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
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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!.