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The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Scholastic

Reviewed on 09/17/17
Paid on | iOS

Fans of Captain Underpants will love this app!  The app contains a slightly animated version of the entire first book in the Captain Underpants series (you can choose to read it yourself or have the narrator read it to you) as well as an avatar generator (complete with ridiculous and somewhat crass silly names) and four fun mini-games.  The mini-games include one where players try to aim the hypno ring at Principal Krupp, one where they maneuver a skateboard through a maze to reach Captain Underpants, one where they slingshot pairs of underpants at robots (Space Invaders style), and a sound mixer full of all of the grossest sounds you can imagine set to some funky beats.  The longer you play, the more features will be unlocked. Perfect for kids who think fart noises are the funniest thing ever! *Side note: Scholastic also has a free app called Planet Pilkey which includes more content for fans, but also features a complicated coin-earning/spending system (boo!) and a comics generator (yay!) and overall is somewhat less user-friendly than the app reviewed here.

 

Age group: Grades 3-5
Tags: Book App, Characters, Games, Stories

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Broken Rules

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

Invite kids to take a journey with an old man in this beautiful, calming app. Follow along with this wordless story and help the old man move through his journey by raising and lowering hills. As the old man reaches resting spots, he reflects back on his life in memory scenes. Parents should be aware that death via illness (not the old man) is an element of the game, but the ultimate ending is uplifting. The game was not created for children, but the self-determined pace, the simple game mechanics, the calming soundtrack and the gorgeous artwork add up to a great game for parents and children to play together. In fact, playing from the perspective of the old man might just give your kids a little more empathy or might spark some interesting conversations between the two of you!

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, Stories, Things that Go

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Alike Studio

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

Although the game begins with Kosmo’s robot girlfriend, Nova, getting blasted into pieces that are scattered throughout the galaxy, this game is actually charmingly cute and relaxing to play. The goal of the game is to travel throughout the universe helping Kosmo to collect pieces of Nova as well as mementos of their relationship that will help to restore her memories of them together when she’s been rebuilt. Each planet that Kosmo travels to has a different scenario, but most of them are fairly familiar (like a children’s park or a library) with a few extraterrestrial elements (robot dogs, aliens of all sorts, etc.). Parents should be aware that one of the searches takes place in a bar, but it’s fairly tame (there is mellow banjo music on this level) and a few of the side characters shoot laser guns. Also, the front page of the app allows access to social media, so keep an eye on this unless you want your twitter feed to suddenly be all about this game. This is a fun one for kids and parents to play together!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Growing Up, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Ustwo

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

One of the best games in app-land now has a sequel! This app was not specifically created for children, but it’s kid-safe and a wonderful app for kids and adults to use together.  Since the first Monument Valley game came out years ago, other companies have been trying to copy it, using similar design elements and color schemes and dreamy music, but nothing has ever been quite as good as the original until now.  This sequel has all of the beloved elements of Monument Valley (mind-twisting 3D labyrinths, sherbet colors, self-pacing and a thread of a storyline), and it builds on those in ways that brought gasps of delight from both me and my son when we played through it together. You’ll see new friends, old friends, and encounter new game twists that keep the whole concept fresh and new.  If you liked Monument Valley, you will not be disappointed in Monument Valley 2.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Art, Concepts, Engineering, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Growing Up, Math, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

Tinybop

Reviewed on 07/10/17
Paid on | iOS

Mix and match body parts from all different kinds of animals (including humans!) to create a new creature, then take it for a test run to see how well it works!  This app is set up similar to TInybop’s Robot Factory app, but instead of building something with mechanical parts, players build a creature using a variety of biological bits.  First, a creature body is hatched from a colorful egg, then you choose what sorts of legs, arms, wings, fins, tail, head, eyes, ears, mouth, tusks or horns your creature should have.  A zebra body with 4 sets of kangaroo legs?  A caterpillar body with a flamingo head and a gecko tail?  Why not?  Once you’ve designed your creature, try it out on the treadmill.  Does it move most easily on land, sea or water?  If your creature is really struggling to move quickly, what changes can you make to improve it? Once you’re satisfied with your creature’s design, give it a name, then set it loose in the wild where you can feed it, play a game with it, create a habitat for it or race it against other creatures you’ve designed.  There are so many different levels of creation in this game -- will you spend your time trying to make the fastest animal possible?  The most elaborately fancy animal?  Or will you throw together a few quick hodge-podge creatures and then spend your time playing in their “real world” environment with them? Whatever you choose, this app is rich with potential and inspiration.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Concepts, Creativity, Engineering, Nature, Science, STEM

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 07/05/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

We’re back in the lab again, but this time we’re experimenting with plants instead of chemicals!  If you’re a fan of the original Toca Lab, you’ll probably like this one too. There’s the signature mix of authenticity (plants are identified with correct genus/species names as well as the common names) and whimsy (the plants have faces and say silly nonsense syllables) so don’t expect too much realism (no, when you shine light on a larch it doesn’t usually poop out a dandelion seed), but players will have lots of fun figuring out which of the 5 main actions to use on each plant to get a good reaction. The actions include the classic water, plant food and light, but they’ve also added a centrifuge (which appears to grown tiny baby versions of the plant being experimented on) and a hybridizer that produces comical results. A lighthearted introduction to botany and the concepts of the scientific process.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Amazon, Concepts, Engineering, Google Play, Nature, Science, STEM

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Tinybop

Reviewed on 06/05/17
Paid on | iOS
Freemium on | Google Play

Design your own robot, then take it for a walk in the great outdoors and see how it handles the environment!  Will your robot, walk, stroll or roll?  Will it have laser arms or a brain floating in a glass jar? Will it be able to chop down trees or leap over them in a single bound?  Or maybe, just maybe, you can design the master of the dancefloor!  There are so many options in Tinybop's Robot Factory.  Choose accessories, appendages, a color scheme, then take it a step further and give your robot a name and a backstory!  This app is crammed with options and the possibilities are endless.  That appendage there -- is it a leg?  An arm?  A head?  You choose where to install it on the robot! Feeling overwhelmed by the options?  Check out the robot manual that tells you all about each and every robot part and the different skills and traits it will impart upon your robot. Once you've created a few robots, challenge someone else to come up with a robot that can jump higher than yours or the silliest robot or the most beautiful robot.  Learn more about the makers of this app on the library's App Fairy podcast here!

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Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Creativity, Engineering, NBC15, STEM, Things that Go

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Nexus Productions

Reviewed on 02/06/17
Free on | iOS

This wordless, animated graphic novel book app takes us on an adventure with a boy and his robot.  When his real dad spends too much time working, our hero, a boy named Radio Jones, decides to create a robot version of his dad who can play with him and take him out for wild escapades.  The app features gorgeous artwork with a muted palette, a subtle but beautiful soundtrack and unobtrusive hints to help readers find the interactive elements of the story. Generally, these are not descriptions that would lead to an app that will appeal to readers ages 6-8, but somehow, in this app, it works.  Maybe it’s the graphic novel layout.  Maybe it’s the slightly edgy shenanigans Radio enjoys with his “robot dad.” Maybe it’s the very satisfying ending of the story.  Maybe it’s all of these elements combining together to make one of the most appealing book apps for older kids that I’ve ever seen.  Especially impressive is how all of the interactive elements help move the storyline forward, they’re not just flashy distractions. This story could have been told as an animated short film, but it works great as a graphic novel because it puts the reader in charge of moving the story forward at their own pace.  This element of requiring input from the user engages kids more deeply than passively watching a movie. It’s also an excellent conversation starter.  What would your child do if they had a robot mom or dad? 

Age group: Grades 3-5
Tags: Art, Book App, Engineering, Growing Up, Stories, Technology, Things that Go

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D

Google

Reviewed on 01/23/17
Free on | iOS | Google Play

Create simple animated movies, now with three-dimensional characters and settings! The original Toontastic app has been a gold standard in the land of content creation apps for years.  Now, the creators have put together this new app that takes all of the wonderful features you’ve loved in Toontastic, made them 3D and added a few new fantastic options.  You can still learn a lot about the arc of a storyline by building your movie in several scenes, but now they’ve given you three options for the type of story you want to tell-- short story, classic story and science report!  Each of these options starts by breaking down your movie into scenes (beginning-middle-end or more nuanced divisions like “conflict” or “hypothosis”) and you choose which part of the story you want to tell. Need more than 5 scenes to tell your story?  Add more or take a few away--it’s completely customizable!  Each of the scenes is now larger than just one static screen and your character can walk around inside the scene, zooming in or out. I also appreciate that ALL of the characters can be customized with variations in skin tone and clothing colors as well as adding a photo for character faces.  If you don’t like their pre-made scenery, you can always draw your own original artwork for backgrounds, characters, props, etc.  Get inspired in the “Idea Lab” by watching movies that others have created! A fantastic sequel to a wonderful app, Toontastic 3D is perfect for home, classroom or road trips.  The whole family can work together to create their own original film masterpiece!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Animals, Art, Creativity, Family Play, Favorites, Google Play, Music, Science, Stories, Technology, Things that Go

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila

Reviewed on 12/07/16
Paid on | iOS

Learn musical concepts through this monster adventure app! Travel along a game board and hone your skills through different challenges.  Some challenges ask you to identify which instrument is making the sound you’re hearing.  Others have rhythm challenges, melodic challenges or ask you to repeat short measures of music played on a keyboard (the keys that you’re supposed to play light up). Most of the challenges are listening and identifying rather than creating music yourself, but there’s also a fun play area where you can choose the players, the instruments, then they play a basic tune while you can play your own made-up addition to the band on a keyboard or on rhythm instruments. There are many apps that claim to teach your child how to play music, but this is one of my favorites!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Games, Music, Rhymes and Songs