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).


Tejas and Lollipop’s Great Cleanup by Azawhistle Kids – Review



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What we love…

great message, cool mid-century modern aesthetic

What we’d love to see…

better parental controls, separate controls for sound and narration

Summary

nag-free way to encourage kids to clean up

Our Rating

 

Azawhistle Kids Everything Has a Home: Tejas & Lollipop's Great Clean Up!Azawhistle Kids’ Tejas and Lollipop’s Great Cleanup , an iPad-only digibook for children, offers its reader a blend of sound advice. The story promotes cleaning up and advocates using meditation and yoga to relax.

 

The story, which is designed for ages 3 and up, stars a little boy named Tejas and his dog Lollipop. As a bonus, it is set with an aesthetically pleasing backdrop of hip, mid-century modern décor.

 

When we first meet Tejas, he is feeling bored, while Lollipop, in contrast, is meditating, referred to in the app’s lexicon as “mashpotatoeing.” Tejas joins in the mashpotatoeing, which clears his mind. No longer bored, he comes up with something to do: he decides to clean his room.

 

Cleaning Tejas’ room is easier said than done because, honestly, it’s a real mess. The reader will enjoy tapping the wide variety of objects (even a rubber chicken!) in Tejas’s room as the clean up begins. The name of each item is spoken aloud when tapped, and also appears in written form on the screen, which teaches object recognition and helps the reader become more familiar with the items.

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The reader might identify with Tejas as he begins to feel overwhelmed by the great mess in his room. It’s Lollipop to the rescue again, but this time she uses yoga to help Tejas regain his focus. “Cleaning your room is easy,” she said. “Just remember everything has a home.” Tejas joins Lollipop in warrior pose, and he now feels reenergized.

 

The story asks the reader to help Tejas find a home for his things, and then the reader gets to put Tejas’ things away. Try to put the rubber chicken on the bed and the narrator says, “uh uh.” Put it in the toy box and the narrator responds, “super tidy.” Once his room was clean Tejas shows it to his mom, who feels surprised and proud.

 

Tejas and Lollipop’s Great Cleanup includes no adverts or social media integration. However, parental controls are largely absent. The reader can share the app via email or read the parents’ section simply by tapping the appropriate area. At the end the reader is asked to rate the app, and if tapped, the child will be taken to the app store. We would like to see these links child proofed.

 

The user may toggle the sound off at the beginning of the app, or by tapping the image of Lollipop at the bottom of the screen, but note, this will silence the narration, music, and sound effects.

 

In summary, Tejas and Lollipop’s Great Cleanup encourages children to take charge of their bodies using mediation and yoga, while they also take responsibility for putting away their stuff.

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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/


Space Cakes by Mrs. Judd’s Games – Review



 

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What we love…

Fun game that provides early math concepts, fun making and baking a cake as well as bright colors

What we’d love to see…

Instructions on how to decorate cakes, hints for finding the right ingredients

Summary

Great app for a space adventure featuring educational concepts and learning.

Our Rating

Space Cakes by Mrs Judd’s Games is the newest universal app for iOS and features the iconic Eli’s Bakery of Chicago. The app features recipe following including a find the object in a variety of cupboards and a refrigerator. After completing this step, you mix the ingredients together and pick out your favorite cake mold. After baking, you get to decorate the cake while it is suspended in air so you can flip it to make sure the decorations go exactly where you want. You can pick from frosting, sprinkles, and toppers. Once the cake is decorated, you begin a journey in space to fly the cake to safety. Once it reaches the planet, it is placed in the gallery. Skills practiced in the app include counting, fine motor, following directions and using fingers or tilting the iPad to navigate space.The app is fun to use and features great early math concepts like counting, following a series of steps, picking out a cake mold, baking and decorating. The app features bright colors, fun space related ingredients, mixing, baking and decorating.

In terms of enhancements, it would be nice to have a hint option for finding ingredients as well as instructions on how to use the frosting and sprinkles. To frost a cake or use the sprinkles, you scroll to find a color, tap on it and then tap on the portion of the cake. This took a little bit to figure out for our testers and was an unfortunate source of frustration. In addition, when following a recipe, it would be nice if you tried to put too many of the same ingredients if it would stop you from putting too many in.

The app does feature advertising for Eli’s Cheesecake but does not contain any external links other than Juddly which is the parental control.

This is a great free app, sponsored by Eli’s Cheesecake and promotes a number of skills important for early learning concepts.

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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.



Extraordinary Jenny Jones by Paperplane Co.- Review



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What we love…

Hand drawn artwork, interactive elements and puzzles, the message in the story

What we’d love to see…

Child proofing of external links, ability to move on without completing puzzles

Summary

A visually appealing, interactive book app that teaches children that not everyone’s perspective is not the same and encourages them to embrace others than are different from themselves.

Our Rating

 

Extraordinary Jenny JonesExtraordinary Jenny Jones is an interactive book app from Singapore based developer Paperplane. It is available as an iPad only app with over 20 hand-illustrated interactive pages and with hidden object mini-games, it is also available as an iBook with 50 illustrated pages and 20 additional pages of bonus content including an interview with the author and activity guides. This review is of the app version. There are options to turn the music and sound effects on/off and there are read to me or read-by-myself options, there is no text high lighting as it is read. There are no adverts or in-app purchases. The home page has a paper airplane icon – clicking on this leads to external links – to the developers website, Facebook and app store, I would like these links removed or childproofed.

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In many ways Jenny Jones is an ordinary little girl, after all there millions of Jennies and no shortage Joneses either. She lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary suburb of an ordinary city and is part of an ordinary, loving family. In one way though Jenny Jones is extraordinary – what everyone else sees as round she sees as square and vice versa. The story shows the reader how life looks from Jenny’s perspective, and has interactive elements to illustrate the point, including a moon that turns square when you touch it; square balls to throw at a funfair; square peas, square corn on the cob, and square tomato slices to eat. Over favorite was the square wheeled bicycles that move when you turn the pedals. Despite seeing the world in a different way Jenny is happy – her parents love her and both she and they embrace her differences and feel  that her viewpoint is just as important as anyone else’s.

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Interspersed between the story pages are four puzzle pages. The first is a single page picture with 3 round objects to find in 90 seconds, they turn square when you touch them and the page turns from sepia to full color when all the objects are found. Subsequent puzzles are bigger – spreading over several pages as a panoramic scene and have more objects to find. Jenny’s cat Chairman Miao can give hints if the child gets stuck (he also gives hints on the other interactive pages too). If the time runs out without the child finding all the hidden objects, it resets with a whole new set of hidden objects to find (they are different every time). Once you are in a puzzle page you cannot move on to another page without completing the puzzle. I would like to see an option added to continue the story without doing the puzzle, as it can be frustrating for kids when they almost complete it, but run out of time and have to start again and get them all before they can continue.

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The illustrations in the app are hand drawn, very detailed and colorful, and they really bring the story to life. The story is professionally narrated but the narrator does have a noticeable (? Eastern European) accent, I would recommend listening to the introductory video to decide if you find this charming or distracting, as personal tastes vary. The interactive elements, mini-games and spot the round objects puzzles add some fun and extra entertainment value. The puzzles are a little inconsistent though in what they consider a round object – Russian nesting dolls are considered round (although really they are curved but not round), but the mums round beads on her necklace are not. The story itself does have a charm to it, and sends a nice message about how not everyone sees the world in the same way and encourages children to accept others that are different.

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The app and iBook are both FREE  in May as an introductory offer but will be paid apps after the introductory period is over.

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iBook

Extraordinary Jenny Jones
Extraordinary Jenny Jones
by John Sheterline

Category: Fiction, Books, Young Adult
Requirements: Compatible with
Size: 35.36 MB

$FREE


 

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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