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Sir David Attenborough’s Story of Life app review

story-of-life-titleReleased in honor of his ninetieth birthday, Sir David Attenborough’s Story of Life (BBC Worldwide, November 2016; iOS and Android) spans his six-decade career as a naturalist and and the voice of the BBC’s wildlife programming. The app — which is, incredibly, free — contains over one thousand video clips from more than forty BBC wildlife documentaries Attenborough has written, produced, and narrated. But you certainly don’t have to be a die-hard Attenborough fan, or even know who he is, to enjoy it. Young and adult nature buffs alike will find hours of fascinating footage to explore. (Not all videos will be suitable for all viewers, however — the documentaries don’t shy away from the harsher realities of life in the wild.)

The videos range in length from about a minute up to about twenty; some are actually thematic collections rather than a single clip. As you might expect from the gorgeous source material, the videos are incredibly high definition. The videos provide many different perspectives on the featured wildlife, from extreme close-up to aerial shots; many capture species, locations, or behaviors seldom — if ever — before filmed. Throughout, Attenborough’s narration and well-chosen music add perfectly pitched humor, suspense, surprise, or pathos to deeply engage viewers in these rarely seen aspects of our world. The clean design and simple navigation allow the videos to take center stage.

I started with “Featured Collections,” which included a wide variety of clips: “Thrilling hunts caught on camera,” “Unique species first filmed,” “Babies step into the unknown,” and “The ‘big five’ beasts of Africa.” You can also browse (use the “explore” icon to filter videos by specific species, habitats, or behaviors) or keyword-search the full library, favorite and share clips, and create customized playlists.



A few additional videos of Attenborough, created just for the app, are hidden among the clips as Easter eggs. The app recommends, for the sake of smooth streaming (and your data bill), that you only use it while connected to WiFi.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 8.0 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 4.4 and up); free. Recommended for intermediate through adult users. You may want to also check out the BBC Earth Coloring app.

And speaking of Sir David, have you seen this silliness?

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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