how koalas and humans have similar fingerprints, how male ostriches can roar like lions, or that there are 29 different shades of red from Crayola. I enjoy how pithy the text is per page, allowing one to scroll a good number of these pages in a short amount of time - a great distraction for young and old alike. Younger kids will really enjoy having these fun facts read to them as well as interacting with this app.

I also think app would be especially nice for reluctant readers as well, because each of these sentences is short but packs a punch in terms of interest and oddness that will have kids turning each page eager to see what is next, as did I, feeling mildly addicted to this app and spending longer than necessary in reading these facts for review purposes.

It is also nice that one can easily Google for more information about any of these topics, oftentimes with the further details of these stories adding to the strangeness. An example is “Mike the Chicken,” who survived 18 months without a head, something I promptly googled to get the complete story. Used this way, this would be a great resource for teaching grade schoolers how to search online in order to research subjects of interest - a vital skill to learn for today's students.

It is nice that a “Fact Finder” is included within this app, being a glossary of sorts for organizing the information offered here from A to Z, but I think it would also be nice if in the future, one could search by subject as well. This may make this app less random in general, but this may be a good thing for my son who is sometimes animal-obsessed and other times more interested in fun food facts.

I do hope that in the future this app can be updated. Currently, there are over 300 facts included, making this content-rich and a lot of fun, but I can see heavy users of this app desiring more content in the future. All-in-all, a great choice of educational app for kids of varied ages as well as adults.