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Plum’s Creaturizer app review

img_0487It’s that (internet) age-old problem: if kids are staring at screens, they aren’t playing outside. PBS Kids’s Plum’s Creaturizer app (2015; iOS and Android), follow-up to the Plum’s Photo Hunt app, attempts to combine techie-fun, some very early science, and outdoor play. According to the “For Parents” section, its aim is to help children “develop a love for this amazing, beautiful, and dramatic planet we call home.”

On the “Build a Creature” screen you’ll see a large scary-silly monster. Tap on a body part of the creature and that part changes color, shape, etc. The features are mostly fantastical or nonsense-y, with some vague real-life corollaries (multicolored horns, wings, beaks, talons, trunks, tails, etc.). There’s a pink button at the bottom left of the screen that rapidly cycles through monsters if you want a truly random creature.

Once you’re happy with your creature, press “done.” Four boxes appear, each with a camera icon and an animal-behavior word: “Hop,” “Hide,” “Defend,” “Eat.” You’re directed to “Choose a mission.” Select one of the words (“Eat: Show your creature looking for food”), then, with grownups’ permission, enable your tablet’s camera feature — pictures are stored both within the app and in your tablet’s photo library — and head outside.

(Disclaimer: if you’re working on deadline, you might take the pictures around your apartment instead.)

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You can resize your monster, change the direction it’s facing, etc., through taps and pinches, to situate the creature in the real-life outdoor scenes the way you’d like. Take your picture, then select your next mission. (The missions are tailored somewhat to the feature choices you made earlier, e.g., “Hop: Where does it hop using its feathery feet?”) After four missions, you can watch a slideshow, then start all over with a new creature. Later, you can look back at them all in your “Creature Gallery.”

There’s not a whole ton of substance, but it’s silly and fun — and there is a tiny bit of learning going on, if you want it.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 5.1.1 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 2.2 and up); free. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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