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Creature-feature apps

These preschool-oriented apps invite young users to explore and learn with new furry (and feathered and…googly-eyed?) friends.

little kittenLittle Kitten opens with a brief (and optional) wordless video introducing our hero, a gray tabby kitten. Following this intro, the kitten — now in a loving home and christened “Crumbs” — plays in the child-owner’s bedroom. In addition to a variety of tap-to-trigger interactive moments (for instance, Crumbs rides on a toy ambulance and flies atop a model airplane) there are several lengthier activity sections. Play hide-and-seek, solve a matching puzzle, play keep-away with a toy mouse, or bounce on the bed to perfect Crumbs’s fancy trampoline tricks. Throughout, Crumbs’s behavior is a combination of realistically catlike and relatably childlike. With impressive visuals, warm humor, and lots of engaging surprises to discover, this is a purrfect exploratory play experience. (Fox & Sheep/Squeakosaurus, 3–5 years)

tinyhands raccoon treehouse appAs TinyHands Raccoon Treehouse opens, you’re greeted by a raccoon, gently bobbing in the air, balloons attached to its suspenders. Hit the “play” button and you’re brought down to the base of a tree (past tunnels and living quarters burrowed into the trunk) to choose an activity such as “Sorting,” “Build,” and “Pairing.” Tap to sort fruits by color with a color-coordinated farmer raccoon, build toys with a baby raccoon, or pair clothes with a pigtailed mama raccoon. With pleasing sounds and friendly graphics, this is an approachable app for teaching simple matching and sorting skills. (Tiny Hands, 3–5 years)

forest flyerIn Sago Mini Forest Flyer, fly a cheery bird through a forest setting during either a spring or winter day. As the bird flies, flora and other fauna in the environment respond to its movement with simple animations: the fluff blows off dandelions, frogs croak up and down a musical scale, pinecones fall from a tree. Pulsing starburst shapes indicate where to fly to initiate more extensive animated sequences. Preschool-perfect humor — including burp/fart jokes and wacky incongruity — and wonder infuses the app. A few interactive opportunities are virtually the same in both settings; others have slight, seasonally appropriate differences. Even with this overlap, there are plenty of unique vignettes to discover in each season. (Sago Mini, 3–5 years)

kinderzoo“We invited 30 kids…to design an app…in 1 hour!” begins Fiete KinderZoo. After a (skippable) slideshow of children creating in the Ahoiii studios, the app proper takes friendly sailor Fiete through a zoo to view the children’s imagined animals, created with a combination of construction-paper cutouts, crayon and colored-pencil details, and the occasional pair of googly eyes. A bit of very simple animation brings the creatures to life. Tap on an animal to hear the child-recorded sound it makes (“Peep,” “ROOOOOAAAAR!”), or tap a fork-and-knife icon to offer it a snack. The cut-paper zoo setting is mostly white space, allowing the kids’ creativity to take center stage and inspiring young users to turn their own imaginations loose. (Ahoiii, 3–5 years)

From the February 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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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