Based on Berkes and Canyon’s 2007 book, this new interactive counting and sing-along app is a snazzy introduction to the fauna of the rain forest.
Centering around the lush and colorful illustrations, each page introduces a new species with information on how the animal parents care for their young and often revealing a bit about their environment: The poison dart frogs appear in the bromeliads so important to their survival, for instance. The text is written in rhyme to fit the familiar tune and can be heard sung or read by the author; there is also a “Read to Myself” mode. Simple animations allow readers to set the animal babies in motion. Butterflies flutter and marmosets swing, each in their own stratum of the jungle. Emphasizing the many layers of habitat in the rain forest, the appended “Find the Babies” counting game shows where in the jungle each of the species makes its home. Further information on each animal, plus photos, follows, as do bios of each of the creators. The illustrator’s discussion of her techniques should appeal to young artists. It’s not quite as flawlessly interactive as the developer’s previous app, Over in the Ocean (2012); there are some bugs with page turns, and background music and jungle sounds often don’t play in “Read to Myself” mode.
Rich with learning experiences, Berkes’ book elegantly combines art, reading, counting and music with the natural sciences.
(iPad informational app. 3-8)
Advances in paleoanthropology are given a bracing, clearsighted overview in this enhanced e-book from Berger and Aronson, based on the 2012 print book of the same name.
Many easily recognize the discovery of 3-million-year-old Lucy as a vital moment in the human progress. But except for articles published in rarified journals, the general public hasn’t heard nearly enough from the paleoanthropological front since her discovery, and this work helps to set that record straight. It uses the findings of co-author Berger and his son as a hinge to learning from the fossil record; of “training your eye to see what you need to see” out in the field. Using the National Geographic Society’s trademark crack photography and layman’s language, the book takes readers from Lucy through a very helpful timeline of famous fossil finds in Africa and the introduction of dating techniques. It constructs a braided evolutionary trail that includes a member Berger named sediba, who had traits quite separate from chimpanzees and may prove to be a link to the deep past. Enhancements include an introductory video that uses Google Earth to zero in on Berger’s dig sites outside of Johannesburg, another, nifty video that gives a “3-D” look at the titular skull, enlargeable photos that often appear in swipeable galleries, and active hyperlinks from Web-based resources in the bibliography, allowing galvanized readers instant, direct access to further information.
A terrific piece of paleoanthropology, with a smart blend of scientific sobriety and narrative verve.
(Nonfiction enhanced e-book. 10 & up)
Barton’s books about transportation are notable for their spare simplicity and bright pop-art illustrations; here, four gain added value with features that both entertain and encourage reading skills.
Introducing the setting for each mode of transport, the books open simply: “On the road,” “In the sky,” etc. Each subsequent page then highlights a different type of truck, airplane, etc., and with a true minimum of words conveys a good bit of information about their functions. “Planes” and “Boats” focus on the passenger jet and cruise ship as specific types, while “Trains” and “Trucks” concentrate on what they do. To assist early readers, words zoom up and are spoken when objects in the pictures are touched, and all words are highlighted as they are read; Oceanhouse’s signature style is an excellent complement to Barton’s simple compositions and text. Young readers will enjoy moving the vehicles, people and even the clouds while realistic (and optional) sound effects such as honks, murmured speech and engine noise play in the background. Extra movement is provided by subtle animations. A drop-down bar gives easy access to the audio options, page selection and information tabs.
Bright, simple and loaded with big machines—a steam engine, a fire boat and even a crop-duster, among others—this app is sure to appeal to young transportation enthusiasts. (iPad informational app. 2-5)
For children (and grown-ups) who are sick of dinos, dinos, dinos 24/7, here’s a plea from “Meg Atherium” to remember the giant prehistoric mammals.
“I’d like your undivided attention because I’ve got some complaining to do,” opens the shaggy ground sloth in Lynch’s minimally detailed cartoons. Sure, dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 120 million years and then disappeared through tantalizingly mysterious causes. So what? Why should they get all the movies, books, posters, breakfast cereals, pajamas and lunch boxes? Claiming that nonreptiles deserve at least as much respect, Meg introduces herself and a gallery of equally jumbo Cenozoic Era animals. These include Baluchitherium (Meg calls him “Big Baluka”) and the 7-foot-tall bird Diatryma, which also mysteriously died out. The optional voice-over is particularly lively. Paired to images of extinct creatures that look like plush toys and respond to taps with a diverse array of silly noises or small animations, Meg’s argument may strike many as compelling.
Perhaps it’s time to chime in on her rallying cry: “Boycott dinosaur lunch boxes! No more dinosaur books at story time!” As if—but she makes a strong case.
(iPad informational app. 6-8)
A ribbit-ing good follow-up to Noisy Bug Sing-Along (2013).
Expanding upon his 2013 book of the same title, Himmelman focuses his app on one species of frog per screen with accurate drawings and actual recordings. The onomatopoeic spellings give children a way to “sing along” as the bullfrog “jug-o-rums” and the peepers “peep, peep, peep.” Readers can touch the frogs or jiggle the screen to make them fill their pouches and sing, and it culminates in a chorus as all the frogs sing together. (Unfortunately, in “Read to Myself” mode, the recorded frog sounds cannot be activated for this chorus.) Following this, the “How They Really Sound” section includes individual descriptions with very cool interactive sound-wave graphs to accompany each frog’s unique voice. Also included are information about habitat and curious facts about each of the 12 species of frogs featured. Some have poison glands behind their eyes that make them distasteful to predators, while others breathe through their skins as they spend the winter under the mud. Here, readers are encouraged to pay close attention to each song to prepare for the challenging game at the end, in which readers match the sounds and sound-wave graphs to the corresponding frogs—although an incorrect match proves just as much fun as a correct one.
A nifty aural introduction to various frog species.
(iPad informational app. 3-8)