Friday, June 22, 2018

App Reviews and Articles, January to June 2018

by Susan Stephenson,

Instead of publishing an iPad app review round-up four times a year, I’m switching to twice a year. Today you’ll find a list of all the apps I’ve reviewed so far in 2018. That list is embedded below.

You might also be interested in browsing through all my iPad app reviews on Pinterest.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Children’s Book Review, Butterfly, We’re Expecting You!

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Butterfly, We’re Expecting You! is a children’s picture book written by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Lisa Stewart, and published by Lothian (Hachette) (2018.) RRP: $Au 14.99 PB. I have previously reviewed Hathorn’s A Soldier, A Dog and a Boy which made it to my Top Children’s Picture Books 2017, and Incredibilia which made it to my Top Children’s Picture Books of 2016.

From the publisher:

Come explore your backyard. Who knows what you'll find? A butterfly, a frog, a bird . . . maybe even a dinosaur!

A sweet and gentle story that feels as warm as a garden bathed in sunlight, from award-winning author Libby Hathorn and acclaimed illustrator Lisa Stewart.

We underestimate children if we think they only want hilarious books. Kids need all sorts of books, and different books for different days. Here’s a thoughtful, lyrical story that both induces a mood of quiet contemplation and builds to a fitting climax.

As an adult, I loved that the book is dedicated to “Harriet and Georgina, who know the poetry of gardens” followed by a quote from Emily Dickinson: “Bee! I’m expecting you!” Isn’t it lovely to think of children rambling through a garden, in awe and wonderment over the creatures they find! Hathorn has chosen language that’s perfectly pitched at a pre-school audience’s comprehension, and included words they will enjoy like “flick your flickery tail” and “hoppity-hop”. The rhyme is impeccable, and enhances the read-aloud experience.

Stewart’s illustration suit the gentle rhyming story. Lovely soft pastels and blurred florals hint of drowsy summer days and there are lots of enjoyable details for kids to ponder over. Together, Stewart and Hathorn build to a cracker of a surprise ending that will have kids roaring in appreciation.

Check out the video below where Hathorn explains the background to the book, and encourages us all to explore the natural world with young kids.

I’ll be adding Butterfly, We’re Expecting You! to my List of Children’s Picture Books about the Environment. Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Creating Picture Puzzles - Invent a Digital Rebus Story

by Susan Stephenson,

This is the fifth short article in my series about ways kids can create picture puzzles. The first was Creating Picture Puzzles - Spot the Difference, the second was Creating Picture Puzzles - a Digital Image to Copy, the third was Creating Picture Puzzles - Seek and Find. and the fourth was Creating Picture Puzzles - Counting Puzzles for Younger Children. 

Creating a rebus story digitally is a little like inventing something according to set parameters. It’s not the kind of story where you can allow your imagination free rein. Instead, children need to look at the images available and weave a story around them. If they start by writing the story first, it can be quite difficult to find a small image to stand in for a word or lots of words.

Today I want to explain a way children can create their own digital Rebus Story. To follow this method, children will need to have emojis enabled on their keyboards, or copy/paste them from a website like Emojipedia.

Open a new document in the word processing program you want to use. For me, on a Mac, this means using Pages or Text Edit. Go to the top of your browser screen and you will see Edit/Emojis and Symbols. Browse through them so you get an idea of what’s available. Then type out your story - with no emojis the first time. Duplicate that text. In the second lot of text, insert emojis where you want. This method is to avoid the formatting glitches that will occur when you combine text and emojis as you type. And if something goes wrong, kids still have the first story to use and can try again. Once I was finished, I exported (File/Export) to PDF, then exported the PDF as an image (File/Export, then change Format to JPEG or PNG.).

Below is a slightly more complex example. Some kids will love the challenge of creating a story despite the limitations; others will just love being able to combine images and text.

Of course, kids can use little images that they draw and scan, or use clipart - or not make something digital at all - a rebus story is fun to do with pencil and paper too. But one way to combine technology with a rebus story activity is to introduce kids to the emojis and symbols available on their own computers and online.

Interested in making puzzles with kids? Check out these free PDF/doc templates I found to download with different numbers of pieces you can use for printed digital photos children take. You might also be interested in my own Word and Image Puzzles for Kids, Literacy-Based and Other Guessing Games, Creating Images with Students, and Creative Prompt for Kids - Start with an Emoji.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Creative Prompt for Kids - Find your Treasure

by Susan Stephenson,

Because the Children’s Book Week theme for 2018 in Australia is “Find your treasure”, I’ve brainstormed some prompts that use the idea of a “treasure” to nudge kids towards some kind of creative activity. The deal is to use my ideas simply as a springboard to any kind of creativity, and the more, the better. Whether kids are drawing, composing music, designing graphics, embroidering, sculpting, choreographing, writing, telling digital stories, decorating a cake, making a movie or designing the set for a play, they are thinking creatively and expressing themselves. And that’s worth more than any treasure I can think of! Far below, you’ll find the 2 page list of all my other creative prompts for children.

* There is treasure in the story about Jack and the Beanstalk. There are bags of gold, a golden harp and even a hen that lays golden eggs. Choose one way of re-telling the story. You might decide to tell a younger friend out aloud. You could create a video with an app like Quik, record your voice with an app like Chatterpix Kids, or use a microphone and a stage to reach a wide audience. You might decide to create papier-mâché or sock puppets and have them help you re-tell the story.

* Describe the best treasure you can imagine. What would you do with such a treasure? Draw and write about it.

* What if you found a treasure map, hidden in an old book? Would you seek the treasure? What might happen next?

* If you were a pirate, you might think treasure was very important. But your pirate ship would need a flag. Design the kind of flag you would like your ship to have. You could include some symbols that are important to you as a reader or a sport-player.

* A dragon is guarding a treasure. How can you and your friends distract the dragon, so you can sneak into its cave and steal the treasure? What happens next?

* Create a dance about someone who has treasure and another person who wants it.

* A magic creature promises you whatever you wish for when you release it from its prison. You wish for unlimited treasure. What could go wrong? Choose one complication and work out a resolution for it.

* How could you make fake jewels and gold? Create your own box full of “treasure” and then make up a play centred around it. Act it out with your friends.

* Create a story about some LEGO characters that involves treasure. Set up scenes to help tell the story with LEGO and photograph the scenes. Use technology you have access to, that will help tell your story digitally. You could also try this activity by using modelling clay to create characters and props.

* Your great-grandfather has left you a very old, tattered map. It seems to be of the land behind the house where your great-grandfather lived, and there is a large X in one section of the map. You suspect it is the secret to what happened to your family’s treasure. The problem is that land now belongs to the Army and there are signs all along a high fence telling people to keep out. What will you do? Tell the story any way you choose.

You might also be interested in:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Children’s iPad App, Fox and Sheep Movie Studio

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Fox and Sheep Movie Studio is an iPad and Android app by developer, Fox and Sheep. I have previously reviewed their Little Fox Music Box, Chomp, BUBL Draw and Hat Monkey.

From the developer:



1. Characters and backgrounds of award winning Apps "Nighty Night", "Little Fox Music Box" and many more
2. Intuitive navigation
3. Over 30 different characters and backgrounds to choose from
4. Dynamic special effects
5. Possibility to export and share movies with friends on social media

Our aspiration is to introduce children to the digital world in a playful and gentle way and thus opening up a complete new world to them.
With our apps, kids are able to step into different shoes, go on adventures and set their creativity free.

What I liked: It’s always great to find an app that encourages children to create something, especially if that is to create a story. In Fox and Sheep Movie Creator, the story is in the form of a little movie. Children start by choosing characters, then move on to choose a background, and finally tap an icon to choose music. I loved that children are encouraged to record themselves narrating their own stories. Being able to save and share the movies is another bonus.

The art work used in the characters and backgrounds is colourful, attractive, and has variety. The app is not free, but is reasonably priced, although better I believe when you pay for the extra packs. There is no editing feature, but I think that’s probably appropriate since the app seems targeted at 5-7 year-olds. Kids can also add details like titles and extra drawings to their movies via the paintbrush tool.

I was disappointed to find the app crashes occasionally, but not always. The Help page recommended a course of action, which I followed, but the problem may be that my iPad is getting older.

Here’s a trailer to give you more of an idea.

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 apps that kids can create with, and my list of tools that involve kids in digital storytelling.
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