From birth to nine months a sea otter is schooled for independence by its mother. Combining story—including a bit of drama—with plentiful facts, this app is bound to appeal to young fiction and nonfiction lovers. It’s one of several in the “Smithsonian Oceanic Collection,” which also includes Kathleen M. Hollenbeck’s Penguin’s Family and Janet Halfmann’s Polar Bear Horizon.
Title: Otter on His Own
Subtitle: The Story of a Sea Otter
Author: Doe Boyle
Illustrator: Robert Lawson
Series: Smithsonian Oceanic Collection
Published by: Soundprints, 2002
Developed by: Oceanhouse Media, Inc.
Platform: iOS, requires 3.0 or later
Price: $1.99 (introductory price)
PreS-Gr 1-Boyle’s lyrical text, combined with Lawson’s expressive illustrations (Soundprints, 2002) and a few multimedia enhancements, deliver an informative, visually appealing title. It’s summer, and a newborn otter and his mother gently sway amid the kelp by the rocky California shore. She has much to teach him, including how to dive, and how to gather and consume such delicacies as sea urchins, clams, and abalone. As he matures, the marine mammal’s mother leaves him as she searches for food. On one such mission, the curious pup follows her; panic ensues when a great white shark is spotted. All ends well, though, and readers will be rooting for the pup when it’s time for him to venture out on his own.
A comforting piano melody plays upon opening the app and users can choose to listen to or read the story. Words are highlighted along with narration, making it easy to follow along. To pause in the “Read to Me” mode, users must return to the main menu by tapping an arrow on the bottom of the screen. However, in “Auto Play,” users must stop the story, and then restart, a clunky process. Instructions on how to operate the app may be accessed from the main menu.
The soothing sounds of lapping waves and seagull calls and the zooming and gliding back and forth between illustrations enhance this visual and aural experience. The opportunity for emergent readers to learn new vocabulary (by tapping the pictures), and read other otter facts (appended at the end of the story) nicely round out this offering.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA