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Ansel + Clair: Cretaceous Dinosaurs app review

In a series of apps by Cognitive Kid, child stand-ins Ansel (an alien) and Clair (a flying robot) travel through time to document Earth’s history for their planet Virtoos.

In Ansel and Clair: Cretaceous Dinosaurs (Cognitive Kid, 2012), the first in a dinosaur-themed trilogy, the duo visits a present-day paleontological dig, then heads to the Cretaceous Period. They briefly introduce users to the behaviors, habitats, and diets of several dinosaurs of the epoch, including Oviraptor, Tyrannosaurus rex, Troodon, and the recently discovered Kosmoceratops. Ansel and Clair also touch on some misconceptions about dinos and theoretical causes of their extinction. The narration is engaging and accessible, but does not always distinguish between fact and scientific speculation.

More information is provided when users tap a light bulb icon (earning a sticker) or take a photograph. Photos and stickers are collected in a travelogue, where users can also take notes about what they’ve learned. A few mini-activities throughout the app invite users to excavate and assemble fossils, help protect eggs, etc. A more substantial activity section allows users to mix and match parts from different species to create a custom dinosaur. Up to four user names may be used, allowing multiple players to save their individual progress through the app.

Despite a few hitches — the navigation is straightforward in theory but somewhat frustrating in practice (a single errant tap will send the travelers back to the future) and the app crashed repeatedly while viewing — the cheery guides and clever time-travel premise are promising. I’m interested to see the pair’s journeys to other eras.

For another educational dinosaur app (recommended for slightly older users), see our review of March of the Dinosaurs.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 5.0 or later); $1.99. Recommended for primary users.

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. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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