Axel's Chain Reaction
by Laura Allison Pomenta Badolato

Price at time of review: $2.99
Allison Pomenta

Grade Level: 1-3

Reviewed by Coralee Smith
Associate Professor Elementary Education and Reading

Axel’s Chain Reaction, an interactive book app, is aimed at seven to nine year old readers and inventors. The story line is about a third–grade boy, Axel, who encounters difficulties but ultimately succeeds. However, his chain reaction does cause havoc in his classroom.

The story line leads the reader through Axel's choices and situations with amazing graphics and sounds throughout the entire app. The voice–overs add to the interactivity, but can easily be turned off at any time. It is an amazing app that can be used over and over by not just children, but by educators from kindergarten to college. It is not a surprise that this app was a finalist for the Digital Book World Award 2014, recipient of the Quality Excellence Design Seal, and has a badge of approval from Teachers with Apps.

So, the question becomes, “Who loves this amazing story book app Axel's Chain Reaction?” Science education professors and college exceptional education professors; preservice science teachers; fourth–sixth grade students, and this reviewer all gave the app more than a “thumbs–up” for all kinds of reasons. Several of the science education professors were intrigued by the way that inquiry–based science projects, using found items to make kinetic art, were the focus throughout the app. They thought the app was science! While several of the exceptional education professors thought the way that Axel was depicted as a third–grader, who had problems with controlling his impulses and doing what was expected in school, was a lens into the area of special needs students who struggle and ultimately succeed. They thought the focus was about special needs students who persevere. The preservice science teachers thought the app was about a third–grade student who was funny and could make choices to create art projects. They thought the focus was showing ways to help elementary students use art and science in an interactive story as an app.

The fourth through sixth–grade students just liked the ways the app let them interact with a funny kid, that they related to, who could do things even when his chain reaction caused a classroom disaster on the day his project was due. As one sixth–grade student used the app, she asked the question, “How can I make this stuff?” Her instantaneous response was, “Oh, my! I see the resources button and the directions to make an optical illusion! Save the cereal boxes so I can do this!” She not only read and interacted with the app, but immediately took what she read into the next level of using what she read into her own life. For her, this app was about learning to make something. At this time, the app costs $2.99 on iTunes, available for iPhone and iPad. That appears to be money well spent on an app that delivers so much to so many. Actually, once you start the book, it is difficult to put down because it is not only fun, but also each time you read it you learn more and more. Any person that uses an iPhone or iPad, in school or at home, would be fortunate to have this app.

Review posted on 2/11/2014

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