Sunday, October 2, 2011

Journey Into the Deep: Book App review for Nonfiction Monday (ages 10 - 15)

I am excited about the Cybils Awards new category for Book Apps. Have you nominated your favorite book app yet? Head over to the Cybils page to do so - anyone can nominate their favorite book that was published in the past year. In honor of Nonfiction Monday, I'd like to share an amazing nonfiction app: Journey Into the Deep.

The enormity expanse of the ocean's life has always intrigued me. I particularly remember visiting tide pools with my mother, looking in each little nook and cranny to see what creatures lived there. But I can hardly imagine how scientists are exploring the depths of the world's oceans. So I was fascinated by Journey Into the Deep, a new book app based on the book of the same title by Rebecca L. Johnson.
Journey Into the Deep
written by Rebecca L. Johnson
book app developed by Lerner Publishing
available at the iTunes App Store
for the iPad, iOS 3.2 or later
current price: $2.99
preview the print book on Google Books
ages 10 - 15
Rebecca Johnson begins the app with a short video where she tells about how she was captivated by an article about the Census of Marine Life and the incredible marine animals scientists were discovering. The Census of Marine Life was conducted globally between 2000 and 2010 by more than 2000 researchers. After reading this article, Johnson knew she wanted to take kids on an "armchair journey through the ocean in a way that allowed them to meet census scientists, explore the ocean as they were exploring it, and see some of the remarkable creatures they were discovering in their quest."

This app is remarkable for the its depth and breadth, as it takes readers from the shallow edges of the ocean to its unfathomable depths. At each stage, readers are introduced to scientists exploring this particular part of the ocean, creatures they have discovered, and ways they are doing their scientific research as part of the Census of Marine Life. The photographs are truly captivating on the iPad, absolutely brilliant with color. At each stage, you can click on animals and reveal the captions. This has the effect of making the photographs stand out, and draws readers into interacting with them to find out more. Quotes from Census scientists are highlighted in bold red; when you tap a quote, a picture of the scientist appears, along with their research institution.

The navigation structure for this app is remarkable. Journey Into the Deep uses a system of symbols to indicate that you can go deeper within a particular section, other symbols indicate you can tap an image to reveal more information, and another symbol takes you back to the beginning of a chapter. By clicking on the general page, you reveal a slider bar that indicates where you are within the whole book, allowing you to jump from section to section. This navigation system allows readers to browse through this app the way they would through a nonfiction book, and is brilliant.

My only hope is that at some point Lerner is able to add a narrative audio track to this app. I know that many 9 and 10 year olds would be fascinated by the animals and the scientific research that Johnson shares. But the text really is for careful reading, either for a family read-aloud for an interested middle grade reader, or as an independent read for a teenager.

Let's hope that more nonfiction books make their way to Book Apps. There is so much capability to captivate interested audiences with well designed apps like Journey Into the Deep.

I do hope that some nonfiction apps are nominated for the Cybils Award's new Book App category. Have you nominated your favorite book app yet? Nominations are open until October 15th.

Do you love nonfiction for kids? Head over to 100 Scope Notes today to read all about Nonfiction Monday.

This review copy was kindly sent by Lerner Apps for review.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. Oh this is beautiful Mary Ann, thank you for alerting me to this app - our iPad is sorely underutilized - my 9 year old daughter uses it primarily to watch her youtube clips - but not much for anything else. This would be a lovely add-in to her usual fare in the iPad. And congratulations on being one of the judges as well for Cybils. It's bound to be a hectic and exciting time among bookbloggers in the coming months. :)

  2. What a great way to teach our kids! So many things that were not available when mine were little.