Category Archives: Android

eBook Review: Dog Story: Learning Opposites

Dog Story: Learning Opposites is no great work of literature.


The interactivity of this eBook kept my 2 year old and me occupied for a very, very long time. You can choose Auto Play or Read to Me.  On each page you are presented with simple text like “This dog is big and this dog is small,” with the respective canines pleasingly rendered with manipulatable doggy apparatuses such as bones, food bowls, trees (on which to pee, one would assume), newspapers, doghouses and balls.

Each page has a different schtick: a fence becomes a xylophone, flowers fall from the tree, the bones spin around.  You can tap on the dogs to see and hear the opposite words. You turn pages by tapping the purple arrows in the bottom corners, and there are buttons at the top left for repeating the narration and removing the text. The narrator has a calming voice and the music isn’t annoying.  A great free app.  Available through iTunes too.


App Review: Drawing Pad

We first encountered Drawing Pad (Amazon) at the Apple store.  We then went home and installed it on both the Kindle Fire and Galaxy Tab because it was such a hit with the little dude.

You can use digital crayons, pencil crayons, markers, stamps, coloured paper and stickers. The sticker function is by FAR the most awesome. There are stickers of fish, vehicles, insects, faces, flowers, birds and animals, all of which can be shrunk or enlarged and moved around until you “stamp” it to make it stick permanently. The drawer that holds all the tools opens and closes, and Little J can now navigate his way through the drawer to change colours or tools, as well as scrap his piece of artwork and start over again.

Drawing Pad (iTunes) is an awesome app for learning fine motor movement, playing with paint without making a mess, and making the train go choo choo down the track.  Totally worth the $1.99 and good for kids from 2 up.

My heart’s an iPod

We listen to a LOT of music in our house.  Little J is very fond of the Decemberists, Charlotte Diamond, Europe, Laurie Berkner, Tom Waits, and Gym Class Heroes.  He will ask to listen to them.

“We can have my heart a stereo?”
“Sure baby! How do you want to listen to my heart’s a stereo?”
“On iPod! No, on pomputer.  Yes! pomputer!”

So we fire up the pomputer and find some quality YouTubeage for him to dance around the living room to.  At times he will ask to have music on the “eBook” (that’s what he calls the Galaxy Tab), so we use the YouTube App to find music there.  My digital native knows there are different ways to access the same digital content, and depending on his mood, he can choose just audio or audio and video.  This too, ladies and gentlemen, is media literacy in action.

eBook Review: Barnyard Dance

Stomp your feet and clap your hands! Everybody ready for a Barnyard Dance!

When Sandra Boynton tells us to stomp and clap, we say HOW LOUD?  We took this eBook for a swing around the pigpen on our brand spanking new Galaxy Nexus.  We chose the “The big guy reads it” option, which is much more fun than the “I want to read it myself” option because it’s sung the whole way through.  If you don’t do your pauses right it can feel awkward. I find this with a lot of Sandra Boynton’s work, but it’s sacrilegious to say such things in public so I keep my big trap shut most of the time.  Trust me- it’s better to have some lightly animated cow read it to you so it’s done right.

Extras included dancing bovines, ungulates and fowl (bowing, spinning, bouncing, walking in a line), interactive foliage, tilt-sensor egg shells and animal sounds galore.  I found the pages a little hard to turn, especially for little fingers.  You have to be very precise with your swiping, and it’s too easy to hit the “do it again” button instead.  At the end of the book there is a deck of cards with covers from other Boynton books, which I assumed would take me to the Market so I could purchase them too, but that was not the case.  Take my money, darnit!

You can see a trailer of this eBook here.

eBook Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve, y’all!  I took the plunge and shelled out some actual dough to buy A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I am glad I did.  For my hard-earned money I got to witness my favourite melancholy youngster bemoaning his lack of Christmas cheer, then finding it again by being whacked on the head with a little religion (yeah, it’s a little heavy handed, but I’m trying not to be all Scrooge McDuck about it).

Extras included a game of collecting Christmas ornaments throughout the book, snowflakes that go POP and crystalize, and pop-up style characters that do funny things like sigh or wiggle when you tap them.  There is also finger painting, piano playing, angry-birds style snowball throwing and Lucy saying “Look Charlie, Let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket!”

I had fun clicking on words to make the bored sounding computer voice make sentences that made no sense, and Little J really got the hang of turning pages.

Spring for this App, snuggle up with your kid and be jolly, eBook style.

Happy Whatever Holiday You Celebrate When It Gets Cold, everyone!


Google Books Flop

For the first time today we tried to access some eBooks on my LG Optimus S. I Shelled out 99 cents to purchase the Complete Works of Beatrix Potter via Google Books only to find that none of the illustrations were included.  No good for 2 year olds who want to see some Tittlemouse.

I also purchased Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon because there were very few other children’s books to choose from.  I was reminded how much I dislike Curious George’s preachiness and post-colonial ickyness.  eBook or paper, some white dude is still “civilizing” a monkey.  And since it was Google Books, it was a digitized copy of a print book, unzoomable, with the original text in place but unreadable on our small screen.  Some pages had the text transcribed, but often the text included did not correspond to the pictures.  Not the sophisticated experience we were hoping for.

eBook Review: Lola in the Library

After our disappointing experience with another library-themed eBook, I thought we should find a GOOD one to share.  I found an old favourite: Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lola at the Library.  We used TumbleBooks on our Galaxy Tab again.

I used to use a paper copy of this book with K-3 class visits at the library, and I was interested to see how it would be presented in eBook form.  I was pleasantly surprised with the pacing the narrator used- it was slow and articulate, performed in a style that emulates a child’s speaking patterns.  Perfect for the text.

When presenting this book with school children I always skipped the page about Lola and her mom going for cappuccino after visiting the library. It seemed out of place then, but now that I have Little J I totally get it.  We go out for coffee before or after visiting the library, and I give him some foam off my mocha.  Art imitating life!

eBook Review: One Duck Stuck

Phyllis Root and Jane Chapman’s One Duck Stuck is another wonderful storytime book, and it transfers very well to the eBook medium.  Repetitive text wears on adult ears after awhile, but Little J chimed in every time a new animal said “We can! We can!”

You know what they say about young children: “repetition is good, repetition is good, repetition is good!”

Cute illustrations, good rhythm and a funny twist at the end make this a sophisticated read for little ones, and caregivers can be happy with the inclusion of numerals and onomatopoeia. The narrator is quite animated and makes good use of her sibilants.

I thought there was too much of a time gap in the narration between the main text and the secondary text; you feel like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop until “Help! Help!” begins.

*****Spoiler Alert*****
Best part of the book?  The “SPLUCK!”

eBook Review: ABC Letters in the Library

I hate that this book is one of the first that new eBook readers may encounter. I’m sure many well-intentioned caregivers will click on the cute image of children in the stacks and see the blurb that begins:

“This lovingly written, playfully illustrated book introduces children to both the alphabet and the library, through wonderfully descriptive, alliterative language.”

Oh! It’s written with love! It contains library stuff, alphabet stuff and alliterative language stuff!

It’s a pile of elephant doody. School Library Journal gave it a passable review, but I think the reviewer was just being nice because it’s a book about libraries. My tingling librarian senses are telling me that the quality of eBooks is going to continue to be an issue. Any old ninny/publisher can put their junk up and call it an eBook without the quality control that (sometimes) comes from being part of a huge evil corporation, which truly is the Beauty and the Beast of the thing. There aren’t a whole lot of purveyors of fine eBooks for kids yet, so libraries that are trying to keep astride with eBook technology are limited in what they can offer.

Some highlights from Bonnie Farmer and Chum McLeod’s ABC Letters in the Library:

“Aisles of authors are arranged alphabetically”

This is only MOSTLY true, except for things arranged by a little something called the Dewey Decimal System. And in series of books that have different authors. And board books, because, why bother? And other pull-out collections that are arranged by genre/format first before author. But those things don’t rhyme. Badly. Like this book does.

“Humming computers collect countless call numbers.”

Um…. what? There is an illustration of computers doing karaoke. I have no response to that. 

“The librarians soft shhhhhh soon hushes all talk”

Excuse me? Has the author even BEEN to the children’s section of a public library recently? And who is this super librarian who can ACTUALLY “hush all talk” with a “soft shhhhh?” Anyone who has ever worked with children, or talked to a child, or even talked to someone who has talked to a child knows that ain’t gonna fly.

“Information flows freely in and out of the Internet”

Yes! The information flows freely through the interwebs! In a book about libraries, don’t you think it would be better to highlight some other source for authenticated information? Kids KNOW about the internet. Let’s talk about Indexes! Interlibrary Loan! Intellectual Freedom!

(Initially I made a crack about how “freely” EBSCO and Gale flow through the internet, but decided against it. Then decided to include it parenthetically. All you collection developers crying over your budgets out there, can I get a AMEN?)

“Teachers tsk at loud teens who grin and then shrug”

Security! Escort that tsking teacher OUT of my library this instant. Loud teens? Come on over to the teen area! We love that you’re here at the library! Is this a good time for you guys to meet here? Shall we start a gaming club? Teen Advisory Board? Knitting group? Want a good book to read now that the Twicraze is coming to a badly needed end? Need to get some community service hours? What about some help studying for the PSAT? Turn that shrug upside down, future tax payer. Welcome to the library. YOUR library.

Inaugural Little eLit

Hooray! This is the inaugural post documenting our experiences with eBooks.  Little J and I sat on the couch, fired up the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and went to our library’s website.  

“eBooks!” said Little J.
“eBooks!” said I.  
“Password!” said Scholastic.

Scholastic’s BookFlix portal, when accessed from the link from our library’s website, has got to be the most boring way to begin an eBook adventure EVER. I assume this is a general log in page for a number of services that Scholastic offers.  

How dull! You’d think they’d at LEAST add a dancing banana to amuse us while we wait!”  said Little J. (He’s two. I might be paraphrasing what he said a little.)

We dutifully typed in our library card number and waited with bated breath, sans banana.  

“We read Boo Hoo Bird?” said Little J hopefully, holding up his paper copy of Jeremy Tankard’s awesome book.
“Wait a minute for it to load, baby.  We’re going to read an eBook!”  

Two years olds love waiting for websites to load almost as much as they love waiting for Laurie Berkner to buffer on YouTube. We gave up on Bookflix and moved on to Tumblebooks.

The Tumblebooks “library” is organized into six sections: storybooks, read alongs, tumble tv, puzzles & games, language learning and non-fiction books. We were on the prowl for a good yarn, so we clicked “storybooks” and chose a book from the first page: Bonnie Farmer and Chum McLeod’s ABC Letters in the Library.

Tumblepad, the software that Tumblebooks uses to display its content, didn’t require installation- it just popped up when we chose our eBook (we will try downloading an eBook for use without an internet connection in future posts). I liked the dashboard well enough, but the display area didn’t shrink to fit onto our screen. I had to scroll around every now and then to see the text. That seems like a pretty basic requirement: fitting onto the screen. I tried a number of other eBooks and had the same problem. I tried holding the tablet portrait and landscape. No dice.

We got through ABC Letters in the Library, mostly because it was our very FIRST Little eLit eBook and I was trying to be magnanimous about it all.  ABC Letters in the Library contains forced rhymes and outdated views on what a public library is all about. See an extended review this book here.

One redeeming feature was the “zed” at the end of the alphabet.  My Canadianism squeed at that, even if the rest of the book was a flop. Little J reminds me that the elephant at the end of the book was also a redeeming feature.

“He eating his lamp!”

Whatever cooks your noodle, kid.