Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Looking Back to January, February, March 2016

by Susan Stephenson,

A regular feature on The Book Chook is where I look at popular posts from previous months and years. Today my focus will be on posts from January, February and March of 2016. Don't forget you can use the right sidebar to find earlier posts, too. Click Creating, Learning, Reviews, Reading, Writing and Celebrating to explore those themes, or try the Blog Archive to browse by months. The Free PDFs button takes you to my website where you can download any of the free educational PDFs I’ve created.

I hope you find something useful here, and if you do, thanks for sharing it with others.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Children’s iPad App, Create Storytime - Write Magical Stories for Kids

by Susan Stephenson,

Create Storytime - Write Magical Stories for Kids is an app that encourages and supports children in writing digital stories.

From the developer:

With this app you can:
+ Write magical stories.
+ Use professionally drawn illustrations to inspire creativity.
+ Write and keep your own storybooks.
+ Choose from a variety of different themed illustrations (Pirates, Fairies, Adventure, Superheroes, Robots, Animals and more).
+ Help build reading and writing skills by exploring your child's own ideas in words.
+ Additional image sets available.

What I liked:

Some children need scaffolding when they attempt to write a story. Create Storytime supports young writers by allowing them to use supplied sequential artwork to tell their own story. While a story is suggested by the images given, kids can put their own spin on it. Some kids may find it limiting, others will feel secure and enjoy being guided to create a book for themselves. Each image pack is also already available in a model story, meaning kids can read how somebody else developed a plot for those images.

Navigation is a simple matter of choosing the Create New Story option, then choosing artwork and writing on each page. Once kids have finished a book, they can export it. To export from the main “My Stories” screen they tap Edit then select the story they want to share. An email icon appears and another tap creates a PDF of the story they can share with themselves or others. I believe this is a useful app for education, particularly for those kids who need support to write stories of their own. I also like the emphasis on reading, writing and creating as a fun activity for kids.

There are some free sets of artwork supplied, with others available via in-app purchase.

Where can I get it?

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

I’ll be adding this app to my List, Creating with Kids and iPad Apps, and also to my List, Tools to Involve Kids in Digital Storytelling.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Resources for Kids for Anzac Day 2017

by Susan Stephenson,

With Anzac Day in Australia only weeks away on April 25, here is a newly published children's picture book and an app suggestion to share with your kids, plus links to earlier books I and others have reviewed.

A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy, written by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Phil Lesnie and published by Lothian (Hachette Children’s) (2016.) RRP: $Au24.99 (Hardback), Ebook $Au14.99.

From the publisher:

A moving story, told completely in dialogue, about a young Australian soldier in the battle of the Somme. Walking through the fields away from the front, he finds what he thinks is a stray dog, and decides to adopt it as a mascot for his company. Then he meets Jacques, the homeless orphan boy who owns the dog. The soldier realises that Jacques needs the dog more - and perhaps needs his help as well.

With stunning illustrations from Phil Lesnie, this is a deeply moving celebration of friendship in times of war.

The fact that A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy was based on Hathorn’s months of research on her uncle “…who survived Gallipoli but went on to fight at the Battle of the Somme and was killed there in 1917 at just twenty years old” helps make a story that is already personal and emotional, even more so. The story is all in dialogue, but as you would expect from a poet of Hathorn’s calibre, words are carefully chosen to convey a strong sense of time, place and character. Children may not be ready for a historical or political background to Australia at war, but they will understand the personal connection that develops between a soldier, a dog and a boy. Lesnie’s illustrations bring Hathorn’s words to colourful life for us, filling in the story behind the dialogue and enhancing our understanding of both characters’ perspectives.

There’s only one problem with this picture book - can parents, librarians or teachers share it with kids without blinking back tears? But is that really a problem? Children need to learn not to be afraid of strong emotions, just as we adults do. It’s only by thinking about the real personal stories of lives affected by war that we can gain a true understanding of it. I recommend this recently published children’s picture book to homes and libraries everywhere.

Gallipoli: the first day

This is a free app from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

From the developer:

Watch and explore the events of Gallipoli as and where they happened in a 3D map space. From the first sightings of British Naval ships by Ottoman platoons and the unfolding chaos of the pre-dawn landings, to the ANZAC struggle to make gains in the unforgiving terrain. An entirely new way to look at the Gallipoli Campaign produced by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the ABC.

• Spectacular cinematics feature pivotal moments throughout the day.
• Accurate, interactive 3D map spaces pinpoint events across the day.
• 3D models of military hardware showcase the technology available to the opposing sides in battle.
• Veteran video accounts and audio war diaries, read by Hugo Weaving and others, bring the poignant experiences to life.
• Video commentary by historians including Harvey Broadbent and Les Carlyon; the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove; former Prime Minister John Howard and many more.
• Personnel records, archival photographs and military trees detail some of the thousands of soldiers who fought on the day.
• Users progress rewarded with an increase in rank and specialist medals.

A completely remastered edition of the AFI award-winning documentary, originally published online in 2009.

Where can I find it?

Discover more Anzac Day resources when you read:

Anzac Day Picture Books - Updated from Jeanne at A Peaceful Day.

Top 20 Picture Books for Anzac Day from TL, Megan Daley.

Books about Anzac and World War One at TL Barbara Braxton’s The Bottom Shelf.

Books about Anzac Day: a bibliography by Shellee Young (from CBCA Reading Time.)

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Children’s iPad App, Thinkrolls: Kings and Queens

by Susan Stephenson,

Thinkrolls: Kings and Queens is a physics puzzle app, available for iPad and Android. I’ve previously reviewed Bec and Bo, Avokiddo Emotions, ABC Ride and the original Thinkrolls.

From the developer:

Thinkrolls: Kings and Queens is an epic adventure of logic, physics, and fun! Kids think their way through 228 brilliant puzzles that sharpen their memory and problem-solving skills.

This game has it all; castles, dragons, simple machines, physics, enchanting spells, and a touch of magic!

The goal is simple: Move, handle and combine objects to clear a path, obtain the key, and open the gate to the next level.

Exciting challenges await you at every turn! Lull a cool crocodile to sleep with a song. Make a goofy ghost vanish with reflected light. Collect tasty candy and precious gems to please the castle's dragon. Win crowns, tiaras, mustaches, costumes, and many more majestic accessories to create your own unique Thinkroll characters.

There’s the same trademark appealing illustrative style in this new Thinkrolls game. Navigation is pretty much a matter of proceeding along a pathway, at your own pace, trying to get to the key. It may sound simple, and it is at first, but after a while, you need to think hard about how to proceed. I would like to tell you all that I made it through to the hard level, suggested for kids over 8. But I can’t lie! Still, I played the easier level enough to discover it is a nicely balanced blend of puzzle, challenge and fun. Having users create their own rolling game piece or avatar at the start is an inspired touch. And the backgrounds of castles, drawbridges, levers, bats, spiders and dragons make for colourful and atmospheric gameplay with a touch of humour.

You can get more of an idea of Thinkrolls: Kings and Queens by viewing its trailer, below.

Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens - Video trailer iOS & Android from Avokiddo on Vimeo.

Where do I get it?

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page. I’ll be adding this app to my List of iPad Puzzle Apps for Kids.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Children’s Book Review, Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

With the CBCA theme for Children’s Book Week 2017 being “Escape to Everywhere”, I’ve been looking for books that suit this theme. Here’s a charming children’s picture book by Leigh Hobbs, our Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017, about Mr Chicken and his adventures in Rome. It was published by Allen and Unwin (2016.) RRP: $Au24.99

From the publisher:

'Welcome to Rome,' says Mr Chicken's guide, Federica.

'Climb aboard my Vespa and hold on to your hat.'

Mr Chicken's childhood dream is about to begin...

Another triumph from the Australian Children's Laureate, acclaimed creator of Mr Chicken Goes to Paris and Mr Chicken Lands on London.

I admit to having a great weakness for children’s books about chooks, but surely everyone can see that Mr Chicken is a really cool and whacky character. He also reminds me a lot of myself - off to travel somewhere new? Step 1: read all the books you can on the subject. Step 2: try to learn the language. Mr Chicken also shares my enthusiasm for trying all the wonderful new flavours and textures in a new country’s foods!

I loved the sly humour in Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma. Our hero is seen travelling business class “for the fine food and extra leg room”. We notice in the illustration that Mr Chicken has rather stumpy chicken legs, but his girth makes him overflow onto the passenger next to him! That same girth almost dwarfs the Vespa he rides across Rome on. Like tourists all over the world, we see Mr Chicken/Senor Pollo taking a selfie in front of the Colosseum “to prove he had been there”, and we also see him doffing his tiny black hat to “remember his manners”. He eats lots of gelato and pasta and we see him once more on the final page, taking up even more space on that aeroplane seat.

Kids will love the humour and cartoonish detail of Hobbs’ illustrations, and I think they’ll enjoy practising some of the Italian words they’ll pick up from the book. Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma would make a great introduction to the Book Week theme, Escape to Everywhere. Students could find other books where characters visit different countries and cultures, making lists of what they know about other countries, and what they would like to know. Don’t forget that there are two other Mr Chicken books: Mr Chicken Lands on London, and Mr Chicken Goes to Paris.

Here’s a little teaser from the book.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.
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