Showing posts with label ebooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ebooks. Show all posts

Monday, September 7, 2015

Honoring Cesar Chavez on Labor Day (ages 8-11)

I want to take a moment on Labor Day to honor Cesar Chavez and share a new biography that conveys his life and work clearly for young readers. This is a must-have for school libraries, and also a good choice to have at home.
Cesar Chavez
True Books biographies series
by Josh Gregory
Children's Press / Scholastic, 2015
Your local library
ages 8-11
Cesar Chavez changed conditions for farm laborers across the United States, especially in California. He helped farm workers come together to demand better working conditions and fair wages, and still inspires people today to stand up for their rights.
"Cesar Chavez changed farm labor in the United States."
Bright photographs will draw students in to this biography, but it's the overall design that makes me recommend it so highly. This biography is written in clear, short sentences -- but more than that, it is organized clearly in a way that helps students form a clear picture of his life. As you can see from these examples, each chapter has a meaningful title, and sections headings help students create a focus for their reading. Captions provide focused information, and are set out in red.
"Chavez talks with striking workers in a worker's home."
The timeline is one of my favorite features. It is often difficult for students to piece together the different parts of a person's life. Here, the timeline helps young readers see the key details progress in chronological order.
"1962: Chavez founds the National Farm Workers Association and begins gathering members."
This biography is available in paperback for home or classroom use. Our schools subscribe to TrueFlix, an online resource that lets students access full-text books as well as curated resources. I especially like the "read along" feature that provides full-text narration. Through this subscription, we have access to books on 18 different subject areas ranging from biographies to ancient civilizations to outer space.

You might also be interested in these picture books about the fight to improve the working conditions of farm workers in California:

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic Library, as well as accessed through out TrueFlix subscription. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Poetry in motion: Celebrating moving, grooving and jumping outside (ages 3-11)

I love sharing poems with kids that create a sense of motion and play through the way they twist words, create movement and bounce to their own rhythm. Newbery winning author Kwame Alexander called basketball "poetry in motion", and today I'd like to flip that metaphor around to celebrate two collections that celebrate sports with poetry in motion.
Good Sports
by Jack Prelutsky
illustrated by Chris Raschka
Knopf / Random House, 2007
Your local library
Google Preview
ages 6-11
Prelutsky celebrates sports from baseball to soccer to gymnastics, gleefully swinging and catapulting through motion and emotions that will resonate with kids. They'll love his playful rhymes, and they will connect with the way these short untitled poems can get to the heart of how they feel.
"I'm at the foul line, and I bet
The ball will go right through the net.
I'm certain I will sink this shot,
For I've been practicing a lot.

I concentrate, then let it go...
I know it's good--I know, I know.
It makes an arc, I make a wish,
Then hear the soft, sweet sound of SWISH!"
Share these short poems with kids and ask what they notice -- do they like the rhythm and rhyming of the first two lines, or maybe the use of the "s" sounds (alliteration) in the last line, emphasizing the sound of SWISH of the basketball. Rashka's illustrations are loose and impressionistic, especially appealing to 3rd through 5th graders because they don't feel too young. I love how he incorporates diverse kids throughout--the player making the shot above has long wavy red hair, maybe a girl or maybe a boy.

For poems that celebrate all sorts of outdoor playing, definitely look for A Stick Is an Excellent Thing, with Marilyn Singer's playful poetry and LeUyen Pham's joyful illustrations.
A Stick is an Excellent Thing
Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play
by Marilyn Singer
illustrations by LeUyen Pham
Clarion / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Your local library
ages 3-8
Kids will love the way these short poems celebrate all types of playing outside, whether it's balancing on the curb, running through a sprinkler, making stone soup with friends. Use these poems to make kids smile and also use them to show how poetry can create a freeze frame, its own small moment. Here's one that my students will definitely relate to:

I like to walk the edges--
   the curbs, the rims, the little ledges.
I am careful not to tilt,
  to stumble, lump or wilt.

I pay attention to my feet
  so that every step is neat.
I am dancing in the air
  but I never leave the street.
Pham's illustrations are full of bouncing, running, smiling kids, in both city and suburban scenes. Kids are playing in large and small groups--I love how she shows how much kids like to play together. Her kids are modern and multicultural, and full of smiles on every page. My older students will relate to Singer's poems, but the illustrations make this collection best suited for younger kids.

Both review copies were borrowed as ebooks from the San Francisco Public Library while I was on vacation. Hooray! I especially appreciate the way SFPL has ebook tutorials for first time users. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers?

I read with interest a recent New Yorker article, Being a Better Online Reader by Maria Konnikova, and I would love to explore my thoughts on this article. We all are reading much more online than we did ten years ago, but how is this affecting the way young children are developing as readers? How is this affecting the way teachers and librarians help students learn to read, discover a love of reading, and develop their critical thinking skills?

Over the past several years, I have observed these changes:
  • most adults read for work online -- mainly on desktop or laptop computers
  • many adults read for pleasure using digital devices, like the iPad, Kindle or Nook
  • most children (ages 7-12) read primarily print books when reading for pleasure or school
  • students are learning to research online, starting at about age 8-9
  • standardized tests are shifting to online assessments
I feel very strongly that if we are going to start assessing students online, then we need to provide specific experiences and instruction for reading online. Explicit instruction is crucial -- it is unfair to assume that our children are "digital natives" and learn through osmosis how to read online. If we make those assumptions, we will simply reinforce the digital divide that is created by unequal opportunities and access.

Konnikova points out that the way we read online is different than the way we read in print. She steers clear of passing judgment, but rather ponders how this affects the way we acquire knowledge. Konnikova writes,
On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.
I would argue that this skimming is an essential skill for coping with the huge amount of information we have to sift through online. We need to teach our students how we skim effectively. But we also need to talk with them about strategies for when we discover a nugget -- how we need to consciously slow down to digest the information.

Later, Konnikova looks at research that has explored this point -- that we need to teach our students explicit online reading skills:
Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book.
I have noticed this with my own daughter, whose high school is now one-to-one iPad. She likes reading her English texts online because she can annotate them well, but she prefers to read in print if she is just absorbing and enjoying a book.

Schools must specifically teach students in 4th grade and above how to apply their reading skills to digital reading. Starting in elementary school, they need to practice researching online and teachers need to talk about how this might be different from reading a print book. It is essential that our schools invest in technologies, so that teachers and students can learn these skills. But I would also argue that it's essential for schools to invest in librarians who understand this intersection between reading, information and digital experiences.

Adults often ask me if kids will continue reading print books. I believe the answer is absolutely yes. First of all, there's access and quantity issues. Children in first through third grade need to read 10-20 short books every week. They want to browse through physical copies. Schools, libraries and families need access to inexpensive paperbacks. Even highly digital affluent families are reluctant to continue purchasing ebooks at this rate.

I would also argue that there is something more tangible, more comforting, more reassuring for young kids holding print books. Konnikova quotes Maryann Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, as saying “Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time." Young children need that time. Families need that time.

It is interesting that I read this article online, following a link suggested by KQED's Mindshift blog. But I returned to it several times, reading it in different chunks, rereading it, skimming it again. This type of repeated reading might be what our students need to get comfortable doing, taking the time to dive into ideas and ponder them.

As you watch your children and your students, are you noticing that they are reading digitally more than they were a few years ago? Is the way they are reading changing? The digital world certainly brings more opportunities within easy reach for many students, but how are we preparing them to take advantage of those opportunities?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Love, The App -- winner of the BolognaRagazzi Digital Awards, 2014

Today, I'd like to share a guest review by Emily S., age 10, also known as my youngest daughter. This week, she read Love, The App, winner of the 2014 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award for fiction.
Love, The App
developed by Niño Studio
based on the book by Gian Berto Vanni
ages 6-12
review by Emily S., age 10
I just read the book app Love and I think that it is amazing. Why I think that because I love how the company that made the app have a lot of interactive features but not too much interactive items that the reader wouldn’t get distracted from the book.

This book app is about a girl who gets taken to an orphanage because her parents left and she has no relatives. And when she goes to the orphanage none of the other kids play with her just because she is ugly. But one day the manager of the orphanage almost kicks her out of the orphanage.
She didn't have any relatives.
I also really like the layout of this book app especially because of the transitions. Why I love the transitions of this book app is because you have to figure out how to turn the page, you don’t just swipe your finger and it turns the the page, you have to tap certain objects or you have to swipe the flaps in.

I think that the moral of the story is that even if someone looks different it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a kind heart or that they don’t deserve friends. And that you should always treat people the way you want to be treated.

In conclusion I think Love is a great book app because it is a great story,it has interactive features, and it has a great moral too. This book app is great for all ages (even grownups!). Why this book is for all ages is because it is heartfelt, interactive, and it has a great story structure.

Do you want to learn more? Watch this video trailer:

Thanks, Emily! I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this. It's especially interesting how much you enjoyed having to "figure out how to turn the page". I agree that the moral of the story really shines through in this story.

The review copy of the app came from our home library. We purchased it after reading about the BolognaRagazzi Digital Awards in the excellent journal Children's Technology Review.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Finding great resources: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 6)

Just look at these kids on the computer--they are totally engaged in doing an activity together. I want to help create situations like this. But it isn't just a matter of putting a computer in front of kids. You need to bring the right media experience as well.

Children at school, Lucélia Ribeiro, Flickr
Technology is changing so quickly that it’s hard to figure out what’s engaging and what is just a marketing drive from another tech company. Parents and educators face a huge array of digital media claiming to be the next best thing.

My first advice is to listen to friends and family--get their recommendations about quality books, apps and sites. Talk with other parents about how they navigate this digital world with their kids.

Also listen to kids--they love talking about their favorite new websites and games. Ask them about what they find really engaging. Talk about the difference between mindless fun and problem-solving, creative games. See what they recommend and think is really interesting.

Look to Children’s Technology Review to learn about a range of different media, from digital games to apps. I value their thoughtful analysis and focused reviews.

Also check out Common Sense Media for a range of different media reviews. The excellent design of this site lets me find exactly what I'm looking for, from reviews of current movies and video games to their take on different websites for specific ages. For example, here's my search on math sites for ages 6-9. Each website review includes an age recommendation, quality rating, learning rating, and a short review focused on what parents need to know.

Definitely check out Great Websites for Kids, put together by the American Library Association. I especially like the way this site is organized into different topics kids might be interested in: animals, the arts, history, literature, math, science, social sciences and general reference.

I've really enjoyed the blog Little eLit, which shares many creative ways to engage kids with digital literacy, especially in the library. The Fred Rogers Center consistently puts out interesting articles on young children and media -- a recent blog post focused specifically on Technology and Family Life.

Are there any sites that help you find great digital media to use with your children? This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating together: using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 5)

Photographing nature, via USDA, Flikr
Kids love to create, whether it’s digging in the sandbox, making a paper collage, or creating a digital calendar. Think about how your kids can use digital cameras or mobile devices to create their own media. Take this example from Let’sPlay. Look for an old digital camera or flip-style video camera.
Take (digital cameras) to the park with you and put them in your child's hands—or on their helmet, firmly secured with duct tape. There's something about being able to document their own footage that brings out the adventurer/daredevil in kids. That's a recipe for awesome—and YouTube bragging rights at school.
Older children love creating their own mashups, learning how to digitally edit photos. This sort of active screen time is far different than passively watching TV.

One of our favorite apps is Toontastic (free with in-app purchase of puppet sets, or $19.99 for an all-access pass), created by Bay Area startup Launchpad Toys. This app encourages kids to create their own animated stories. It guides young users through breaking down a story into five basic steps, then adding cartoon scenes, music and characters along the way. You narrate the scene while moving characters with your fingers. Kids absolutely love it, and there’s a great guide to help parents, encouraging collaborative play between grownups and kids.

I love the way Jennifer Reed, a dynamic school librarian, is using an online story creating site Storybird with her 5th graders. She's showing great examples of "hooks" and stories her students have created. These kids are completely engaged in the creative writing process, in large part because they get to use digital media to publish their final products.

As you think about digital media, think about the way children are engaging. Are they passively consuming media, or are they creating something while they use it? I've seen kids learn essential digital skills while doing something as fun as creating a birthday invitation on the computer. What can be better than learning through play? Our role as parents is to create these opportunities, think outside the box and see what creative ways we can engage our kids while introducing them to new media.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

eBooks through public libraries: Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 3)

Do you like reading ebooks? Did you know you can borrow them for free from your public library? Our local public libraries are expanding their digital collections, and it’s getting easier and easier to load these onto your own mobile device.

This is a constantly changing field. My best advice is to check out your local library’s website and to ask your librarian for advice. Here’s a sampling from our local public libraries in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Public Library offers digital books for kids and adults through their Axis 360 and Overdrive platforms. Over 3,000 children’s fiction titles are available through Axis 360, many with text-to-speech capabilities. Overdrive features digital audiobooks and ebooks. SFPL has over 2,500 children’s fiction titles in their Overdrive collection. Any California resident may apply for a library card from SFPL and check out digital books.

Oakland Public Library also offers digital media, including ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and music, which library cardholders can download. The Oakland Library has over 1,500 fiction titles for children through Overdrive, which can be read on a Kindle, iPad, Nook, mobile phone and computer. Oakland card holders can also download three songs a week using the Freegal site, which provides access to Sony Music songs.

The Marin County Free Library has an ebook collection through a variety of platforms available for Marin County residents. Overdrive and the 3M Cloud Library are the main sources for downloadable ebooks, but they also have some interactive titles through Axis 360. Marin’s Overdrive account has 800 fiction titles for children and nearly 3,000 for adults.

Need help? Check out the tutorials on the San Francisco Public Library website. These online presentations provide specific information for Kindle, iPad, Android and Nooks. I found them helpful as they led me through the specific steps, one slide at a time. Here's their tutorial on using Overdrive on the iPad:

If you are finding the selection at your local library limited, do try other public libraries in your state. All California libraries will issue a library card to any California resident, whether or not they live in the local area. Other libraries offer digital library membership for a small fee.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 17, 2014

Reading ebooks together: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 2)

Kindle kids, via Eric Rice, Flikr
Parents are beginning to explore digital reading opportunities with their kids. Everyone has different tastes. The real trick, in my opinion, is to figure out what fits you and your family. Engage in this conversation together. Try different things out. Talk with your kids about what they like. Above all, read together in lots of different ways.

One mom I know keeps a digital book loaded on her phone so she can read aloud to her kids when they’re stuck waiting for an appointment. Digital audiobooks keep your place saved for each time you come back to your book, often syncing between devices as well.

Many children who are beginning to read like increasing the font size on ebooks. One avid young reader said,
“I like it when I can’t see how many pages I have left, especially when I’m reading a really long book.”
A heavy print book can seem intimidating. Reluctant readers find reading on a digital device appealing because their “just right” book looks just the same as everyone else’s book. The built-in dictionary, speech-to-text and audiobook syncing abilities of digital books can be a huge advantage to children struggling to read.

Explore your public library collection of ebooks; these collections are growing every month! You can download books to your smartphone, computer or tablet. Explore your library website or ask for help. I’ve found that the user interfaces of sites like Overdrive and Axis360 are continually improving.

Reading together, via Robyn Jay, Flickr
Consider interactive book apps, especially ones that integrate audio narration, word highlighting and interactive features. Some of my favorites apps available on the iTunes App Store for young children are Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night, Cinderella and Jack & the Beanstalk by Nosy Crow, and The Monster at the End of This Book.

As you read together, talk about what you find interesting, how the story is coming to life in your imagination, what it makes you wonder about.

Read all the parts of this series, Using ebooks and digital media with young children. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 1)

Mobile devices are infiltrating our daily lives. Kids know how smart phones, tablets and computers are ever-present, taking their parents out of the moment as they check email, sports scores or traffic conditions. Parents often wonder if their children have too much screen time, but I would argue that’s the wrong question.

Kobe drawing, via Marcus Kwan, Flickr
As parents, our main job is to help our children develop skills and mindsets they need to engage with the world in productive, satisfying ways. We want our children to actively participate in their world. This is the lens through which I look at digital experiences.
  • How can I help my children discover engaging, interesting experiences online and offline? 
  • How can digital devices add to the mix, helping my children learn and grow?
At the heart of this, parents need to remember that our interactions with our young children are what lead to learning. Whether it’s reading a book, playing a video game or listening to music, we use media as a springboard for learning when we do these activities with our children and talk about what we’re doing.

As Michael Robb, director of the education and research at the Fred Rogers Center says,
“Learning is most likely to occur when children are having warm, language-rich interaction with their adult caregivers.”
eBooks, video games and digital media provide many opportunities for active, engaging experiences, but they can also be used as electronic babysitting. When you’re looking at using media with children, always ask yourself whether it’s encouraging active, imaginative engagement and interactions with adults or peers.

This week, I'd like to explore different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wee You-Things, a fun book app with great positive spirit (ages 3-6)

Each of us is special. Everyone contributes their own unique gifts to the group. Celebrate our individuality. These are all values I try to share with my own children and my students. Normally, I don't like "message books", but I have to say that Wee You-Things shares its message in such a joyful, kid-friendly way that it brings kids back to it again and again.
Wee You-Things
developed by Wee Society
2013 Cybils Book App Finalist
ages 3-6
In Wee You-Things, a colorful parade of friends celebrates their own special quirks. Ruth has a purple tooth, Royce has a tiny voice and Lamar has a crooked scar a la Harry Potter. Thoroughly silly, these monsters will bring certainly keep preschoolers giggling. As the story says, "You-Things mean that no one in the world is the same."
Every picture is cleverly animated to show off the special You-Things. The bold, colorful patterns, sound effects and rhyming prose are spot on. Some are silly and fanciful, and might be more likely to lead to teasing -- like Brad having two dads. I just love how it includes all sorts of differences.

At the end kids get a chance to create their own You to join the parade of friends. It's a perfect way to let kids know looking or sounding different is okay and these "you things" are what make you special.

If you like Todd Parr's books celebrating diversity, you'll love Wee You-Things. It would make a great addition to a home, preschool or library story time.

The review copy of this app was provided by the developer, as part of the Cybils awards process. The Cybils winners will be announced on February 14th. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 9, 2014

To This Day, by Shane Koyczan -- powerful book app for teens (12-18)

Intense. Gripping. You could hear a pin drop.

Those aren't words you typically hear when kids describe book apps, a medium known more for its flashy interactive elements. But that's exactly how they react to the powerful spoken word poem To This Day, by Shane Koyczan, that's been turned into an amazing app. If you have a teen, definitely share this with them.
To This Day
written by Shane Koyczan
developed by Moving Tales, Inc.
2013 Cybils Book Apps finalist
ages 12-18
Shane Koyczan
In To This Day, Koyczan writes of his experience dealing with violence, bullying and harassment in school in a searingly honest way. The app takes Koyczan's performance and adds animation and artwork created by multiple artists, making the anti-bullying message even stronger.

At first I wondered whether the app provided a different experience than watching the video. Only after reading, listening and watching the app a few times did I realize the true extent of the differences. Every time you open the app, different animated clips run with the individual stanzas of the poem. This keeps the reader engaged, thinking about how the artwork develops and extends the meaning of the words.

The animations, crowd-sourced from over 80 different artists, resonate with the material because they communicate the sense that people of all stripes and hues experience problems of bullying. The variety of the illustrations helps take Koyczan's very personal poem and make the message more universal on a visual and visceral level.

Koyczan makes sure readers know that words can hurt more than sticks and stones, but that in the end we all must walk the balancing act in our lives, believing in our own beauty.
“My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways.” says poet Shane Koyczan. “I wrote To This Day, a spoken word poem, to further explore the profound and lasting impact that bullying can have on an individual.”
I also love sharing this poem in a book app format because it allows the reader to experience Koyczan's powerful performance, but to bring some of the reading qualities to it. On the app, you can easily reread a stanza if you want it to sink in a bit more. If you're watching the video, you lose control of the pacing and let the poem wash over and sink in.

Please, please -- find a quiet moment. Listen and read this poem yourself. Think about how it resonates with your experiences, or friends you know. And then find someone else to share it with.

To This Day is a finalist in the 2013 Cybils Book Apps Award. The final winner will be announced February 14th. The review copy came from my personal library. But since this is currently free, I strongly believe this is a must-have app for all teens and anyone who's survived high school.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

MirrorWorld app, by Cornelia Funke: exploring a fantasy world with transmedia (ages 10 - 16)

I've long been fascinated by the way authors use different types of media to tell stories, whether it's the written word, audiobooks, films or plays. So it's natural that I've been drawn to apps that combine multimedia approaches to tell stories. But I've been truly amazed by MirrorWorld, an app written by best-selling fantasy author Cornelia Funke to build and extend a fantasy world from her new series of novels. This app is a wonderful example of transmedia storytelling, where authors use a variety of media to tell different aspects of the story.
written by Cornelia Funke
developed by Mirada Studios
2013 Cybils Book Apps finalist
ages 10 - 16
iTunes App Store
The first thing you'll notice about MirrorWorld is the way it invites you to explore the fantasy world from Reckless and Fearless in a nonlinear way. Once you push through the mirror, you find yourself in the Ogre's Tavern. It's a bizarre place, with a severed arm wrapped in chains, a witch's brew, a treasure hunter's gold coins, and more. Wander through the tavern and choose what you want to read, or use the table of contents to read and watch in a more organized fashion.

These sixteen short independent chapters expand Funke’s fantasy world with original content, seamless integrating beautiful illustrations, audio narration, music, and animation. Whether documenting animated fencing instructions or telling how Jacob Reckless first met the treasure hunter Albert Chanute, this app is both an intriguing introduction for those new to the world and exciting backstory for fans who want more. Check out this trailer for a sense of the app:

MirrorWorld’s art direction is perfectly on tone with the dark and beautiful content. The art is at once sophisticated and simple, never overpowering the story. In "A Bad Substitute Father", readers can either "view the spectacle" and watch a shadow play while listening to Funke read the chapter aloud, or they can read the story themselves. This reinforces the book qualities of this app, while exploring the multimedia opportunities presented by the iPad's interactive features to let readers explore this world.

This app truly grows the reader's sense of this fantasy world, instead of defining it the way so many movies do. Funke and Mirada help readers discover the way they like to imagine this world, whether it's through a shadow play, a narrated story, or a picture book fairy tale. Funke's writing is beautiful, and her narration is lyrical. I really felt like I was glimpsing into her imagination.

I must say that I have not read the MirrorWorld novels, though I am now drawn to them. That's the fascinating thing about transmedia -- each element can be enjoyed independently or as part of a whole.

For a fuller discussion of transmedia, check out this post by Sarah Towle: Transmedia and Crossmedia -- One and the Same?

The review copy of this app was provided by the developer, as part of the Cybils awards process. The Cybils winners will be announced on February 14th. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Disney Animated: amazing multimedia nonfiction book app (ages 9 and up)

Disney's animated movies have enchanted families for generations. Now, this richly layered multimedia book app takes readers behind the scenes to see all the different aspects that go into creating animated feature films.

Disney Animated
developed by Disney / Touch Press
2013 Cybils Book App finalist
Apple's iPad App of the Year for 2013
ages 9 and up
iTunes App Store
Read about the original development of animation, watch Walt Disney talk about where story ideas come from, zoom in to look at a detailed storyboard from 101 Dalmatians drawn by legendary illustrator Bill Peet. Readers can zoom into look at the detailed drawings and captions, to see how the artists envisioned the story as it developed.

Storyboard for 101 Dalmatians, from Disney Animated

It's absolutely fascinating peeling back the layers of classic animated as well as computer generated (CG) films, seeing how a scene develops from the initial story sketch to rough drawings or computer models, to final colored animation. With the scene from Chicken Little, you can see how the animators matched the drawings to the recorded dialog.

clip from Chicken Little, showing CG animation process
Picture boards for the Wreck-It Ralph characters in the Sugar Rush game show the visual inspirations, including pictures of marble cake swirls and butterscotch candies. Interactive elements let readers stop animated clips, progressing frame by frame, swipe through a timeline with every Walt Disney Animation Studio feature film, and manipulate Vanellope, a CG character from Wreck-It Ralph. A book could never let readers see these animated layers in action!

This book app lets readers progress at their own pace, diving into sections they're interested in. It's a perfect blend of book, animation and interactive features, all designed to help readers explore the many facets of animation.

Yes, this app builds on the appeal of Disney movies. Yes, it starts out with that sweeping music and view of the Magic Kingdom. But from the first page, it's brings you into discovering the art and technique that goes into making these movies. Every time I read it, I'm amazed at the ingenuity of Disney and his colleagues as well as the collaborative effort that animated films require.

For an in-depth look at this app, check out this video review by the Children's Technology Review. CTR is one of the journals I subscribe to for excellent assessment of apps and games for kids.

The Cybils winners will be announced on February 14th. The review code was provided by Disney Studios as part of the Cybils process. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Endless Alphabet: fresh & fun book app! (ages 3-7)

Cybils book app finalist Endless Alphabet combines all the great features of picture book apps: interesting content, fun animation, clear narration, and engaging interactive features -- all designed with the kid audience in mind. The result is a real winner for young kids, an app that they'll choose to go back to again and again!
Endless Alphabet
developed by Originator
2013 Cybils finalist
iTunes or Google Play
ages 3 - 7
Combining unique words with clever illustrations, adding silly animated monsters and unforgettable sounds, Endless Alphabet is a book app kids will return to again and again. Filled with words ranging from alarm to hilarious to musician, this is no ordinary alphabet book.

Endless Alphabet

Readers start by dragging letters to spell out the word, reinforcing simple letter-sound associations. Then, they hear how to pronounce the word, learn the meaning of the word, and watch a short, very silly enactment of the word. This fun trailer will give you a sense of the app:

Developed by the same team that brought us Sesame Street's Monster at the End of This Book app, Endless Alphabet is perfectly designed for its age group. Kids can choose whether to move from word to word or to repeat a word as many times as they choose. The app draws kids in at each step, but all the interactive features build on the primary focus of learning vocabulary and letter awareness.

If you like this, you'll also enjoy Originator's newest app: Endless Reader, designed to help kids acquire sight words essential to early reading.

Check out all the 2013 Cybils finalists in the book apps category! Many thanks to Paula Willey of PinkMe for nominating this delightful, wacky must-have app!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Announcing the Cybils Awards: Book Apps and more!

I am super-excited to announce the finalists in the Cybils Book App award. This week, I'll be sharing more about each of these apps. These book apps combine the best literary and technical qualities with big kid appeal. They draw children and teens back to them again and again, engaging kids in different ways with each reading.
Disney Animated
written by Disney
developed by Touch Press
Disney Animated is a richly layered multimedia book app that takes readers behind the scenes to see all the different aspects that go into creating animated feature films. It's a combination of movie magic, coffee table book, and museum visit rolled into one.
Endless Alphabet
written and developed by Originator, Inc.
iTunes or Google Play
Endless Alphabet is a superb, interactive, picture dictionary app for kids from preschool through early grade school. Combining unique words with clever illustrations and animation, adding silly monsters and unforgettable sounds
written by Cornelia Funke
developed by Mirada Studios
MirrorWorld is a companion app to Cornelia Funke’s fantasy novels Reckless and Fearless. Whether documenting animated fencing instructions or telling how Jacob Reckless first met the treasure hunter Albert Chanute, this app is both an intriguing introduction for those new to the world and exciting backstory for fans who want more.
To This Day
written by Shane Koyczan
developed by Moving Tales, Inc.
Shane Koyczan's spoken word poem To This Day shares his experience dealing with violence, bullying and harassment in school in a searingly honest way. The app takes Koyczan's live performance and adds animation and artwork created by multiple artists, making the anti-bullying message even stronger.
Wee You-Things
written and developed by Wee Society LLC
Wee You-Things is joyful celebration of what makes each of us unique. This charming book app simply introduces a colorful parade of friends each with his or her own quirk, but in doing so it conveys a message we all need to hear.

Over the last two months, a team of five bloggers has been diligently reading and evaluating nearly 70 nominated book apps. We bring to our task a wide range of experiences: teachers, parents, librarians. We have noticed the app market is certainly developing; we read many excellent apps, and our final decisions were difficult, indeed. We considered the quality of writing, illustration, narration and interactive design. Each needs to contribute in order to draw kids into these multimedia reading experiences.

Head over to the Cybils Awards to check out all the finalists, from books for early readers to young adult fiction. I love the way these awards celebrate the best of children's literature with a real sense of what appeals to kids. Each year, I seek out these books to share with my own students and they are big hits.

Enjoy exploring all these new book apps. I will be delving into more depth on these apps throughout the next week.

Many thanks to the Cybils book app team: Jen Vincent, Aaron Maurer, Jill Goodman and Jackie Parker. You each brought so much to our discussions.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books