Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs (ages 4 - 8)

Dinosaurs fascinate many young children. These huge beasts dominated the world, and yet they vanished leaving only a few traces behind. Preschoolers and kindergartners love the sense of power that dinosaurs bring - there's nothing better than stomping through the sand box pretending you're a giant dinosaur on the hunt. But these young children also soak up scientific information as they learn about dinosaurs. If you have a dino-lover, check out the new book app: Magic School Bus Dinosaurs.
The Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs
developed by Scholastic Media
based on the book
The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs
by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
for the iPad
version 1.1 - October 25, 2011
current price: $7.99
ages 4 - 8
available from the iTunes app store

nominated for the Cybils Book App award
Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a field trip to a dinosaur dig to investigate how dinosaur bones are uncovered. The paleontologists at the site have discovered some Maiasaura dinosaur bones, but are disappointed that they haven't discovered any eggs. Ms. Frizzle has the perfect solution: her class will travel back in time to see if they can figure out where the Maiasaura's nests are.

The bus transforms to a time machine and takes the class back to the Late Triassic period, then moves forward through the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Ms. Frizzle and her class discover which animals and plants lived during the different eras. Along the way, different class members share short reports with readers.

The app stays true to the original Magic School Bus book, making it accessible for a nice range of audiences. I've found that young children, ages 4 - 7, adore the wacky Ms. Frizzle but are often unable to read these busy books on their own.

This app uses engaging narration along with a well designed interactive app to pull young children into discovering this interesting scientific information. Children listen to the main text, but then they tap speech bubbles to hear what different characters are saying. This means that kids are actively engaged with reading this story, not just passively watching the movie roll by.

The highlighted reports are a great way for young kids to really absorb interesting scientific information in small chunks. I really like the way that the reports pop out when you press on the report icon, so kids focus on just that information. See this screen shot for an example:

Kids also are enjoying the interactive games, digging for fossils and then dragging the dinosaur bones to the correct place on the whole skeleton. Along the way, they collect special dino cards, with facts about the different dinosaurs they have uncovered.

The app does not include any extra nonfiction visuals, the way that the Magic School Bus: Oceans app does. It would have been very interesting if the developers included some photographs of fossils or dig sites, or short videos of paleontologists at work. The iPad apps have great potential for combining different materials, the way that the Magic School Bus: Oceans app did.

If you have a child who's fascinated by science or dinosaurs, this is definitely an app worth exploring.

Read an interesting interview with the producer at Scholastic Media about developing Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs iPad app at the Scholastic Blog Ink Splot 26. Read another review over at School Library Journal's blog Touch and Go.

The review copy was sent by the publisher, Scholastic Media. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. Looks like a good book and so appealing to the eyes of the kids. I'm sure my little one will like it. Thanks for the share. Have a happy holidays ahead. :)

  2. Oh I just love the Magic School Bus books! They are great for teaching young kids.