Category Archives: Review

eBook Review: Green Eggs and Ham

Green Eggs and Ham
Oceanhouse Media
$3.99 from Amazon App Store
Read on Kindle Fire

Green Eggs and Ham!  I’m trying to like them, Sam I am!

This is the same people who did Rudolph.  So.  Some of the same stuff stands.  Kinda creepy, annoying narrator and those big red words that pop out when you click on pictures.  It’s psychedelically annoying.  I might just be a party pooper about this, but I’d rather have some of other kind of interaction.  They sell this book for $3.99 on name recognition, mostly.

The problem is, my kid LOVES this.  He asks for Sam-I-am and loves the train going through the tunnel and the accompanying choo choo sounds.  He points out the eggs, he points out the ham, and he says “I do not like them, Sam-I-am!” at dinner when I’m trying to get him to eat something green.  We have a few Dr Seuss compilations that we read from, so he recognizes the art and the cadence.

I’d rather listen to Moxy Fruvous than read this eBook, but I’m not the boss of me.  My 2 year old is.


App Review: Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime

The Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime app is an interactive ebook app from ustwo for iPad. The look of it is gorgeous. The illustrations are reminiscent of 19th century woodcuts, vividly colored. Each nursery rhyme (there are 8 of them) is presented in two “pages” and each page has at least one interactive element. The text is incorporated as part of the illustration, and some of the text moves or reacts along with the images on each page. The narration can be turned on or off, and the reader is a British woman with a pleasant voice.

The interactive elements are fun but don’t add much, if anything, to the comprehension of the rhymes. There’s some wit and ingenuity to the design in some rhymes, e.g. Humpty Dumpty cracks open and the King’s horses and men spill out; but in others, like the Grand Old Duke, it feels a bit more random. The humor is a little bizarre, with a tinge of the macabre. The sound effects when Jack and Jill tumble down the hill or get smacked with fish from the well (yes, you read that right) sound like an old kung fu movie, and after you cut the tails off the three blind mice with your carving knife guillotine, you can send the severed tails careening around the screen, or reattach them and cut them off again. Of course, this is my 3-year-old son’s favorite part of the ebook. He thinks it’s hilarious.

Overall, though, it seems that he’s already getting a little bored with it. The interactive elements are quickly mastered and there’s not much else to discover. After playing with it a short time I noticed he was already skipping some pages and even his favorites didn’t hold his attention long. At $3.99 it doesn’t break the bank, but as great as it looks I doubt we’ll get hours and hours of entertainment from this one.

Review by Genesis Hansen

update 5/7/2012: I just wanted to update this review and report that in spite of my early impression, my son has gotten much more entertainment from this app than I originally anticipated. He doesn’t often spend a lot of time with it in one sitting, but has used it enough to have memorized several of the nursery rhymes.

App Review: Baby Sign ASL

Baby Sign ASL, Version 1.05
$4.99 on iTunes

Baby sign language is very popular right now, and I want to jump on that bandwagon.  My daughter Jordan is five months old, so I plan to start teaching her some basic sign language.  I have a book and a DVD, but do I have time to deal with that?  No.  This Baby Sign ASL app is perfect.  There are more than enough words here (don’t cheap out and get a free version- it is a waste of time).  Each word is demonstrated through a clear video.  You can add your favorites to a list and quiz yourself.  You can search alphabetically or by categories.  I spent about five minutes with the app today, and I have a few signs in mind (mommy, daddy, milk, and bath) that I plan to show Jordan tonight.  While I was watching the videos, I couldn’t help thinking of Robert DeNiro’s character teaching his grandson signs in “Meet the Fockers”.

Review by Leslie McNabb

eArticle: Chris Stevens on Alice for the iPad

Check out Chris Stevens on Alice for the iPad, Book Apps, and Toronto: a Q & A to hear the story of the phenomenon that knocked publishers on their patoots in 2010.  Stevens shares how a fortuitous combination of unemployment, hard work and technical skills resulted in the development of a new, interactive format that sparked a mad rush to get on the interactive eBook bandwagon.  He gives a scathing overview of the eBook industry:

What’s happening at the moment is that most publishers are handing their major titles over to app developers who are ruining these titles with rushed, unprofessional layout and design. There is this weird situation where programmers are suddenly being given free rein to design books. We watch as publishers like Random House outsource the design of cherished titles to programmers who—despite their excellence at programming—are not designers. The complete lack of care and attention paid to the production of digital books is genuinely mystifying.

He does, however, give props to Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime (which we will review shortly), and tells about some new projects he has been working on.  I can’t wait to read Alice in New York!

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.

eBook Review: Fire Truck

Fire Truck by Ivan Ulz has been a favourite in our house for quite some time.  It only occurred to me recently that it could be considered an eBook. Slippery things, these eBooks, aren’t they?  It was part of a series of  tree books  called “Sing and Read Storybooks” published by Scholastic.  This particular book is out of print, but there are others in the serious that are still available. (On a side note, the Scholastic website is TERRIBLE for searching.  And there is no link for this series of books.  They have got to get some librarians to work on that.)

The illustrations are great and contain all the requisite parts that make preschoolers go wild: ladders, hoses, spotted canines, wheels, bells and sirens.  There’s a reason this video has been watched nearly 3 million times- the little dudes dig it.

The song sounds monotonous on first listen, but once you’ve heard it a few times, it gets kinda groovy.  And you know what’s even groovier?  When you’re driving in your car, and a firetruck drives by, and your kid starts belting it out from the back seat.

eBook Review: The Elephant’s Child: How the Elephant Got His Trunk

This one’s for you, Dad!  (My dad loves Rudyard Kipling)

The Elephant’s Child: How the Elephant Got His Trunk is a free eBook from B&N.  The narrator is awesome.  He sounds like he should be narrating a PBS nature show.  About elephants.

Poor baby elephant has bad role models and absentee parents. All the animals of the savannah keep telling him to stop asking questions.

“So many questions! Take your nosy-nose somewhere else!”

The Kokoloko bird, channeling coyote or raven,  sends the little elephant off to go ask a crocodile what he eats for dinner.  CHOMP.  This is a slightly more violent tale than I would normally abide for my own little elephant, but it IS Rudyard Kipling, and he DOES hearken from the days of yore when cautionary tales were sprinkled with chomping crocodiles, child-eating witches and poisoned apples.  In the end, though, the elephant ends up with a dextrous schnozz and shares his story with the nasty creatures who wouldn’t answer his questions earlier in the story.  Such is the love of a child.

FYI: Did you know that the term pachyderm is now obsolete?  It’s true!  Wikipedia told me so.

App Review: First Words

Review submitted by the lovely Genesis.

Here’s my tip for getting through a restaurant meal with a toddler: get the FirstWords apps from Learning Touch. We have both the Animals and the Vehicles apps ($1.99 each). They also offer a Deluxe edition for $4.99 that has animals, vehicles, colors, shapes, etc.

FirstWords shows a picture of an animal or vehicle, with letter tiles spelling out the name of the object. There are corresponding letter tiles scattered randomly below the image and the child has to move the letter tiles to their appropriate place by correctly matching tiles. Each time my son touches a letter tile, the app reads the letter. When he touches the picture, the app says the name of the object. Once he successfully puts all the letter tiles in their correct places, the app reads each letter, says the whole word, and the picture spins, enlarges and makes the appropriate animal or vehicle sound before moving to the next word. The voice of the male reader is clear and pleasant.

There are some settings you can adjust to make it a little easier or harder depending on your child’s age and familiarity with the app. I love that there are visual cues for beginners who don’t know their alphabet yet. They can randomly move tiles around, but when they get close to the matching tile, it lights up.

My son adores these apps and was very quickly able to use them without help from Mom. He learned his alphabet by playing these games, picked up some vocabulary and now he gets that letters combine to make words. It’s really fun to see him take skills he’s picked up using the iPhone and apply them to reading print books. He loves to spell out titles and words in his books, and it’s very natural to him to move between print and electronic media.

FirstWords apps are currently available for iPhone and iPad, and I thought they were worth every penny. New animals and vehicles have been added at no extra charge with periodic updates of the app, which helps to keep the game interesting. For less than the price of a mocha at Starbucks my son has had hours of entertainment and education, and it’s so nice when my husband and I can actually sit and enjoy a cup of coffee at the end of a meal instead of taking turns chasing our energetic boy around a restaurant. Also great for car trips, plane rides, doctor’s waiting rooms, or anytime the parent in charge needs a little break.

Learning Touch also makes a First Letters and Phonics app. My son loves it, but to me the voice of the reader/singer for the app is only slightly less grating than nails on a chalkboard. Caveat emptor!

ebook Review: I Love You, Daddy

Anyone who has been to my storytimes knows what a softie I am for books about Mama or Daddy Love.  You know, those overly sentimental books that make you feel all squishy inside about your kid and make you temporarily forget about all the concerts and bars you could be going to if you weren’t on potty duty.

This is one of those books.  I Love You, Daddy is adorable.  I may have even gotten a little weepy at the end.  Beautiful watercolours, beautiful text and positive parenting are all present.  Unfortunately, there are no interactive features, and the only option is Read by Myself.  I would be really pleased with this eBook- except for the fact that I actually paid $2.99 for it.  If you have to pay something, there SHOULD be interactive content.  Otherwise, you may as well just read one of those old fashioned books.  The ones that take up space on shelves, collect dust and have to be shipped from Asia.