Last year, Jackson and I were blessed to review Star Toaster‘s wonderful Orphs of the Woodlands for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This year, Star Toaster has brought families and students a brand-new interactive chapter book, Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree for both iPad and iPod (and it’s available in the iTunes store).
Star Toaster creates wondrous learning experiences for families and for children, whether those children learn in a homeschool, a private school, or a public school. The company desires to enable kids to discover the joys of reading with an incredible, Narnia-esque-type tale in their first online experience, which we reviewed last year. Orphs of the Woodlands tells the tale of a squirrel (which the reading child personalizes and names) who experiences incredible adventures. Woven throughout the story are lessons (which seem more like games) on vocabulary, science, art, math, and more. It’s presented as an online reading experience, and as the child reads a chapter, he then has the opportunity to engage in the learning activities.
We absolutely adored our experience with Star Toaster last year, and when I discovered that they had produced another neat learning experience for children, I was definitely intrigued!
Star Toaster’s newest, Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree, is an interactive chapter book which can be purchased from the iTunes store and used on both iPads, iPods, and iPod Touch, requiring iOS 8.0 or later. It tells the continuing story of Abba, the flying squirrel, whose home and family have been swept away in an enormous flood. He alone of his family is left to pick up the pieces. As he searches for survivors, he finds not only two good friends of his (one of whom is a hedgehog and one of my favorite characters) but a small group of animal babies who seem to be orphaned. The 122-page interactive online book is set up in chapters. The student reads a chapter, then is directed to accomplish learning tasks which, when completed, provide food, clothing, and supplies for the animal babies, who are called “orphs.” Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree is designed for children aged 9-11, although older children will also enjoy reading Abba’s story and completing the tasks. (Especially if they’ve already met the squirrel in the original Orphs of the Woodlands; honestly, we’ve been waiting for the newest book on his adventures since we finished the original book last spring!)
The book is comprised of chapters and learning activities, which provide information about science, nature, nutrition, character, math and art, as well as tasks about that information. The tasks are aptly designed for the 9-11 age group. The student reads a chapter, then is directed to complete activities so that he can buy the orphs’ necessary supplies. Each question is assigned a certain number of “goldstars,” the currency of the Woodlands, and the child answers questions until the goal is reached and he can buy the blueberry bushes, or laundry, or whatever the needed supply is.
As updates in the game are produced, they’ll be provided for those who’ve purchased the app, which is priced at a very reasonable $1.99. Additionally, more than one user in a family can complete the activities in the app; apparently, an unlimited number of players, but most definitely up to 12!
Our son is just a little bit above the age group at age 14 (and he is working on other things this summer), so I personally used the app. I’m so happy I did (even though clearly I am above the stated audience age!). I used the app on our iPad 2. For the most part, it worked perfectly well. There were a couple of times that the screen locked up and I couldn’t progress, or that I was bounced out of the book to the home page, but restarting the iPad enabled me to continue with the book and/or educational game every time.
Those were very minor problems, however. The chapter book reads easily and scrolls through well. There are icons for the various activities within the game, and it’s very easily navigable overall. As an adult, I read through the entire book and completed the educational activities in a couple of hours, but a child’s experience would of course be different. I’d imagine that a child might complete a chapter or two and the corresponding tasks in a day (although I have heard about kids blowing through the book in a day because they loved the story so much!).
The story itself is very appealing. Flying Squirrel Abba investigates mysteries, learns how to care for babies, discovers the difference between a friend and a foe, all while trying to find out more about his father who’s seemingly disappeared. Despite his missing father, the story is very cheerful, the characters are fun, and the adventures keep the child engaged and excited….and turning the pages!
I am a huge Star Toaster fan. I love the company’s values and the wholesome and pure storylines they’ve created. Not only would I trust them with my child’s heart as he read their stories, I loved the learning activities they place in the book. I found that this new interactive chapter book was a sweet and enjoyable experience, and one that I’d happily recommend to families for their elementary-aged students.
You may purchase Star Toaster ‘s Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree via the iTunes store, for $1.99. (Just click on the highlighted link.) I highly recommend it, for a wonderful and joyful learning experience!
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