Storybook Maker By Merge Mobile- Review and Giveaway



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What we love…

it’s versatility ,it can be used for so many things, great choice of stickers, backgrounds, art tools, sound effects, music and you can record your own narration and share books.

What we’d love to see…

Child proofing of “more apps” button, a “how to” or FAQ page for when you get stuck, picture scene backgrounds

Summary

an incredible tool for creating story books and I would highly recommend downloading it today.

Our Rating

Storybook Maker

Storybook Maker is an iPad only app from Merge Mobile. It is designed to make it simple for adults and children to create their own storybooks and to share them with others. As well as creating your own stories you can also use the app to access and download books created by others that are in the community library. The app contains no adverts, in-app purchases or social media links but does have a “more apps” button which leads to iTunes and a feedback button, I would like to see these child proofed.

Creating a book is very simple – click “new book”, give it a working title and start creating! First create a Title Page, then you can choose from a variety of templates – blank, photo, multiple photos or various combinations of photo and text. The pages are always in portrait orientation,

iPad Screenshot 3Each page can have a white background or you can select from a wide choice of patterned, colored backgrounds (and choose how pale or strong the background is).  There are also lots of different borders to choose from which can go around an image or a page. When selecting an image to go in a photo box on the page, you can choose an image from your photo album, take a photo with your device camera or choose from the huge sticker library. Images can be re-sized, rotated, duplicated and given background colors or borders. Merge Mobile are the developers of the “Clicky Sticky” line of sticker book apps, and a huge library of their stickers can be found in this app. As well as regular stickers it contains  “physics stickers” which are balls, trucks etc. that really move once you have completed the page; it can be fun to incorporate one or two of these in the book to add an extra element of fun to it.

As well as adding photos and stickers you can also use the included art tools to draw your own pictures and even combine them with photos or stickers.

There are also lots of options for the text- there are a variety of font styles, sizes and colors to choose from and the text box can be resized, rotated, borders and background colors added and the text justification changed.

Each page can also have it’s own background music or sound effects (such as applause, ocean, jungle or night sounds) and the story maker can record their own narration.

iPad Screenshot 2To create a new page just click the + button and the current page is saved and you can create the next page. Your completed book is saved in your app library, but you can also share it with others. It can be sent as a PDF (with no sound or animations), sent as a book app to someone else who owns this app or added to the Storybook maker public library. Books are screened before being added to the public library and certain criteria must be met e.g. no pictures of people, private information or inappropriate content.

This app has no instructions you just dive in and start creating, most of how is use it is very intuitive, but sometimes there are things that I wish there were instructions for – for instance in drawing mode is there a way to hide the paint toolbar so you can color to the edge of the page? It also took me a while to figure out how to get a sticker to appear on a drawn background (it automatically goes behind the drawing and you have to click the settings cog and put it in front to be able to see it). Because of this I would like to see a page with a  how to guide, for times when you get stuck. I do also find at times that it can be tricky to work on things close to the edge of the pages as the toolbars can get in the way, it would be nice to be able to hide these when needed. I’d also love to have some generic picture backgrounds added to the background options e.g. an underwater scene, a snowy landscape, a beach, a grassy meadow.

Overall, I am really impressed with this storybook maker. I love all the different options it has; it gives children (and adults) lots of room to express their creativity. With this one app you can make photo albums, embellished with text and stickers;  make a travel journal; create photo collages; create storybooks with your own narration and background music; and create social stories to prepare your child for upcoming events. My nine-year old son quickly created his own storybooks from it, and I used it with my daughter to create a social story for her recent orthodontist appointment and to create fun stories too.

Although I have some suggestions for improvements I would like to see in future updates, it is already an incredible tool for creating story books and I would highly recommend downloading it today.

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NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

Giveaway

If you would like to win a US GIFT code for this app, please share this post via social media and comment on this page saying how you shared and why you would like this app. Closes in 5 days.

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Winners picked by Random.org:
Valerie Maples
Erin C
Daniella
Patricia Barczak
Elaine L

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).



Legend of Momotaro by Ghost Hand Games- Review



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What we love…

stunning graphics, top-notch aesthetics

What we’d love to see…

remember reader’s place, better narration control

Summary

knock-out presentation of Japanese folk tale, with culture and vocab

Our Rating

 

The Legend of MomotaroApps such as Ghost Hand Games’  Legend of Momotaro , which blend traditional stories with cutting edge technology, are one of the reasons that I love the iPad.  This digital storybook offers the reader a visually stunning, detail-laden version of a Japanese folk tale about a young boy who is bestowed upon a childless couple after he arrives bobbing up the river hidden within a giant peach.  Momotaro (peach child) grows up to be a hero, albeit a very modest one, through bravery and perseverance.

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As one reads the story, the images unfurl horizontally, as a traditional Japanese paper scroll (Emakimono), rather than employing simulated page turns. The story’s text scrolls vertically within the horizontal frames. This blend of horizontal and vertical interaction coupled with the gentle swaying of the digital plum trees or bubbling teakettle helps draw the reader in.

Throughout the story there are interactive hot spots, which the reader may uncover by tapping the screen or gently shaking the iPad until the hot spots sparkle. Tapping the hot spot brings up an origami-like piece of paper with the word in English, a picture of the word, plus three ways to express written Japanese: Romaji (transliterated), Hiragana, and Kanji.

The app’s hot spots name many features of the natural world, as well as common animals. It also introduces Japan’s symbolic “language of flowers” to the reader, and gives the reader a chance to dress Momotaro in a variety of traditional armor.

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Readers of the Legend of Momotaro by Ghost Hand Games will enjoy the app’s lightly animated sequences. The story includes no adverts. Social media links are limited to a tiny share button at the story’s beginning and end, plus a similar button to share user-created armor. These links are not parent-protected.

While some pre-readers may enjoy the story, it’s aimed at readers age 7 and up. While the reader can opt to listen to Yuko Kishimoto’s lovely narration, the text is fairly dense and there is no word highlighting, making it more appropriate for independent readers.  It is a good book for younger children to read with parents.

The narration worked well if I listened to the entire story. Unfortunately, if I tried to read the story to myself, I found the narration kept restarting automatically as I scrolled through the text. Learning Japanese vocabulary and cultural information was very interesting, though I would have liked a brief definition of the differences between Romaji, Hiragana, and Kanji. Additionally, I wish the app would remember which vocabulary the reader has “found” even if the app is closed.

 

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Emily is a US-based freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. Follow her on Twitter: @whatwentwrite. She also writes for PadGadget at http://www.padgadget.com/author/emily/



Ansel & Clair: Triassic Dinosaurs, Jurassic Dinosaurs, and Cretaceous Dinosaurs by Cognitive Kid – Review



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What we love…

great iOS integration, intuitive interface, professional narration

What we’d love to see…

build your own dino mini games for Cretaceous period

Summary

dino-obsessed children will love this group of apps

Our Rating

 

Ansel & Clair: Jurassic DinosaursCognitive Kid , the kids’ edu-app developer behind the well-regarded Ansel and Clair series, have added three dino-tastic apps to their roster: Ansel & Clair: Triassic Dinosaurs, Ansel & Clair: Jurassic Dinosaurs, and Ansel & Clair: Cretaceous Dinosaurs. The iMums have previously reviewed Ansel & Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride.

 

As with the other apps in the series, these three apps star Ansel, an alien travel photographer from the planet Virtoos and his robot pal Clair. This charming pair travels on spaceship Marley as they accompany the player on a time traveling adventure to learn about dinosaurs.

 

Players can take pictures on Ansel’s VirtooCAM (aka, the device camera), and store them in his Travel Log. Gameplay begins as the user flies over the earth to North America. Notably, the app will speak the names of other continents and oceans on the globe as well if the player taps them.

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Next the player meets paleontologist Dr. Lindy Bones and takes the elevator down to an area of fossils where he taps and swipes the screen to excavate the dinosaur bone, which is also his ticket to time travel.

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At this point that the three apps’ content diverges. Each app includes dinosaurs that roamed the earth during that its assigned period of geologic time. The way the player interacts with the dinosaurs also varies slightly among the three apps. The Triassic and Jurassic apps include two Make Your Own Dino mini games, the Cretaceous app was released first and doesn’t yet have this feature but it is planned to be added in a future update.

 

Although most seasoned app users won’t need it, there is a well-constructed tutorial that a child or parent can access through the home screen menu.  All three apps use the same system to track whether a user has explored a particular area, and include Clairvision, which goes in-depth on a particular topic after the user has explored the introductory information. When the child interacts with a certain dinosaur Ansel and Clair offer facts about that animal.  For example, Ansel asks, “How do we know ichthyosaurs gave birth to live babies.” Clair responds that the answer stems from scientific interpretation of the fossil record.

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This group of apps includes light animation, allows up to four players, and lets the user set the sound and music volume from the home screen. There are no in-app purchases. Social media interaction is limited to the ability to email pages from Ansel’s travel log. Links to purchase other Ansel and Clair apps from the App Store are parent-protected.

 

Ansel & Clair: Cretaceous Dinosaurs was the first of the three to be released and does not have as many features as the other 2 titles, but the developer has an update in the works that will change that. All three apps include identical intros, but cover different animals and geological periods. Kids with serious dino-fever will enjoy the depths that these apps offer, and will want all three, while more casual users will probably be satisfied owning one title.

 

In summary, this trio of apps will educate and entertain most children, but will also satisfy the curiosity of even the most insatiable dinosaur fan. The apps offer a child a variety of activities relating to dinosaurs that engage his curiosity and creativity.

Star Rating: 5 stars for Ansel & Clair: Triassic Dinosaurs and Ansel & Clair: Jurassic Dinosaurs; 4 1/2 stars for Ansel & Clair: Cretaceous Dinosaurs

Note from Mary: my six-year-old son absolutely LOVES these apps and has learned a lot about dinosaurs from them, he likes dinosaurs as well as a variety of other interests and he definitely wanted all 3 apps and says they are his current favorite apps (and he still uses the Ansel and Clair: Paul Revere’s ride app too although he has had it for many months, so they have had a lot of replay value in our household)

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Emily is a US-based freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. Follow her on Twitter: @whatwentwrite. She also writes for PadGadget at http://www.padgadget.com/author/emily/



Josh the Whale by Thor Media – Review



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What we love…

Gentle story, interactive games, 3-d images, the message in the tale

What we’d love to see…

Music volume controls, word highlighting as it is read.

Summary

A sweet tale about a small Grey Whale, his daily life and a time when he was a hero. Brought to life with 3-D animations and interactive mini-games.

Our Rating

Josh the Whale Josh The Whale is an iPad only interactive book app from Thor Media. The app was inspired by an illustrated story Aaron Thorup wrote when he was in third grade, his dad held on to the story and many years later his family turned it into an app. The app has read to me or read by myself options and his narrated by (the now adult) Aaron Thorup. The app is child-safe – it contains no adverts, in-app purchases, app store links, social media or external links of any kind.

The app is the story of a pod of Grey Whales and a baby whale named Josh. Josh is the smallest whale, as he isn’t growing properly and sometimes has a hard time keeping up with the others in the pod. Sometimes Josh likes to go and explore by himself, and has his own special places he likes to visit. One day whilst exploring on his own he finds one of the other baby whales in trouble, and he rescues her from an Orca, and gets them both safely back to the pod.

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The story is set in a 3-D underwater world with computer-generated animations and interactive mini-games interspersed throughout the story. The text appears on the bottom of the screen, there is no word highlighting as it is read, and narration is optional. I liked the background music, but did find it a little over powering at times, so I would like an option to change its volume and switch it off independent of the narration.  There is a page navigation option, which is useful to let children quickly find their favorite pages and games. My children enjoyed the mini-games such as helping Josh to catch krill, chasing away jellyfish and making the baby whales sing.  Whilst reading or listening to the story children learn a little about Grey Whales, their life, feeding and songs. It  is a nice gentle story and also sends a nice message about self-worth and valuing everyone.

 

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The developers recommend this for age 3-8 years, which I think, is about right. Overall, a sweet tale about a small Grey Whale, his daily life, and a time when he was a hero. Brought to life with 3-D animations and interactive mini-games, it will be enjoyed by young animal lovers from pre-school through early elementary school. It includes an important message: that no matter how small or different you are, you are still important and can still make a difference.

 

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NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

 

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).

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