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Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur? - All About Dinosaurs Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 31st, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur? All About Dinosaurs is a very nice adaptation of the title of the same name from the Cat and the Hat’s Learning Library.

I have uniformly enjoyed all of the book apps Oceanhouse Media has developed, bringing published children’s titles to life with the inclusion of options such as narration with highlighted text, the labeling of objects found onscreen with text as well as additional narration, as well as sometimes including other light animated hot spots and oftentimes sound effects. One can tap on words or even paragraphs to hear the text read whether or not while listening to the narration - wonderful for new readers who may need extra help in some places.

I am especially enjoying the chance to hear this book, Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur? with professional narration as I have always had trouble pronouncing and remembering different dinosaur names - serious business when you are the mother of a four year old.

The information in the dinosaur book is great for beginner paleontologists as it is general in nature, focusing on names and a little bit about each of these creatures, also includes fun dino sound effects along the way. It also does a nice job of discussing fossils and their preservation and excavation - an important part of the story often left out of other dinosaur books and applications.

As with other Cat and the Hat’s Learning Library, familiar characters such as the Cat in the hat, Sally, Dick as well as Thing 1 and Thing 2 are back young these pages keeping this story fun and engaging.

As with the other Dr Seuss apps of Oceanhouse Media, the original illustrations found within the book are included, as is the technique of panning and zooming to draw readers' attention in a way that is subtle yet dynamic in spots as the zooming out may reveal other dinosaurs or other details on the page.

I am happy to see all the elements within this book used in this app, as there are additional white cards with fun facts throughout this tale, here to be tapped to reveal the text and included narration. This keeps the spirit of this book intact and adds another layer of interactivity, past the ability to move certain details around the screen. Explore this app to find these hotspots.

What I find most impressive, however, is the stellar narration by John Bell, my personal favorite narrator of applications and a regular voice to be heard within Dr. Seuss apps.

I have often compared Bell to a Shakespearean actor who can speak difficult lines of text in a way that audiences will comprehend much better than if spoken by another actor with less mastery of his craft.

The same is true within Dr. Suess books, where the nonsensical rhymes can make for challenging reading both out loud as well as to oneself - especially for children.

I love to hear Bell speak the names of these dinosaurs, feeling as if the names and pronunciations are only now beginning to seep into my memory, which is not the case for other times I have hear these names spoken. This is good news as I want to speak with authority as my son and I play dinosaurs who have invaded our train table in record numbers.

The only missed opportunity within this app, however, is the lack of a glossary found within the printed version of this book and not found within this application - an element I would love to see included in a future update.

Otter on His Own - Smithsonian Oceanic Collection Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 26th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Otter on His Own - Smithsonian Oceanic Collection is a charming coming-of-age universal storybook app about a sea otter from his first days after birth until he is able to venture out into the sea all on his own.

My son and I really enjoy the books in this series of Smithsonian apps, which brings this series of books by the same names to life, developed by Oceanhouse Media into applications. They include a narrator option with highlighted text and the ability to tap specific words or paragraphs to hear narration to better aid in reading, even when reading these apps to oneself - also an option.

As with other Oceanhouse Media apps, do tap on objects found within these pages to see and hear the corresponding labeling of these details.

The illustrations included in Otter on His Own are lovely to look at and have been greatly appreciated by my son, who has enjoyed the details that one can see of the otter as well as the other sea creatures within this book, as the images panning and zooming around the page draw readers closer to specific moments touched upon within the story.

We both enjoy the otter noises and other ocean sounds found within this app - nice effects that add a great deal of richness to this application, really bringing this story to life as we can hear the cries of the baby otter, so very dependent on his mother, his sounds making me think of my son as a newborn himself.

We also very much enjoy the moments when the otters are under water gathering up food in ways most interesting as well as scenes where the mother otter uses tools to remove fish from their hard shells, bringing many interesting facts to this narrative.

This app does a nice job of showing this otter as he grows and includes a moment of suspense when the otter mother comes face to face with a predator which my boy took notice of, but this moment of drama is short-lived and age-appropriate.

I admire the slow pacing of this book which makes for a relaxing read before bed, and although this may not be every child's taste, I think there is a need for apps like the ones found within this Smithsonian series to balance out the possibly overly stimulating apps which children also enjoy spending time with.

Equally enjoyable are the otter facts that are included at the end of this app which my son got a kick out of, asking me more about these topics and inspiring me to do research on my own for more information for my son to enjoy.

Otter on His Own will be enjoyed by animal lovers of all ages, and I look forward to reviewing more Smithsonian apps from Oceanhouse Media in the future.

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.

Horton Hatches the Egg - Dr. Seuss Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 11th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Horton Hatches the Egg is a new Oceanhouse Media application that brings a classic Dr. Seuss book to life with wonderful narration, interactive elements and sound effects.

Like the other Seuss titles in Oceanhouse’s library, this application includes the original illustrations, here adapted to work best within this interactive storybook app with the use of panning and zooming of these drawings to show detail and to draw readers' attention to different areas of this page.

Do tap around these pages as objects and characters will be labeled with words, both spoken as well as in the form of text. It is also very nice that individual words or entire paragraphs can be read or re-read with the tap of a finger, aiding new readers as does the text highlighted when read by the narrator.

Horton Hatches the Egg is the story of how kind elephant Horton is left to care for and sit on an egg's nest when it is abandoned by it's mother who is lazy and ill-equipped to care for her egg, telling Horton that she just needs a break and will be back soon. Instead, she leaves her habitat to take an extended vacation in Palm Springs. Horton is a fiercely loyal elephant who refuses to leave this nest through a difficult winter and into the spring, having to deal with the teasing from other animals as hunters who first threaten to shoot him. They instead kidnap him, tree and all, forcing him to work in the circus.

As luck would have it, the lazy bird comes to visit the circus that Horton is featured in and wants her egg back when it begins to crack, now that the hard work has been complete. Devastated, Horton agrees but does not need to turn over the baby Horton has taken such good care of as this creature that hatched from this egg turns out to be an elephant with wings.

I am always excited when I hear of a new Oceanhouse Media app based on a Dr. Seuss book. It is a very special treat to hear my favorite narrator, John Bell, work his magic as he tells this story that includes a nice level of drama and suspense that may or may not be appropriate for the youngest of family members.

Honestly, I tend to scoff when a classic piece of media, be it a story, vintage TV show or cartoon that I was raised with contains a warning that it “may not suit the needs of today's children” such as the original Sesame Street with the Alistair Cookie character smoking a pipe, Cookie Monster’s obsession with cookies, or Oscar’s surly attitude. I am, however, weary of and have avoided letting my son watch cartoons old enough that characters may be included wearing “black face.”

I do not mean to compare this story, first published in 1940, to such blatant insensitivity as black face, but I do see how some parents today may shy away from a story where hunters threaten to shoot the main character, instead kidnapping him to forcibly work in the circus, with a long journey in captivity that could conger up images of the mistreatment of animals to, at worst, slavery.

I still find this an enjoyable story with excellent narration and general production value, but not being as familiar with this story as I am the the other Seuss titles, I was taken aback by these details, as was my son who sat up from lying in bed as we watched this story for bedtime. The room got very quiet as my son followed these dramatic moments, but was unfazed by the details. Other children may or may not have the same reaction.

Parents, especially adoptive parents, also may not approve of Mayzie, the lazy and irresponsible biological mother who abandons her eggs to a stranger only to demand her egg back when the gestation period was over, accusing Horton of stealing her egg, nest and tree. Even the ending of the creature looking more elephant than bird could create mixed messages.

For these reasons, this application may be best for grade school children instead of toddlers or preschoolers who ordinarily love Dr. Seuss. I leave this for parents to decide.

Even with these issues, I am still happy that this Dr. Seuss tale has been brought to life by the developers at Oceanhouse Media, and I hope that developers will still bring the other classic Seuss tales not already adapted into applications as well, even if they may seem dark in their nature by some families who simply can choose to skip over certain titles as they see fit.

I hope the themes of loyalty, patience and faithfulness that Horton displays stand out instead of Mayzie’s bad behavior. I really hope to continue to see more of these classic Seuss tales developed into applications, preferably including narration by John Bell narrations are always perfectly realized.

Boats - Byron Barton Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 24th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Boats - Byron Barton is the second in a series of apps that is based on printed books by Byron Barton that my son and I really enjoy.

Boats is a simple and sweet book that does a very nice job of teaching children about different boats - here with included sound effects and interactive elements.

As is the case for many of the book apps developed by Oceanhouse Media, Boats - Byron Barton does a great job of adapting the printed version into an application with the use of original illustrations and text.

Narration is included with sounds great, friendly and enthusiastic. Auto play is included, turning the pages of this book automatically, which is perfect for toddlers and babies. One can also read this book out loud as well, making this a lovely book to read to a child or a great first reader as well. It is always nice that within Oceanhouse Media books, the text is highlighted when read and readers are able to tap words or sentences.

I really enjoy the look of Boats as well as the other app in this series, Airplanes. The bright, colorful, and stylized images create a vintage feel that I really appreciate.

It is especially nice that the boats found within can be dragged around the screen, changing the direction the boats are facing as well for a very nice effect. When a boat is tapped to move, its particular sound can be momentarily heard, but I think it would be nice for an option to hear the sounds of these vehicles as long as the boats are dragged around the screen.

Boats - Byron Barton has quickly become a favorite app of my son’s, even before bedtime. For him, the best part of this app may be the ambient sound effects found among these pages, from the ocean waves, sea gulls and ferryboat horns to the sounds heard as a fireboat tries to extinguish a burning structure.

The app has a lot going on in terms of the audio - much to my son’s delight - as a fire alarm can be heard as well as the firemen barking orders at each other as a fire boat puts out a fire. There is also a nice moment with workers loading up a cruise ship with supplies that add a few trucks to the image as well that are also fun to tap and drag, and we enjoy a moment with people boarding the cruise ship as well as celebrating their bon voyage with confetti and streamers. The selection of boats is quite nice and educational, especially the small tug boat that pushes and pulls the larger cruise ship to the dock, creating a nice conversation starter about how this all works.

I believe that the added sound effects and voices heard get my son’s imagination going as he fills in the blanks of what must be going in within these scene, especially as he drifts off to bed.

I hope more of Byron Barton books will be adapted into apps as well as Oceanhouse Media always does a great job translating printed books into interactive storybooks.

Little Critter Collection #1 Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 8th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Little Critter Collection #1 is a wonderful universal app that, as the title may suggest, contains ten Little Creature applications which adapt previously published stories of the same titles.

Written by Mercer Mayer, a favorite children's book author from my childhood, I am thrilled that these Little Creature stories have been brought to life in these applications. Even if adults don’t know this series of books by name, the illustrations will be quite recognizable to many. Although not one specific animal, these stories are focus on the day in the life activities of highly anthropomorphic creatures which are a variety of small mammals that, to me, look like hamsters or guinea pigs.

The main character in these books is a little boy, known as Little Critter (later becoming an older brother), who tells these tales of growing up in the first person always in a way that is most identifiable to children, especially those of preschool age. I admire how these stories are written from the point-of-view of this young child, allowing children to deeply empathize with his trials and tribulations as a boy learning about his surroundings.

Titles such as I Was So Mad, When I Get Bigger, I Just Forgot and All By Myself do an excellent job of tackling complex emotions which are wonderfully expressed, making the Little Creature always relatable (although not always in the right) and allowing for wonderful open-ended conversations.

Just Me and My Mom, Just Grandma and Me, and Just for You explore the interpersonal relationships that Little Critter has with the people who love him best - his family.

The New Baby, Me Too and The New Potty are lovely stories about sibling love that are charming and tender as well as honest in their approach to emotions such as jealousy and patience - themes within these stories. They focus on Little Critter and his relationship with his baby sister as she becomes a member of the family, develops into a toddler who wants to do everything her brother does, and meets the universal milestone of potty training.

The illustrations of these stories are simply terrific, as I greatly admire the emotions expressed within the facial expressions of these characters, especially those of Little Critter’s mother as she sometimes has moments of disapproval when seen in the background of these illustrations that adults may appreciate even more than children do.

Like other Oceanhouse Media apps, these apps include narration as well as the ability to read these stories to oneself, and auto play is also an option.

It is worth noting that the narrator who chooses to speak for Little Critter does an excellent job, perfectly realized for this series of stories that could not be more spot-on in expressing the emotions Little Critter experiences, including frustration and even mild repulsion in a way that is pitch-perfect.

Oceanhouse universally does a great job of adapting printed books into apps, panning and zooming into the pages, and recreating the effect of one getting a closer look at the illustrations as this technique draws the attention of readers to specific areas that relate to moments being told within this story. Subtle yet effective sound effects are also at work here and are very nicely done, especially the baby sounds included within The New Baby.

Another element included within each story is the chance to find hidden animals on each page - a detail also found within the original stories themselves.

I honestly purchased the majority of these titles myself when they were first released so I know firsthand how much use my son has gotten from this series, and I am excited to make room on my phone as this app takes the place of the ten other books, with the Little Critter icon so eye-catching that my son's attention is drawn to it where he otherwise may not have paid attention to it a folder of these apps with such gusto.

I am really glad that Oceanhouse has chosen to create collections that one can purchase instead of developing a “reader” of sorts that creates a specific bookshelf of apps that one must buy within in-app purchases - something that not always a fan of as the main "reader" icon is often not eye-catching enough for my son to become interested in the apps within, and I worry about accidental purchases as well as my son desiring more apps that are basically advertised, as well as the lack of reviews on iTune for the in-app purchases one may be interested in.

Although I know first-hand how great this price is for ten of these apps, I can also appreciate how some families may not be able to purchase an app with such a price tag. Because of this, I am really glad to see that these apps as single purchases are still available for families who may want to add a specific story to their library, possibly without wanting to commit the time needed to download a free "reader" app to then make purchases through.

I have been very pleased to see the apps that the prolific developers from Oceanhouse Media have created based on popular books already in print. They have been on my “To Watch” list from their early days. I can’t wait to see what other titles will be next.

Planes - Bryon Barton Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 3rd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Planes - Bryon Barton is a new interactive storybook developed by Oceanhouse Media and will be of special interest to parents of young children.

Planes is a delightfully simple storybook introducing different kinds of airplanes with a lovely sense of style. Few words per page make this a lovely first book for babies to listen to, later being able to use this book as an early reader as well.

With the first glimpse of this app, Barton’s books seem utterly familiar from my own childhood, even if in reality I was a teen when this book was first published. As an adult I love the vintage quality captured within this app which parents will enjoy possibly more than children will - vaguely reminding me of puffy rainbows and Mrs. Grossman’s stickers - both popular in the 1980’s with the same bright use of color.

I really like the excellent proportions used within these drawings that show relative size of objects found in the cityscape and other areas of this book, as well as a nice perspective seen as the jet plane filled with passengers fills the screen, allowing children to see the people seated inside.

Many planes are explored here, including a crop duster, sea plane, helicopter and a plane in the process of sky writing. It is also nice that a few pages toward the end are focused on the goings-on at an airport - moments my son especially enjoys. Sound effects are also incorporated for a very nice effect.

I am very pleased with how this book translates to an application, as the included narration is spoken with enthusiasm, each page from this book nicely filling the screen as the previously implied actions of the various planes now really come to life as they fly across these pages in ways slow and most delightful but never in a distracting fashion.

Children will enjoy moving these planes with the drag of a finger as well as tapping other objects found to have their names demonstrated with text and narration - always a nice touch.

Easy to read to oneself, this is a great book to read out loud with a nice function of tapping words to hear them spoken even if not using narrator mode, especially nice in aiding new readers who may need a little help, as is the text highlighting when the narration is spoken.

The only thing I would love to see added is the airplane sounds when children drag the planes around the screen with their fingers.

I really enjoy the atmospheric sounds of airplanes, helicopter over a city, cargo plane loading trucks and even the sounds of distant birds or crowd noises from people leaving a jet or workers cleaning and checking planes. These sounds are wonderfully layered with almost as much to listen to as there is to see. I could see, however, some families wishing they could lower or mute these sound effects if their babies find them too loud or stimulating, especially at quiet time. Because of this, it would be nice to control the sound effects volume of this app without effecting the included narration as well allowing my son to listen to this voiceover without the other loud noises when we are out and about.

Planes - Bryon Parton will make a lovely first app for babies, but I will expect toddlers and preschoolers to enjoy this book as well, as my son is four and asks for this application by name. I enjoy spending time with this application as well. The colors and wonderful, the drawings are interesting to look at as they are relatively simplistic, making them uncomplicated for the youngest of children, yet these pages are rich with details and a very nice amount of action taking place as well. For these reasons and more, I find it very easy to recommend Planes - Bryon Parton.

Cuddly as a Bunny - Picture Me® Review

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

Cuddly as a Bunny - Picture Me® is a lovely universal app which allows parents to include personal photos of their child within this application, creating images of their kids in wonderful animal-themed dress-up outfits.

This short yet sweet application is based on the series of Picture Me® books where parents can slip a photo of their child into the back of the book that includes a dye-cut section on each page where the child’s face peeks through, allowing children to see themselves in a wonderful selection of animal dress-up costumes or other themes.

This app jogs my memory as I was given one of these books a long time ago. I thought that this book - a dress-up costume story - was super-cute, but we had no specific photo of our son printed that would fit the cutout just right. I am embarrassed to admit that I never did find and then print the perfect photo for this book so the book remained unused, its whereabouts now unknown. These books have been around for 23 years and have sold over 30 million copies, so my experience is in the minority, but I was happy to have a second chance with this new application.

I discovered that finding appropriate images on my camera roll was not too difficult, and it is worth noting that one can take a photo from a device as well to use within this app if so desired. The framing of these images worked well for me as one can pinch or zoom in or out with fingertips, sizing and rotating the child's head or face with ina faint outline of the costume worn on each page.

Four images can be added to the pages of this book, and it is interesting how there is a randomness to the use of these pictures among the pages of this book - a nice touch for re-reading.

The story itself consists babies dressed in the most divine animal full-body costumes one can imagine, with rhyming animal-centric text that introduces each animal nicely. The next page includes the child’s photo with text and narration, asking one to “imagine me” as the animal in question as well.

The effect created with the inclusion of personal photos is quite good, and the child's image added to this app really looks like it belongs within this storybook.

Mild sound effects and interactions can also be found, such as children making animal sounds like the “meow” of a cat or the ability to drag small objects like butterflies or fish across the page.

Like other Oceanhouse Media books, the illustrations enlarge to show details - here with the tap of a finger. Although I really appreciate this feature within their Dr. Seuss apps as well as others, I have mixed feelings about this storybook. It is nice that young children have a chance to see the close-up of their photos as well as the other babies within this app, as babies are programmed to want to look at faces, but the quick zooming movements here may be distracting to children still new to tracking images with their eyes. The interactive elements of this app one drags with a finger are also relatively small for children to manipulate, especially for the babies this app is designed for.

In reality, this app may be best as a lovely keepsake for parents, as the images created are really quite nice, transforming children into adorably cuddly animals. One of the pages which includes my son’s face in a Dalmatian dress-up - a fancier version of a favorite Halloween costume of my son - makes me daydream a bit about him when he was younger and how much older he has gotten, and I really appreciate how these images can be saved on one’s camera roll or emailed to friends and family. Nice narration is included. Parents also have the chance to read this story to their children as well, further personalizing this app.

It would be nice, however, if multiple users could have their images saved simultaneously so families of multiple children don’t have to search their camera rolls to swap images, although one always has the chance to use up to four family members within the book as well. It would also be nice if one could save a few favorite photos to a gallery within the app, helping the image selection process for those who may want to rotate the photos used in this storybook.

To email, save or print from an air printer, tap a photo page at the center bottom of the screen to retrieve a pull-up menu - a section parents may overlook at first when exploring this book - yet intuitive to use once found.

All in all, this is a very nice application for babies and toddlers, and it is also nice to know that my preschool-age son did enjoy seeing his photo added to the story as well. I can see this storybook as an especially nice choice for those who enjoy playing dress-up or pretend to be animals. If interested, other apps from this series are also available through iTunes.

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff - Dr. Seuss Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 11th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff - Dr Seuss is a lovely adaptation of the title by of the same name - part of a series of Dr. Seuss books developed by Oceanhouse Media.

For those who may not know, The Shape of Me and Other Stuff is a Bright and Early Dr Seuss book, containing the rhyming cadence Seuss is known for without the wondrous nonsensical tongue twisters that can make his work cumbersome to read or follow by the youngest children. I have always been a fan of these simple-to-read books as they were some of the first stories we read to our son when he was born, and I am sure they will be the first books my son reads to himself as well.

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff teaches children about the concept of shapes beyond the traditional geometric shapes that one is commonly taught, instead being a message about imagination as well as an easy-to-read or listen-to story that rolls off the tongue very nicely.

The plot is simple and is not fully narrative as a boy and a girl explore the shapes of the objects in the world around them.

I appreciate how Dr. Seuss’s wonderful style of illustrations can be found within, as all the items included, even the boy and girl characters are wonderfully silhouetted in black, with the objects, creatures or characters sometimes also silhouetted in bold color choices or even in white when displayed on a colored page that is found among the pages of this book. I enjoy the look of these silhouettes, showing off the line detail of these illustrations - something that is not always focused upon when looking at the pictures in another Dr. Seuss book with the traditional brightly colored drawings.

Narration is included, here with two different voices in use, presumably those of the boy and girl characters from the story. I really enjoy the girl’s narration found towards the second half of this story, as she speaks clearly and with enthusiasm. The same can be said for the boy’s narration, but I think this voice in general too saccharine for my taste and not as enjoyable to listen to as other narrators who are used among the Dr. Seuss series of applications. It is worth noting that my son does not have this issue, and as these apps are primarily for children, this is a minor point.

I have been uniformly pleased with how the Dr. Seuss books have been translated into applications, keeping the style and spirit alive from the original published books, now including a chance to look at close-ups of these illustrations with the use of the “Ken Burns Effect” of panning and zooming of these pages draws the eye to areas of the page for a nice effect.

Subtle background music and ambient sounds are also incorporated that bring something new to this story not available when reading a traditional book - nice elements that add to the experience without distraction. Interactive hotspots are included as well, as readers can tap any detail to see the item labeled with text as well as spoken, yet never talking above the included narration - a nice touch.

Individual words can also be tapped to heard, aiding children in reading this book in case they become stuck and need help - a lovely inclusion that makes Oceanhouse Media apps in general wonderful resources for young readers.

Like the other Dr. Seuss apps developed by Oceanhouse Media, as well as their applications in general, one also has the chance to read this book to oneself. Autoplay is also included, turning the pages of this book automatically when listening to the narration.

I have been a huge fan of OceanHouse Media’s Dr. Seuss apps from their very first release of The Cat in the Hat, and I always get excited when a new Dr. Seuss app becomes available. I especially love that the easy-to-read Bright and Early Books for Beginning Beginners have been turned into storybook applications as well. I hope to see more of these titles developed including those written by other writers such Stan and Jan Berenstain as well.

Oceanhouse Media Release New and Collected Dr. Seuss Book Apps

Posted by Lisa Caplan on March 27th, 2012

Kid-lit publisher Oceanhouse Media may not be a household name, but the catalog of children's books they own the rights to are. They include, amongst others, Eileen Christelow's Five Little Monkeys series, the beloved Berenstain Bears and, most notably, the collected works of Dr. Seuss. The universal apps are minimally digitized, focusing on the words, illustrations and learn-to-read features.

Last week they announced a second collection of Seuss titles, five in all, in a single package priced at $11.99. The Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #2 contains:

  • Green Eggs and Ham

  • Dr. Seuss's ABC

  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

  • There's a Wocket in my Pocket!

  • Hop on Pop

They also released a lesser known title, The Shape of Me and Other Stuff, in which the guru of children's literature waxes nonsensically poetic  on “The shape of you the shape of me the shape of everything I see . . . a bug . . . a balloon, a bed, a bike. No shapes are ever quite alike.” The app is currently on sale for $1.99.

For young readers - and their parents - the new collection offers a great savings on classic Seuss titles, and the new release is ideal for pre-readers to enjoy.

Play Along or Create Custom Tunes with Dr. Seuss Band - For Free!

Posted by Rob Rich on February 22nd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Ridiculous and physically impossible musical instruments, with equally ridiculous and physically impossible names, can only mean one thing: Dr. Seuss. Or in this case, a Dr. Seuss Band.

Players can choose from a set of five different horns, then decide whether they'd like to mess around making their own music or try to go for the high score while recreating tunes from one of ten original songs from Hop on Pop to The Cat in the Hat. The sounds each horn makes can be tweaked by adding bizarre attechments such as fishbowls and train whistles, which fits right in, honestly. It's even possible to exchange various horn parts to create some truly weird... things that make noise.

This suitable-for-all-ages piece of musically interactive childhood has just recently seen a price drop, so now anyone can compose their own Seussian melodies on their iOS device for free. Sounds awfully tempting...

Oceanhouse Media Releases the Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1 - Thing 2 Sure to Follow

Posted by Rob Rich on February 3rd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Having spent a decent portion of my retail career involved in the children's section of a bookstore, I think I have a solid grasp of what makes for popular literature among parents and their children. There's always one or two "flavors of the week," but there are also those that always sell. Where the Wild Things Are. The Velveteen Rabbit. Virtually anything written by Mo Willems or Sandra Boynton. Sitting proudly at the top of this list are the works of the undisputed monarch of children's literature, Dr. Seuss.

Theodor Seuss Geisel's stories have been adapted for all manner of medium, not surprisingly including iOS. Oceanhouse Media has been offering special adaptations, referred to as "omBooks" for portable Apple devices for quite a while now. These special not-quite-ebooks allow users to flip through their virtual pages normally, have the stories read to them at a set pace (not unlike a movie) or a hybrid of the two that narrates while emphasizing key words.

While individual Seuss classics have been available in this form for quite some time, Oceanhouse has released their first-even multi-title collection. The Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1 features five of (arguably) his most well-known works: The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The FOOT Book, Mr. Brown Can MOO! Can You? and Fox in Socks. Five classics, no waiting. Well, depending on one's WiFi speed, anyway.

This collection is on the App Store right now for $11.99. I know it may seem like a lot, but buying each of these omBooks individually would cost around $15 or so. And that's after the price drops in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Anyone with an appreciation for all things Seuss should certainly check this out.

There’s No Place Like Space Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 16th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

There’s No Place Like Space is the first title from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library developed by Oceanhouse Media. Like their other Dr. Seuss apps, There’s No Place like Space faithfully adapts the printed version of this book as well as adding some new interactive elements.

For those who may not know, The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library is a non-fiction series for children that teaches different subjects of interest to kids, such as dinosaurs or sea life, always staring the Cat in the Hat and human counterparts - siblings Sally and Dick, as well as Thing One and Thing Two. My son loves these new adventures with the gang from the classic Cat in the Hat books, as do I.

Here, There’s No Place Like Space tackles the topic of outer space, introducing the planets in the solar system, with vivid descriptions of each one, a fun mnemonic to help kids remember each of their names and correct order, as well as fun facts about the sun, moon, constellations and other related information.

Like other Oceanhouse Media apps, this universal app includes narration, also allowing one can read this book to oneself. This app, like many others from this developer, does a great job of incorporating the traditional illustrations found in the classic books, with the use of “The Ken Burns Effect’ as these drawings are panned and zoomed across to create effect.

Some of these single pages have been expanded to create a screen full-screen spread, but the text is the same as found in the printed book, delivered paragraph by paragraph, aiding in threading of these rhymes.

Interesting interactions can also be explored here - a new element found among Oceanhouse Media apps and a nice inclusion to their new The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series of applications.

Move individual images such as the gang's spaceship and the planets floating among these pages around the screen, which then fall back into their alignment and can also be moved around the screen as a whole - a nice touch to emphasize their order in the solar system. The ability to create constellations with a tap is also included as well, a personal favorite interaction.

Simple animated movements can also be found such as the planets revolving around the sun - an image, together combined with the relaxing, vaguely science fictionish music found throughout, create a moment that is surprisingly moving.

I like use of Thing One and Thing Two who are somewhat hidden among these pages, encouraging kids to find them and tap, as doing so makes these creatures hold up a sign containing a fun fact or science-related question - an element also found in the published book, made nicely interactive within this application.

I also appreciate how the published book contains a glossary of words touched upon in this story. Here, these words are highlighted and can be tapped to hear and see these glossary words explained. Like the other Oceanhouse Media apps, individual words or full paragraphs can also be tapped to be narrated, as well as any of the objects within the page, as these items will be labeled and spoken when tapped without competing with the narrator reading the text, always a nice touch.

It is worth noting that this application is based on the updated version of There’s No Place Like Space omitting Pluto, which was demoted from planet to dwarf planet in 2006. Because of this, the page pertaining to Pluto and the mnemonic have been removed and changed from my older copy of There’s No Place Like Space to correspond with the re-classification.

I am thrilled that my favorite voice talent, John Bell, is back to narrate this application.

There’s No Place Like Space, although a creative, fun and educational book, is not written by Seuss himself, although it is written in a Seuss-like style. I enjoy this book, as does my son, but my husband and I did comment to ourselves that the text is not as well-written as the classic books by Seuss.

I think the narration by John Bell brings so very much to this application. Having narrated other of Oceanhouse Media's Dr. Seuss apps before, Bell understands the cadence, rhyme and whimsy found in Dr. Seuss prose, as is able to infuse his narration with a Seussian flair that does not exist as much in the words found on the page as it does within Bell’s brilliant delivery. I hope to continue to hear more of his great talent in other applications.

My son and I and I have really enjoyed this application. Although recommended for ages five to eight, I can’t see why younger children four or possibly younger would not enjoy this app as well. I am very happy to hear that this is only the first app in The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library as I enjoy sharing non-fiction books with my son as well.

I eagerly await to see which book in this series will be adapted next, having enjoyed the extra features not comply found within a Oceanhouse Media app. Having said this, I think the price tag of $5.99 is high compared to other apps at this price point, and a lower price would be more in line with what parents are typically looking to spend per application.

What was I Scared of? - Dr. Seuss Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 31st, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

What was I Scared of? - Dr. Seuss is a wonderful classic tale, perfect for the Halloween season as well as any time of year one is in the mood for a good, spooky story with the added benefit of a moral here as well.

What was I Scared of? is a tale told in the first person from the point-of-view of the main character as he becomes most disturbed by seeing an eerie, empty pale green pair of pants walking around town with nobody in them. As this boy continues on his daily activities, he keeps running into this empty pair of pants which this boy finds most unsettling, leading up to a close encounter with these empty pants that compels this boy to shriek for help, causing these pants to cry. The empty pant’s reaction makes this boy quickly develop empathetic feelings for the empty pants, calming them down and becoming friends.

This is a very special story for our family as this tale is my husband’s favorite story of all time, originally published as a short story, as part of a compilation of Seuss tales in The Sneetches and other Stories.

As a child, my husband called this story “The pants with nobody inside them,” but when I first downloaded this book for my son, I instantly knew that this was the tale that shaped his childhood.

Like the other Dr. Seuss apps brought to devices by Oceanhouse Media, this ebook allows one to listen to narration or not, as well as the option of Auto-Play where the page turning is automatic - a nice choice for young readers, even allowing one to put the device down and simply listen to these stories. An interactive element is also used here where one can tap objects found on the screen to see and hear these words displayed prominently, although the narration of these words never talks over the reading of these stories, a nice touch as is the highlighting of the text if this app is enjoyed in "Read To Me" or "Auto Play" mode.

The look of this app is very faithful to the original art found in this story, as the images from each page in the tale can be found within. Here, the “Ken Burns Effect” is used, with the panning and zooming of these illustrations to correspond with lines of text, guiding readers where to look for great effect.

What was I Afraid of? is a more monochromatic tale than other Dr. Seuss stories, taking place at night and using a wonderful dark turquoise with black detailing that fills most of these scenes, the backlit screen of the iPad and iPhone really makes this color pop, as it does the pale yellow and green used in bringing these characters to life.

For me, what has made this app a favorite of mine is the included music which elevated this book into masterpiece territory. This music used so eloquently translates the characters' hesitation, trepidation and fear, with poetic use of a xylophone and the deep, somber tone of the bassoon in ways that very much moved me.

I admit that when asked, my husband says that as a kid having the story read to him by his mother, this tale was more wonderfully strange and odd to him, not scary at all, but the tone this music brings to this story is decidedly suspenseful and creepy, adding an editorial spin within this classic - a decision that works for me wonderfully, but I can imagine that very sensitive children might be upset by the mood created here.

Narration is included that is well-done in its own way, but my husband would have preferred to dig Boris Karloff up from the grave to narrate this story. This not being possible, I know he would have preferred someone with a deeper, more resonating voice than the option offered of a woman who pleasantly narrates this app.

Having said this, this is a note that does not greatly affect my enjoyment of this application, and a different voice combined with the included music may have made this scarier than what most children could apprecaite. Parents also have the option of reading this book to their children as well if they so desire, and it is especially nice that the musical score can still be heard when the narration is turned off.

I am glad to report that my son enjoys this story very much as well, listening to it long past last year’s Halloween season when we first purchased this app. This story also contains an important lesson about judging others on first appearances and tolerance told in a way that is most memorable and affecting.

If one has not already added this storybook to their library of apps, I highly recommend them to do so, not only for this Halloween season, but for a long time to come as well.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories - Dr. Seuss Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 17th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories - Dr. Seuss - is a wonderful anthology of stories originally published in magazines during the 1950’s and which have been rediscovered and recently published as a book title of the same name. It has also become an important universal app - a necessary addition to the library of any age fan of Dr. Seuss.

Seven stories are included, each full of the wondrous Dr. Seuss style of imaginative anthropomorphic characters, beautifully odd illustrations, and fantastical rhyming prose that Seuss is known for. I have decided not to synopsize each of these stories as I don’t want to rob readers of truly experiencing these stories for the first time, but this information is provided in this app's iTunes description if one is interested. I can say, however, that it is great fun to see some ideas used here re-worked into later stories, and it is good to know that these tales do each contain a narrative plot line - my favorite style of Seuss.

This app works the way the other Dr. Seuss apps from Oceanhouse Media do, offering readers the chance to read this book themselves, with narration or on auto play, which includes narration, but with pages that turn on their own - great for young children and even for putting the phone down and just listening to these magical stories. As this is a compilation of stories, first select a story with a tap as icons representing these tales are displayed on the title page of this app, and from here one can choose the reading style of interest. It is also nice that this app will save one’s space in a story, making it easy to pick up where one left off easily if the tale is not finished within one sitting.

We are fans of Dr. Seuss in our house, owning many of these apps based on classic Dr. Seuss books and short stories. I am always impressed with their use of the “Ken Burns effect" of panning and zooming the original artwork, bringing readers closer to specific details that highlight moments of these stories and the breaking down large pages of text into shorter verses that aid in the reading out loud of these stories.

Another aspect that Oceanhouse Media apps do well is giving users a chance to tap objects within these pages to both see and hear these items being highlighted, with a lovely style which thoughtfully does not speak over narration, and it is fun that when reading these stories to themselves, this interactive element still applies - nice touches that I appreciate.

It is also interesting how one can tap a single word or an entire paragraph to be read out loud - a very nice feature that also works when the narration is turned off, giving the reader help with word pronunciation or even tapping word-for-word for listening and developing a sense of sentence structure. I greatly enjoy as well the ambient noises and sound effects used within these stories, bringing a richness to these tales that is subtle yet extremely effective.

Readers of this specific app, The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories - Dr. Seuss - will enjoy the narration included as these tales are read by four very good professional voice actors as they each have a personal style that added to the story that is being narrated.

For me, the standout here is the narration by John Bell, who here reads The Bippolo Seed and Steak For Supper, as well as other Seuss books by Oceanhouse Media.

Bell has the perfect radio voice and his narrative abilities here remind me of a great Shakespearean actor who can recite lines of Shakespeare using subtle pauses and intonations in a way that makes these lines of dialogue utterly understandable and relatable - no small feat, to say the least.

Here, Bell has a knack for reading Seuss in a way that I find most engaging and comprehensible in a deeper sense than when I hear these stories read by other narrators, or when I try to read these stories out loud myself. I can also see my son most fascinated by Bell's narration, sitting up and taking in what he is listening to, mouth slightly open as he is enamored by what he is hearing. Bell’s choices for these character voices hit all the right notes and bring an important sense of emotion that I greatly enjoy, flushing out the great imagery created by Dr. Seuss, especially with The Bippolo Seed, sometimes wonderfully taking on tangents beyond the corresponding illustrations.

It is a selfish request of mine that I ask developers reading this review to consider John Bell for their next voiceover project as his voice talent is so great that I have bought apps based solely on his included narration and will continue to do so. I have also enjoyed his voice acting in the iPad eBook, Melvin Says There’s Monsters, also reviewed on GiggleApps.

I highly recommend this app to any fan of Dr Seuss for any age - from the very young to adult - as they are important works of early Dr. Seuss and I am super-excited that these stories have been re-discovered.