App Review of Hansel and Gretel: Lost, by AnnMarie Hurtado

What makes a great book app? There are many viewpoints on this, but for me I think a great book app has to tell a good story and use animation and interactive elements to further the comprehension of the words in the story, rather than simply distracting the reader. One book app which meets my criteria for a great book app is Hansel and Gretel: Lost by PB & J Publishing.

unnamedThe interactive elements actually move readers through the plot, which is a real win for beginning readers. The reader makes Hansel throw his breadcrumbs, and watches as little forest gremlins gobble them up. The reader helps Gretel climb the tree to see the witch’s gingerbread house. They later help Gretel kick the witch into the boiling pot and bust her brother out of his cage.

The screen elements are well-synchronized with the narration. For example, when the reader mentions a gopher digging a hole, the gopher pops up, and when the reader says the children looked to the left and then to the right, their view changes accordingly.

But let’s not focus only on the technological aspects of this app—the point of a book app is the story! The story is a good retelling, infused with lots of humor. It is a bit less creepy than the original; for example, in this version the children have loving parents who do not abandon them. The illustrations are cheerful and also help to make the darker aspects palatable for small children. The witch is grotesque yet comical. The spoken narration is lively. There are funny moments added into the story, like Gretel dipping the witch’s glasses in butter, and scrubbing worms off of the witch’s foul feet.

One of my favorite funny parts is when Hansel dares Gretel to go into the forest. Each time the reader taps on Hansel, the words he uses change, and he goes from calling his sister a “chicken” to calling her a “scaredy cat” or a “timid tuna.” He acts out the animals and makes animal noises. I like the early literacy aspects of that. I think kids will like it too, because having the ability to alter Hansel’s dialogue is very empowering.

My one complaint with the storytelling is that the character of Hansel is not as kind or as resourceful as the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel. Some of the original Hansel’s smart ideas are suggested by his sister in this version. But I don’t think this will be noticed by children, and anyway Gretel has always been the ultimate heroine of this story. I can see why the creators made this decision: it shows a clear change from the mean Hansel who calls Gretel a scaredy cat to the grateful Hansel who is proud of how brave his sister is. That adds an interesting new layer to the story, one which children will relate to.

Both the storytelling and the animations that enhance it pull the reader in and make the reader are a part of the story. When my four-year-old reads this story, I see that she is fully comprehending everything and reacting to it with either laughter or horror. And that is what great storytelling is all about!

 

AnnMarie Hurtado is a youth services librarian with Pasadena Public Library.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Pre-Literacy in Storytime for Toddlers: Using Felt Board by Software Smoothie, by Katrina Bergen

When I was the children’s librarian at the Dixon Public Library my favorite iPad app for story time was Felt Board by Software Smoothie. Since leaving that position, I have been in a teacher preparation program that requires iPads and the use of apps in the classroom. Preliteracy as well as literacy instruction is emphasized. In reviewing the concept of Same and Different, an important precursor to organizing the visual world and learning to read, I thought of Felt Board and the fun ways children can recognize and distinguish shapes, letters, numbers, colors, size, etc. The Sesame Street song “One of These Things is Not Like the Others” started running through my head over and over again – a great sound track for a Felt Board presentation. Here’s a demonstration:

Katrina Bergen, student, CalstateTEACH
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Chapter Three of the Little eLit Book

Today we are pleased to announce the release of the third chapter of our book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, entitled “Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Using New Media with Children, Birth through School-age,” was written by children’s librarian Anne Hicks. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

To read more chapters from Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, please visit the “Book” tab of this site.

This project, with many contributing authors, has been a work in progress for some time. Chapters are being released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Toca Nature App Review, by AnnMarie Hurtado

Recently in the car my daughter was playing with the iPad in the backseat.  She was playing Toca Nature, and its wistful, quirky music formed a soundtrack to my drive home. Suddenly she said:

“The bunny rabbit is playing follow the leader with me! I’m going to follow him and see where he goes.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 8.47.01 AMShe adores this app, asking me for it every day. I can see why. The app is an addictive, Sims-like world building game. You shape your world with mountains, lakes, or rivers and populate it with various trees and animals, each of whom thrive in a different habitat and hunger for a different kind of food. You then follow the animals around, observing their movements and feeding them, collecting berries or mushrooms wherever you find them so that you can satisfy the animals’ individual appetites. You can even take photos of the animals you are observing, and these are saved instantly to your Camera Roll.

When I downloaded the app, I played it myself first (as I always try to do) and found it difficult to put down! The graphics are excellent.  he gentle, hypnotic background music helps to immerse you in the world of the app. You can literally spend hours playing with it.

photo-3Like most Toca Boca apps, this is a wordless, completely open-ended app that can be enjoyed by the smallest kids. I liked that when my daughter played with it, she gave names to things and commented on things. At other times during our drive she said, “Oh, what a cute little birdie!” and  “Come here, bunny, have some food.” It showed me that she was getting something out of it beyond just scanning a scene and looking at things. She was imagining herself watching the animals like a birdwatcher or a naturalist. She was also imagining herself interacting with the animals, playing “follow the leader” with the rabbit that kept hopping away. I think that kind of delight and awe of the natural world is something you don’t see often in apps for kids, and I’m glad to have found it in Toca Nature.

 

AnnMarie Hurtado is a youth services librarian with Pasadena Public Library.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Buckle My Shoe, an app review

photo 1I have loved using Anna Grossnickle Hines’ version of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe in storytimes for years.  With its quilted illustrations, the slight variation in text from the traditional rhyme (just enough to make it interesting, not so much that it becomes weird or unfamiliar), and the layers of detail that you can choose to explore with kids or not, depending on how squirrely your group is (How many buttons are on this page? Where did that red thread come from?), this book is rich with read-aloud possibility. I was delighted to learn recently that this book has now been translated into an app called Buckle My Shoe by appropro!

photo 3I am happy to report that the app stays very true to the book. All of the quilted illustrations are intact (with very subtle animations that add interest, not distraction) and in addition to the counting element of the buttons (which is even more apparent in the app than it was in the book), the app incorporates some interactive activities at the end of the book. The activities are all done with a “pile” of buttons at the bottom of the screen, and activities include sorting, making patterns, and making pictures with buttons. I appreciate that the activities are after the book, not disrupting the narrative, but instead furthering the learning and play opportunities. I also love that the activities each have a guided option as well as freeplay prompts. This is one of those hard-to-find apps that work equally well for storytime and for at-home play.

We asked a few other librarians to review the app as well and here’s what they had to say:

“I actually had a chance to use this app in storytime this week, since our theme was nursery rhymes! The book part of the app worked nicely as an addition to our fingerplay. We used our fingers to count along with the app and then did some motions for the words. It’s short enough that we did it twice and then counted to ten using the buttons. The app worked well; although it did quit on me and I didn’t think the animations were dramatic enough to catch and hold my large group’s attention. I also wish the font had been consistent throughout the book.

I did really love the extras! The sorting part is ripe for parent-and-child interaction, which makes me really excited. I can just imagine a mom or dad and a preschooler hovered over the iPad, carefully sorting each button and talking about where it belongs. It’s wonderful!” — Rachel Sharpe, Virginia

 

“I like the illustrations!  Super cute, “quilted” style images make for a very sweet app.

The one thing I don’t like is that when I tap on the images of the numbers, there is no voice over repeating that number.  So when I tap on the number “1” it should say the word “one”.  There is a voice over when I tap on the buttons, which is nice, but I think for a counting app, kids should be able to tap on the numbers and hear the word.  This app seems to be aimed at very young children who are still learning their numbers so hearing the words when tapping on the images would go a long way to reinforce the concept.” — Anne Hicks, New York

 

“This was a very satisfying app – simple and colorful and easy to navigate.  The beautiful fabric pictures were as appealing on the screen as in the book and I liked the moving elements with the read aloud of the rhyme.

I especially liked the Design screen with the button pictures and patterns but to me one of the most appealing parts was the sound of the buttons falling in a pile.  I could definitely see kids following the patterns and creating their own or sorting by size or color.

I could see recommending this app to parents as an early literacy activity since sorting and sequencing contribute to emerging literacy skills and there are abundant opportunities to work on those.  It’s a simple app but it offers a lot of skill building and creativity – moving the different buttons around is easy and gratifying.” — Laura Antolin, Illinois

 

“I recently used the app with some story time participants 15-24 months old. Fortunately I had small groups that week. Though the illustrations directly from the book are bold enough to use with a group other components are best suited for a one child and one grown-up interaction. One child was already familiar with “1,2 buckle” and eagerly touched the buttons on the iPad. Some children came up to touch the screen but others sat back and observed. The app is a lovely extension of the book. Users can choose to have the book read to them, in a child’s voice, or turn off that feature. Words are highlighted as they are read. The automated reader counts the buttons as the child touches them, in any order, and, once touched, the buttons can be moved around the page. Other features of the app include opportunities for counting, sorting, designing, patterning and matching. Success is built in to the counting feature, where a button appears when the user touches a finger on the fabric hand. If you are on the page with the number 2, for instance, only 2 buttons will appear no matter how many times the finger tips are touched. Such is the gentle nature of the app that, in other activities, there is no right answer, encouraging experimentation and creativity. Users can interact as simply as counting from 1 to 10 or get more advanced and sort Venn sets. All aspects of the app lend themselves to conversation which enhances early literacy skills: “Can you find the red heart button?” “How many green buttons do you see?” A gentle, satisfying tinkling sound accompanies the movement of the buttons which are a lovely array of bright colors, sizes and shapes offering all the fun of playing with real buttons without the choking hazard. Buckle My Shoe is a high quality, visually appealing app offering numerous components for educational and creative play. No external links.” — Nicki Petrone, Ohio

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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Dipdap: An app review, by Awnali Mills

Dipdap 002One of the hardest early literacy skills for me to add into storytime is writing. Holding a crayon, coloring, painting—all these activities help children develop the fine motor skills they will need to pick up a pencil in kindergarten and begin writing, and it’s necessary to model this for parents. But I confess that I rarely think to add writing skills into the storytime mix.  So, since we’re on a storytime break, I went looking for something to remedy this deficiency.  Success! I discovered a fun app that helps with these fine motor skills, and I’m looking forward to including it in our play time after stories. It’s called Dipdap by Cube Interactive and is available for iPad ($2.99), Android  ($1.99), and Kindle Fire ($1.99). Dipdap is a little critter who interacts with a child’s animated drawings.

There are two sections to Dipdap:

  1. There are 16 adventures available for play. A child can choose to play the adventure without interacting, or chose to interact by drawing. Dipdap wordlessly presents a scenario to the child, like trying to reach the stars. Little Dipdap jumps and jumps with all his might to try and reach the stars. Then, the dashed outline of a rocket is presented. The child traces the rocket outline (the outline can be turned off if desired), and can chose colors or any other add-ins he would like to draw. Then, Dipdap climbs into the drawn rocket and shoots off into space, bouncing off of stars as he goes. It’s pretty heady stuff for a cartoon character to jump into something you’ve drawn!
  2. There is also a drawing sketchpad in which the child can draw anything they would like. Dipdap sits at the bottom of the page and watches the drawing, actively moving his eyes to whatever part of the screen is being touched. He doesn’t interact with the drawing in any way besides watching it, but the drawing can be “photographed” and saved to the pictures section of the tablet.

There are no in-app purchases, and there are parental controls that allow you to change the music, sounds, and guides.  I think that it will work well to give each child who wants the opportunity a chance to play one of the adventures.  They only last a brief time and I’ll be able to move on to the next child who wants a chance.  I love it when a storytime plan comes together!

 

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Did you see the preliminary findings from the Young Children, New Media & Libraries survey?

At the beginning of the month, Cen and Liz Mills–two of the folks involved in the Young Children, New Media & Libraries survey–shared some preliminary findings of the survey on the ALSC Blog. Some of the tidbits they shared include that 70% of survey respondents are using new media in their library programs for young children, and that 58% consult some sort of resource before acquiring any new media.

The full results of the survey, a joint effort between ALSC, the iSchool at the University of Washington, and Little eLit, will be published this spring in Children and Libraries. In the meantime, click over to the ALSC Blog post to see a few more early details from the survey.

What Makes an App “GOOD”? A brochure from Bethpage Public Library, by Linda Greenbaum

Bethpage App BrochureIncorporating digital technology into the library is a particular interest of mine, and I have been trying to keep up to date with the discussion around these issues, particularly as it relates to children. About a year ago, I started a list of resources as I learned about them, including Little eLit. We saw a need, as many other librarians have, among our patrons on how to effectively use devices with their children. We recently got two iPads to lend to patrons to use in the Childrens Room. They cannot be checked out to be used at home. We downloaded some apps used by other Nassau County (NY) libraries as well as others we identified.

As a further service to our patrons, we felt that having a list of reliable and impartial resources they can use to decide which apps they want their children to see and use was more effective than our recommending specific apps. We want to empower parents to learn how to chose what is best for their child as every child is different. When we purchased the iPads, we thought it would be the time to put the brochure together as a supplement along with our tablet policy. I did a more thorough search of additional online resources and completed the final copy for the brochure, which was then designed by my colleagues in the children’s room.

We are happy to share our brochure with others!

Linda Greenbaum is a librarian with Bethpage Public Library in Bethpage, New York. She works with both children and adults.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Children and Technology: Chapter Two of the Little eLit Book

Today we are happily releasing the second chapter of our book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, entitled “Children and Technology: What can research tell us?,” was written by librarian and doctoral student Tess Prendergast. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

Children and Technology Prendergast

To read more chapters from Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, please visit the “Book” tab of this site.

This project, with many contributing authors, has been a work in progress for some time. Chapters are being released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Creative Commons License
This work, including this and subsequent chapters and any appendices, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site app review, by Awnali Mills

106Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld is a classic bedtime story.  Now, it’s a delightful children’s bedtime app.  Created by Oceanhouse Media and available on iTunes for $3.99, this book app has all the same elements children love plus movement, sound effects, and some delightful surprises.

The app brings the book’s illustrations to life with small movements and sound effects, but not so much that they distract from the story.  At the beginning, you are able to choose to read for yourself or have a narrator read to you.  As the narrator reads, each word in the text is highlighted.  A touch to anything on the screen brings up the noun for the object and the narrator says it, including any of the words in the text.  Some of the object touches bring up not just the word, but an action as well:  a vehicle rumbles, puddles splash, the bird sings. Great vocabulary shows up, with words like “spigot” and “cardinal.”  Lest you think that all this might be too exciting for little ones you’re trying to get into bed, be assured that the narrator’s voice is very soothing and the yawning and gentle snoring the vehicles were doing was enough to make me yawn in sympathy!

108As much as I love this app for the story alone, the thing that tips it into fantastic is that it allows you to record your own voice reading it.  I can just imagine grandparents reading this for grandchildren or a traveling or military parent being able to read their child to sleep from hundreds of miles away.  The app also lets you email your recording. This record function is very easy to use.  The info section on the home page tells you how to do it, but the interface is so simple that I didn’t need instructions to figure it out.  Even better, more than one person can record the story.  The voice options screen, accessible through the little blue arrow on the center bottom, allows you to choose which narrator you’d like to hear from.  The last person to record is the default for narration.

The only thing I disliked, and it was a preference really, were the home screen buttons for the Bookshelf, which offers an app to corral your OM apps, and Apps, which takes you to the app store.  I’d have liked the ability to eliminate these from the screen.

I’m a cheapskate, and don’t usually pay much for apps, but this is totally worth the $3.99 price tag, especially if you’d like someone far away to be able to read to your child each night.

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.