Tag Archives: reading

The UnStealer

13 Mar

This review was originally published on The Appy Ladies website.

Normally I wouldn’t recommend a story where the hero was a sneaky, shadowy thief, but the UnStealer is not your ordinary villain. Yes, the UnStealer is a sneaky thief who creeps in shadows and looks a bit scary in the black hat and cape, but you can’t help love a character who turns unhappy into happy, unhelpful into helpful and uninspired to, well, you get the idea.


These Uns were changed by tapping words on the page.

These Uns were changed by tapping words on the page.

The opening pages set the scene by introducing the UnStealer and his favourite “collectables.” Interactive elements allow children to alter the appearance of the Uns to match the text, e.g. Tapping on the words bold, italic or underlined will change an Un to that style.
Once we have been warned of the UnStealer and his shocking exploits, we move on to some case studies. An unfunny, unhappy clown at a sad excuse for a birthday party has his mojo retuned and saves the party after the UnStealer strikes. In similar stories we see what happens to an unconfident lass, and later an unfriendly dog. Spoiler alert: the UnStealer turns out to be a pretty decent chap after all. Continue reading

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.


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.


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.

Far To The North – PicPocket Books

25 Nov Far to the North by Gina Ricci - PicPocket Books cover image

Far to the North app iconI love reading stories to my children.  We read a couple of stories most nights, and we often read and explore eBook apps together at other times during the day.  The interactive elements of eBooks can add meaning to text and bring a lot to the reading experience.  Still, when you are trying to settle and calm your children, you might not want them tapping all over the screen.  At those times, you need a story that is simple with not much fuss.  Today I am reviewing an eBook app that fits this category, and is one my children have come to love.

Far to the North by Gina Ricci, is simple story about polar bears, and how they spend their day before settling down for the night.  The beautiful illustrations are enchanting, and the narration is clear and expressive.  The background music plays seamlessly through the app, and adds to the relaxing tone of the story.  Slideshow-like in operation, the only interactivity you will get is swiping to turn the pages.  There are some beautiful, subtle animations that form part of the illustrations, but there is nothing to be tapped or dragged on the pages.  The story is not Christmas-related, but it does seem to fit the whole “North Pole” theme that seems to be prevalent at this time of year. Continue reading

Sight Words Hangman by Sogabee

7 Sep

Sight Words Hangman app by Sogabee - app icon“But I don’t want to do my sight words. They are boooooorrrrrrring” went the standard complaint from Master B. This has changed recently thanks to two Apps by Sogabee. I’ve already reviewed Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop, and today I’m happy to be able to tell you about Sight Words Hangman.


Sight Words Hangman game

My incorrect choice has been greyed out. This was my third error in the game. Once more error and I’m OUT.

  • Flash Cards Activity – This works as most Flashcard activities do: swipe the screen to show a word and hear it spoken. If the Quiz mode is turned on, children have the opportunity to attempt the word before tapping the screen to hear it spoken.
  • Hang Man Activity – Instead of guessing a correct letter, as in the traditional Hangman game, children must identify the correct word from a choice of four. A Repeat button is available so the word can be listened to again if needed. Correct answers receive positive feedback. Incorrect answers are shaded, a piece of the hangman is revealed, and the child gets to try again. After four incorrect answers, the game finishes. There are no time limits, so children can take the time they need without being penalised. Results are saved and can be reviewed. (See below).
  • Sight Words Hangman Word Lists

    Here are some of the available word lists. You can see the contents of each list.

    Word lists Sight Words Hangman comes with 35 lists of words, each with 10 words. There are an additional five lists with Holiday-themed words for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The contents of each list can be seen in the List select screen.

  • Difficulty Level – Use the settings to select the difficulty level. The easy level uses random words and the hard level uses words starting with the same letter.
  • Voice – words and positive feedback are spoken in a clear and pleasant American Male accent.
  • Sound – A fun theme plays on the main screen only. You can’t turn it off or alter the volume, but this isn’t really an issue as the main screen is used only briefly.
  • Progress Tracking – View the results to seen when each list has been attempted, which words are recognised, and which words are needing work.
  • Simple interface – there are not a lot of “bells and whistles” in this app, making it easy to use. The clear, uncluttered screens make it easier for children to focus on the task at hand, without being distracted by superfluous visual and audible elements.
  • Special Needs – while this App is aimed at children in lower primary/elementary school, its graphics would be age-appropriate for older students with special needs. The hangman activity is one of those universal games played by all ages so it won’t seem too childish for older students.
  • Safety – There are no in-app purchases or advertising, and no links to social networking or websites. There is one subtle link to Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop in the iTunes App Store, but it has to be deliberately held down for a few moments before it activates, and it can be easily removed. Children will not be able to activate it by random tapping.

Wish List

I started thinking of what I’d like to see in this App, and realised that Sogabee had already delivered the features I wanted in Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop. I like being able to make custom lists to match the lists my children have for their homework, and I like to create individual profiles so I can track the individual progress of my children, and so they can have their own collections of rewards (although there are no collectables rewards in Sight Words Hangman.) Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop lets you make custom lists and has rewards for the child to collect.  Individual profiles are not available with the Pixopop App, but I am told they are looking at this feature for future versions.  It would be great if they could add individual profiles to Sight Words Hangman.


Sight Words Hangman makes learning sight words fun for children. A few minutes on the flashcards activity each day will help children learn to recognise their core sight words, and the fun Hangman game will reinforce this. If you already have Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop, you probably don’t need to get this App (the Pixopop App has versions of both the Flashcard and Hangman activities as well as a spelling activity), but if you are looking for something to take the drudgery out of learning sight words, then Sight Words Hangman is a good choice.

Disclaimer:  Marcel Widarto from Sogabee kindly provided me with codes for both Sight Words Hangman and Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop for review purposes. I am happy to receive App codes for review purposes, however I will give an honest review of each App.

Publisher: Sogabee
Price: $1.99

Sight Words Hangman - Marcel Widarto

25 Jun

Some thoughts about using interactive books with children. Although I have some good eBooks on my iPad, I think this post really sums up why they will never replace story time with “real” books with my children. At the very least, there is something so much warmer about sitting down with an old-fashioned book than with an eBook reader.

Acorns to Oaks Centre

Deadline News
Claire McKim
June 24, 2012


READING interactive e-books to under-threes could hinder their development and break vital bonds between parent and child, experts have warned.

Digital books, which allow children to physically interact with storylines, are becoming increasingly popular in Scotland, with new versions of classics such as ‘Peter Rabbit’ and ‘Alice In Wonderland’ including interactive elements for children to participate in.

But child development specialists warn that the interactive storybooks could have a damaging effect on the growth of under threes – and could even harm their eyesight.

JK Rowling offers an interactive experience of her Harry Potter books.


Some authors have embraced the digital books trend, with Scot JK Rowling offering an interactive experience of the Harry Potter novels on her Pottermore website.

But others, such as The Gruffalo author Julia Donalson, have refused to move to digital and spoken out about the importance…

View original post 518 more words

Happi Papi Literacy Apps

1 Jun

Happi Reads and Happi Spells are two fun literacy Apps from Happi Papi.   Although I have the English versions, international versions are available in alternative languages, depending on which country’s iTunes store they are purchased (more information below.)

Happi Reads App iconHappi Reads

Happi Reads is a variation of a flash card activity where children read a word and then match it to one of three pictures.   Children are clapped and cheered, and receive a fruit token for correctly identifying each word.  Once six tokens have been collected, the game ends with children tapping a large picture if the fruit to “eat it.” The feedback for incorrect answers is an “uh-uh” noise.  Children don’t get a second attempt at the same word, but they move on to a different word without a penalty.  The logic behind this is that the designers thought that, if kids were to get a second chance at the same word and picture set, they would start guessing instead of really making an effort to read the word. Continue reading

When The Wrong Book is the Right Book

15 Apr

New to the iTunes App Store (and also available for Android)  is The Wrong Book, written and illustrated by Nick Bland and given its electronic format by Wheelbarrow.  Though new to my iPad, this book has been a favourite in our home for a while.  So popular is it with my children that I can just about recite it backwards whilst standing on my head, and what could be more fun than that?  A couple of things, actually… Continue reading

Benjamin Bunny Pops Out with Peter Rabbit just in time for Easter

3 Apr
Illustration from children's book en:The Tale ...

Illustration from children’s book en:The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter will have its 110th birthday this October (Personal Trivia:  it was published just days after my paternal Grandmother was born) and it is just as fresh and wonderful for children today as it was at the beginning of last century.  It is a must-have book for the family bookshelf.  There are a few electronic versions available, including several on the iTunes App store, but today I’m just going to look at the treatment Loud Crow gives it in their version PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The great news is that its sequel, PopOut! The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, was recently released.  Another Beatrix Potter Tale has also been given the Loud Crow treatment with PopOut!  The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, equally as fabulous.

If you can imagine a delightful vintage Pop-up book, then you’ve pretty much got the picture. Continue reading

iBigtoy Picture eBooks – a Cautionary Tale?

31 Mar

As promised, I’m starting a series of eBook App reviews.  I’ve already reviewed Susan Boynton’s Moo Media books published by Loud Crow, which are some of the best picture eBooks you’ll find, but today I’m going a little further back down the quality spectrum.   I’m actually starting with some that I just want to remove from my iPad because I really don’t like them.  They act as an example of why you can’t believe everything you read in an App’s description.  Doesn’t bode well, does it? I promise we’ll get back to the good things next post with good ones for the Easter break.

Are we sitting comfortably?  Let us begin……

iBig Toy has a LOT of eBooks available on the iTunes store.  It is difficult to rate this collection of Apps, except to say that there are a few adequate ones, and there are several that are so bad it is nearly funny. Continue reading

Evaluating Apps: How to pick a good story app

16 Mar

When I look at reading apps for my children, I have a number of criteria in mind.  It is difficult to get an app that meets every requirement, but having these points in mind can help you separate the good from the mediocre. Continue reading

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