Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night (iPad app)

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night (iPad book app)
written by Mary Kay Carson
2012 (Bookerella and Story Worldwide)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Capstone Connect

When I was young and hanging out in a department store, I saw a television that was displaying a game called Pong. I was instantly mesmerized. The dot went back and forth on the screen and you could control the paddles with a joystick. We could play games on television and life would never be the same. Several decades later, I'm writing about nonfiction books and that same sense of youthful awe has hit me again. Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night is a 3-D book app that is unlike anything I have seen before for a nonfiction book. The first page takes you into the dark forest and you hear the rapid flapping of bat wings. Consecutive close-ups bring a bat front and center so you can see the outline of its fingers. Click on a bright light and you get a diagram of the bat's body and this is just the first chapter. There are six other chapters which cover topics like echolocation, varieties of bats, bat colonies, and other bat facts. There are so many effects that will engage readers. The depth created by the 3-D effect is terrific. When the camera moves, you see the world from the point of view of the bat. It is this movement and the close-ups that separate Bats! from what we have seen before in nonfiction book apps. You read the text on the left and then you get pictures that really bring home the information. This is most evident when you read chapter 4 which shows how bats use sound to find their way in the night. An outline of a bat, like an x-ray, flies over a grid and bounces sound off of different objects. The reader gets a good sense of how the process of echolocation works. Perhaps the best effect is when you finish the book. Readers can manipulate the iPad and steer the bat over the forest as a reward for finishing reading.

The text in Bats! is at about a late second or third grade level. This makes it perfect for struggling readers in higher grade levels. They could read this book and think it's really cool. When you have this level of visual effects, students will want to read it over and over again which promotes fluency. I think Bats! would also be a great tool for practicing summarizing. The chapters are the right size for learning how to use this strategy. If you use an iPad in your classroom or with your own child, it is definitely worth the price of admission to enter this world of Bats!.


  1. While I do have issues about using e-readers (I don't have a kindle which limits my enjoyment of the graphics in applications/ebooks) - reading through your blog and your reviews of iPad applications really excites me and makes me reconsider all my hardcore, traditional notions of reading. Will again look out for this in my iPad. :)

    1. I tend to look at the technology as inevitable, so why not try and embrace it? This app will reach some students who might not pick up a book about bats. There is a "traditional" text to read, but the information is enhanced visually. Thank you for your thoughts, Myra!

  2. This sounds awesome! Just another reason why I should get an iPad, I'm one of the last holdouts I think!

  3. We're starting to see tablets in our classrooms now. I can imagine that nonfiction is really going to take off in this format. Thanks for stopping by, Medea!

  4. Jeff, thanks much for your review of Bats! I'm part of the team (headed by Ellen Jacob) that created it. I thought you and your readers might be interested in the work of Michael Milone, a reading specialist and psychologist-researcher who is looking into the real, cognitively significant differences (or lack of them) between print and digital books. I ran across Milone's work while researching for Bats! and wrote a piece for Huffington Post discussing the issues he raises: "Teaching With Tablets: For Young Readers, It's Interaction vs. Distraction." Here's a link:

  5. Thanks for the link and for stopping by! Your team did a great job with Bats!.

  6. Excellent review, Jeff - thanks so much for this recommendation. We've just started reading it at our school, and students are finding it very interesting. At first, I wondered if students would get confused by the different swipe directions, but I like the guides that appear. It adds an interesting dimension, traveling through this world in different directions.