Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween Treats: “The Monsters’ Monster” and Apps that Say Boo!

If you’re a fan of Mutts Comics, I don’t need to sell you on the extraordinary work of Patrick McDonnell. Along with a shelf of books starring his popular Mutts stars—Earl and Mooch—he wrote and illustrated Bad Baby, Our Little Kat King, Art, and my favorite, Me … Jane, which is the Caldecott honors-winning story of the childhood of anthropologist Jane Goodall. His latest book, The Monsters’ Monster along with a pair of not-so-scary apps celebrate the Halloween season with your pre-schoolers and younger grammar schoolers.

Grouch, Grump, and little
Gloom 'n' Doom
The Monsters’ Monster features three little monsters—Grouch, Grump, and little Gloom ’n’ Doom—who constantly fight over which of them is the “biggest, baddest monster.” They create their own Frankenstein-style monster to settle the argument, but he’s the sweetest, kindest “monster” in the world. Monster teaches them all that they can be whatever they want; they can even choose to be kind and sweet like him. There’s a profound story here that goes beyond the holiday of Halloween. We don’t have to live our lives according to the expectations (low or high) of others. We’re all free to create the life we want.

Peekaboo Trick or Treat with Ed Emberley by Night & Day Studios features illustrations adapted from Ed Emberley’s Drawing Books (if you’re a fan of this site, you know I’m loving that). Users see the doors of a not at all scary haunted house. We hear a knock at the door. Tapping the door opens it, revealing a series of objects—like a robot, a bat, a dragon—and we see the word written in lower-case letters as a child’s voice is heard pronouncing the word. Touch again and another knock is at the door. This time it’s a monster. The animated illustrations make their own series of sounds and it’s a nifty little holiday-themed vocabulary list that reinforces early literacy. And there’s fun surprizes for kids who make their way through the entire list. It’s wonderfully in the season, but the Peekaboo series from Night & Day offers something for everyone, all year ’round.

The House That Went On Strike by Jumping Pages Apps features not so much a haunted house as a house that has come to life. This app is part of the YogiPlay system. If you sign up, YogiPlay will monitor your child’s play and email you progress reports. YogiPlay will recommend apps that your child might enjoy that are appropriate for their age, interests, and skills level. Simply put, their apps are marvelous, fun, gorgeously illustrated, and thoughtful. The House That Went On Strike is a storybook app. In “read to me” mode, the charming rhyming verse appears as the highlighted word moves along with the narrator’s voice. It stars a house named (appropriately enough) House who lives on Tidy Street. Each illustration features touch-activated animations. All the appliances and objects in House are happy because they’re well cared for by the family that lives there. But it wasn’t always that way. The family used to be downright slovenly. Until the day the house went on strike. The tricks played on the hapless family are silly but clever. It’s a modern idea about housekeeping as a family activity and a point of family pride rather than as mom’s (often second) job. This is an app that goes beyond Halloween and offers a lot of interactivity throughout its story. Cleaning the house as family fun? Sign me up.

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