Archive | April, 2013

The Adventures of Onesock – My Pal Roger

20 Apr

Onesock app iconPublished by JustKidsApps, The Adventures of Onesock – My Pal Roger is delightful story about Onesock and his misadventures with the newest family member, Roger the dog, who bounces into his world and develops a liking for Onesock’s favourite toy.  Although it isn’t mentioned in the story, Onesock has Autism and displays behaviours associated with this.  Like many children with autism, Onesock has sensory issues with his clothing, in this case with his sock.  He has difficulty with social situations and changes to his environment, such as the introduction of the new pet or visiting his Grandparents.   Onesock has a particular attachment to his toy alligator, which he uses for comfort and to transition through difficult situations.  When faced with a trip away from home, and a new dog that keeps trying to play with his toy alligator, Onesock becomes distressed and anxious. Things are resolved when Roger saves the day. It is no surprise to learn that the author, Roy Ruiz, is the father of the real life Onesock.  Onesock is portrayed with love, respect and acceptance.

Features

This is a story with a lot text, so having two reading modes is a handy thing.  I prefer to read the stories to my children and tend to turn narration off, but my children have listened to the narration and enjoyed this too.

The illustrations are  attractive and colourful.  We loved finding the missing sock in each page, although we still haven’t found it on one page!

There are subtle interactive elements on each page indicated by sparkles. Touching some of these might activate an environmental sound, such as a dog bark, a giggle etc, but other interactive spots play more dialogue in the voice of the character, so you can learn more about how the character is feeling. As with many other JustKidsApps books, this kind of feature can help with comprehension.

Other features

  • Lovely illustrations by Natalie Silva
  • Clear, soothing  English narration by Priya Rana Kapoor.  (I don’t speak German, but the child  narrator sounds clear and expressive, as do the voices of the characters)
  • Text is highlighted as narrated
  • Bilingual in English or German

This YouTube video gives away the plot by showing you the last page of the story, but you’ll also get to hear the soothing narration.  

Wish List

  • An option for clicking individual words to hear them spoken when in “Read Myself” mode.  This would help those children who are mostly independent readers, but who struggle with the odd word.
  • More Onesock adventures – I’ll buy these as soon as they are published.

Verdict

It is a joy to see a story with an autistic child as the main character in a story.  Given the prevalence of ASD in our communities,  children with ASD have been under-represented in all forms of media and particularly in children’s literature.  Any child will enjoy reading about the adventures of Onesock, but the story will resonate with families affected by autism.  I was happy to part with a measly 99c for a story of this quality, and I’d happily pay more.  This is the second of Ruiz’s  Onesock books, but the first available as an app.  JustKidsApps timed the release perfectly to coincide with World Autism Month in April, 2013.

Adventures of One Sock - My Pal Rodger - JustKidsApps - Katrin Draemann Barothy
Publisher:  JustKidsApps
Cost: 99c
iPad only

Alphabet Animals – a slide-and-peek adventure

9 Apr

ABC Animals app iconI was excited to be able to review this app from Auryn Apps with my children.  I own quite a few story apps published by Auryn, and the quality of illustrations and stories is always high, so I was hoping Alphabet Animals would be of the same quality.  I’m delighted to say that it is.

abc animals - H for HorseAlphabet Animals is exactly what it sounds like:  an alphabet book with illustrations of animals. Each page has an animal in the shape of the initial letter of its name. D is a dragon, L is a lion, O is an orang-utan and so on.  I love the gorgeous illustrations by Suse MacDonald.  As you slide the tab across to see the letter, the animal moves a little.  The crocodile opens its mouth, the vulture’s wings flap, and so on.  If a few seconds pass without the screen being touched, prompts appear highlighting the interactive parts of the page.

You could go through the book page by page, in alphabetical order, or you can tap on specific letters to go straight to that letter.  My children were impatient to see “their letters” (i.e. the letters in their names) so this is how we first explored the book.  It was also fun to guess which animal would illustrate each letter.  Zebra for Z was a no-brainer, but we shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the dragon for D (it is the app’s icon!)

abc animals game 1It was nice to see an Australian animal used to illustrate the letter K, but we have a quibble.  Koalas are marsupials, not bears, and it is incorrect to refer to them as koala bears.  Koala on its own is the correct name.  Unfortunately it is a mistake we’ve seen in a lot of apps and books. My little Aussies are very picky and would like the developers to fix this in the next update.

 Game Time

abcanimals - name game The book on its own is wonderful, but there is a game in the app that adds to the fun.  Children select the letters of their name, then drag the “animal letters” over the top to spell their name with animals.  They can then select a frame and save the image or send it to an email address.  My children love this activity.  The images of their names are works of art, and I’m going to print them as photos to go in my children’s scrapbooks.  The names would also look great on the front of greeting cards.  I know the activity asks you to enter a name, but we took it further and entered spelling list words.

Music

One other feature is a musical theme that plays in the background.  While the tune is cute and happy, you can turn it off.  I chose to have it off after a bit, but not before my children had fun making the animals ” dance” by sliding the tab back and forth in time with the music.

 Verdict

I’ve seen a lot of ABC apps, and while there are some I quite like, I can honestly say there are not too many illustrated as beautifully as this one.   Alphabet Animals will hold your child’s attention and is a great one to share snuggled up on someone’s lap.  Highly recommended.

Alphabet Animals: a slide-and-peek adventure is an enchanting picture app, kids will love to learn from. This app teaches animal names, alphabets and their shapes to kids; by Suse MacDonald (iPad version, by Auryn Apps) - Auryn Inc.Publisher: Auryn Apps
Price:  $1.99
iPad only.

Felt Board by Software Smoothie

4 Apr

feltboardMy children love playing with their felt boards and shapes, so I was delighted to try Felt Board by Software Smoothie, which brings this activity to the iPad.  My children and I had a great deal of fun trying this out, and we have shown it to lots of friends, young and old,  who are equally enchanted with it.

Features

  • Backgrounds – We have several felt boards in our home collection, but this app has 27, including outdoor scenes, space, interiors, a ship, plain backgrounds and more.
  • People – 6 bodies are available in a choice of pale pink, brown, black, blue, purple and red.  There are many faces available, including a variety of eye colours, and choices of happy or sad.  Likewise, there are lots of different hair styles, each with several colour choices, and some beards and moustaches.
  • Clothing – You’ll find lots of choices for dresses, skirts, tops, swimwear and pants.  Several complete outfits are also included for various professions, including firefighter, doctor, knight and more.
  • Accessories – In this section you will find hats, scarves, footwear and other accessories.  In addition to “everyday” items, you’ll find times for fairies, knights, royalty and more.  Also included in this section is a wheelchair.
  • Animals – All sorts of animals can be found here, including pets, farm animals, and fairy tale characters. The unicorn has been very popular in our house.
  • Alphabet in upper and lower case
  • Numbers and shapes

The YouTube video below shows how to use the app.

Activity Ideas

Like painting and drawing apps, apps that allow you to create pictures are great for illustrating stories.  Pictures made with Felt Board could be used with writing and book-making apps such as PagesKeynote, Book Creator or Picturebook, to name but a few.

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Some of the boards consist of several backgrounds, making them ideal for sorting and classifying activities.  I used one with rectangles to create a colour sorting activity, where I placed a number of felt items in the centre white rectangle for children to drag into the rectangle with the corresponding colour.  In another activity, I created a counting activity.  One board in the set lends itself well to looking at seasonal changes, as it has an array of four backgrounds, each a different season

Things we love about this app

  • You can’t lose the pieces ( they will not be sucked up the vacuum cleaner if you leave them on the floor!)
  • You can use as many of the same piece as you want.
  • There are so many backgrounds you can create nearly any scene you want.
  • My daughters discovered that, when you resize a person, any facial features, hair, clothing, or accessories you place on that person automatically resize to fit.  They also resize with the person after you have applied them.  This feature is really clever.
  • Boys love this app just as much as the girls.  It might initially look “girly” but believe me that there are lots of pirates, knights and other “boy” themes to keep everyone happy.  I’ve shown this to my boys and their friends, aged from 5 to 10 years old, and they all happily spend ages making adventure scenes.

Wish List

  • Vehicles – More vehicles would be wonderful.  There is a ship and a couple of rockets, but my children were looking for some farm vehicles and trains.  It would be great to have a variety of air, sea and land vehicles.  We did manage to make some vehicles from the shapes with a little success, but it was hard to make diggers, trucks and trains the way we wanted them to look.
  • More Animals – My children would also like to see some jungle and bush animals added to the animals section. A few lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) would be fun for jungle or zoo scenes, and some kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus and snakes would be a start for some of our Australian bush scenes.  Perhaps we are a bit greedy, as there are already lots of animals to choose from.
  • Fairy wings have been suggested by one young lady as a much-needed addition to the accessories section.  We did have a success shrinking a person down to their smallest size and placing them over an enlarged butterfly, but you can’t “stick” the wings on.
  • Individual Facial Features – While there are lots of faces to choose from you can’t select individual facial features and combine them. One of my children has suggested having separate eyes, noses and mouths so that she can have more control over how the faces look.  While I believe this would make adding faces a lot harder for some, I can see her point.  (I prefer the face options that are already in the app.)
  • Saving Files – I’d like to be able to save activities such as those I created above.  You can save photographs of the scenes you create, but you can’t save them in a way that you can manipulate the items on the board, such as with the sorting activity. While it doesn’t take long to make them, it would be handy for teachers to be able to prepare activities in advance and then load them as necessary, as time is at a premium in classrooms.

Verdict

This app is simply so much fun, it is hard to believe it is educational.  My children still love playing with their “real” felts, but this app is now a favourite and has been particularly handy when travelling.  We are not alone, as everyone we have shown this app to has fallen in love with it.  Even if you don’t have children, this is a very appealing app.   I have  been revisiting my childhood, having so much fun creating scenes with the felt shapes.  This app is suitable for all ages and is an app that will “grow” with your children.    I challenge anyone not to fall in love with it.

Felt Board - Software SmoothiePublisher:  Software Smoothie
Price:  $2.99
iPad only

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