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Nonfiction apps for middle graders

These four recent iOS apps for middle grade and older users blend education and entertainment, presenting facts about history, science, and geography in fresh, engaging ways.

Disney American Presidents invites users to peruse “The Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook.” A spread devoted to each president is packed with biographical information: portrait, birth and death dates, presidential number, term(s) served, party, vice president(s), birth state, and more. Interactive icons trigger additional pop-up fact bubbles, and three- to five-minute video profiles (from the Disney Educational Production series The American Presidents) cover the men and their eras. Presidents’ accomplishments, pitfalls, strengths, and weaknesses are also explored in a balanced manner. (8 years and up, Disney Learning)

March of the Dinosaurs, based on National Geographic’s documentary Escape of the Dinosaurs, follows young Edmontosaurus Scar as his herd migrates south from the Arctic Circle. A subplot features Patch, an adolescent Troodon, who stays in the Arctic and experiences his first mating season. Animation from the film is gracefully integrated into the story, and info bubbles offer context about Cretaceous climate, seasons in the Arctic Circle, vegetation, and dinosaur behavior and diet. Profiles of ten Cretaceous creatures offer a zoomable 3-D view of each animal, a brief clip of it in action, and a wealth of facts and stats. (8 years and up, Touch Press LLP)

In Bobo Explores Light, cute robot Bobo takes users on a roughly chronological review of humanity’s history with light, from dependence on natural sources (sunlight, moonlight, lightning) and the discovery of fire-making to the invention of the light bulb and the laser. Once caught up to contemporary technology, Bobo covers various principles related to light, including vision, color, reflection, refraction, chemical-based luminescence, bioluminescence, photosynthesis, and the aurora borealis. The app moves naturally from topic to topic, introducing each on its own screen with a short, conversational paragraph and humorous interactive moments. (8 years and up, Game Collage LLC)

In the digital companion to the Barefoot Books World Atlas written by Nick Crane and illustrated by David Dean, users zoom in from a global view to read and hear an introduction to a specific country. Information on population, currency exchange rate, climate and weather, natural resources, wildlife, and more are kept up-to-date by search engine WolframAlpha; current local time in each country and its distance from the user’s location are included. Photographs, animation, and sound effects enhance these facts. Explore alphabetically by region or country, by keyword search, or by “spinning” the globe. (8 years and up, Touch Press LLP)

From the January 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book. See more kids’ app reviews here.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.



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