Barefoot Books collaborated with developer Touch Press on a digital companion to their Barefoot Books World Atlas written by Nick Crane and illustrated by David Dean (November 2011). The atlas’s introduction explains that unlike most atlases, it’s organized by region rather than continent, partly to emphasize how “people in different parts of the world have been influenced by the physical characteristics of the land and by the resources around them.” Our Horn Book Guide reviewer felt that the atlas would be “best used in conjunction with more traditional atlases” due to this unusual organizational structure.
Released in March, the app considerably expands upon and clarifies the content of the print version, while maintaining its focus on environmental concerns. In the print atlas, small (and somewhat arbitrary) images of people, animals, and landmarks representative of a region are simply labeled. Here, zooming in from the global view to the regional view invites users to touch these “feature” icons to read or hear an introduction to each region and statistics on its climate and weather, natural resources, wildlife, transportation, etc. Tapping on highlighted words within the text reveals their definitions. Photographs, simple animation, and sound effects enhance the information.
A cool upgrade in the digital version: country stats such as capital city, area, population, and currency are updated via search engine WolframAlpha. The current local time in each country and its distance from your location accompany these stats. Author (and UK broadcaster) Nick Crane’s British narration is pleasantly reminiscent of David Attenborough’s in the BBC series Planet Earth. Each region also has its own thematic music.
The app offers many ways to explore: alphabetically by region or country, alphabetically by feature, or by spinning the globe. Users can also search for information by keyword. Marking a location or an icon as a favorite allows users to easily return to this content on subsequent uses.
At any time users may turn on or off Crane’s narration, background music, identifying flags, and features icons—though turning off any of these options detracts from both the educational aspect and the fun of the app.
My recommendation? Skip the print atlas and go for the more up-to-date and more engaging app. Available for iPad; $7.99.