Amos the Astronaut by Van Winkle Studio LLC – Review

iPad Screenshot 1

What we love…

Fun brightly colored app that encourages problem solving in a way that encourages preschoolers and older to engage with the app to complete the tasks as get Amos on his way

What we’d love to see…

even with hints some of the items are hard to find, my son also found the “backwards” navigation a bit challenging at times.  I’d also like to see more content in the app – after the one adventure the app is done.


Fun app that encourages kids to problem solve to help fix Amos’ ship by working with locals to put the pieces back together.  I’d like to see more content in the app at the current price point.

Our Rating

Amos the AstronautAmos the Astronaut by Van Winkle Studio LLC is a universal app for iOS featuring the astronaut Amos and a journey he has to get his space ship flying again!  The interactive storybook format of the app has you with Amos as he searches for items to fix the broken space ship.  The app opens with a sequence of the ship crashing and then Amos starts searching the forest for various tools to fix his ship.  As you complete each activity then you are given additional places to go within the app.  As you gather items they are stored in the “inventory” or toolbox.  As Amos starts chopping down the tree he is captured by locals who put him in jail but lucky he’s is creative and finds a way out!  The locals then help him as he tries to fix his ship via a variety of tasks.  After gathering everything and working with the villagers, the adventure is solved and Amos flies off in his space ship.  This app is perfect for preschoolers and early elementary aged children. You can also read an “e-book” of the story here.

I liked the bright colors of the app as well as the word bubbles which helped my son as he’s starting to read so he could see them as well as hear them spoken (note they do not include word highlighting).    I also love that the app encourages problem solving – in a fun age appropriate way like finding a specifically designed egg or solving a problem like chopping on a tree. It provides sequential step by step – although at times it seems like you go “backwards” in your adventure instead of forward when you meet the villagers.  I also liked the various interactions on each page which encouraged kids to follow directions to help Amos make his fin.

In terms of improvements – some of the items were really hard to find even with the hints – my son especially struggled with the toolbox which essentially unlocked the app.  It might be useful to have a map that shows the locations of the various items.  Some of the animations like hammering the flint were not necessarily realistic – as the hammer is close to his head instead of his hand. Once the “adventure” is completed with the fin and Amos is on his way the app just ends – it would be fun if there were more adventures or a way to navigate around inside of his ship as right now the amount of content is a bit limited and once the adventure is solved there is nothing additional to do other than reset the app and start over again.

Overall, this is a fun find and seek app where you look for hidden clues to work and fix Amos’ ship.  There’s an underlying theme of problem solving where you find items to help complete the ship and work with local residents by making arrows, finding eggs, and working with the blacksmith.  There are no in app purchases or external links.

Amos the Astronaut
Amos the Astronaut
by Van Winkle Studio LLC

Category: Books, Entertainment
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX, iPad75-iPad75, iPad76-iPad76, iPhoneXS-iPhoneXS, iPhoneXSMax-iPhoneXSMax, iPhoneXR-iPhoneXR, iPad812-iPad812, iPad834-iPad834, iPad856-iPad856, iPad878-iPad878
Size: 250.3 MB


(Click to enlarge)
Screenshots for iPad
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NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

VowelViz Pro by SmartPalate International -Review

iPhone Screenshot 2

What we love…

Visual feedback is an extremely helpful tool to shape vowels and vocalic /r/. Excellent potential for use with students with hearing impairments, apraxia, or for accent reduction.

What we’d love to see…

The ability to record speech attempts auditorily to provide auditory feedback on playback in addition to the visual feedback.
The ability for the SLP or parents to judge productions as right, wrong, or approximate as well as data tracking for individual students. Less inconsistency in the vowel mapping.


This app would be very beneficial to use in speech therapy with students with apraxia or hearing impairments. With a bit more fine tuning, this will be a truly wonderful app. The potential application for use in speech therapy is considerable and may be worth the investment especially if you have some tricky /r/ sounds to remediate.

Our Rating

Vowel Viz ProVowelViz Pro is a unique speech app that provides visual feedback to help shape vowel sounds. The app was created by SmartPalate International, LLC.
The targeting of vowel sounds can be a difficult endeavor as there really is no precise way to instruct a student in tongue placement or shape of the vocal tract for correct production. The production of vowels and vocalic /r/ has always been heavily dependent on the self-awareness of auditory feedback, until now. This innovative app provides the visual feedback that can facilitate the production of these sounds through real-time response.

iPhone Screenshot 4Using the device’s microphone, it maps out the user’s vowel production onto a grid called the vowel quadrilateral. The vowel quadrilateral is a visual representation of the position of the tongue during the production of vowels. The grid is designed to show the tongue’s height (high or low) in relation to its position from front to back of the mouth. For example, the top left quadrant contains the high front vowels /i:/ and /I/, while the bottom right includes the low back vowel /a:/.

The main screen allows you to select either vowels or vocalic /r/ to practice. There is also the option to “get training” where you can enter your email to receive tips and tutorial videos. I highly recommend watching these videos to ensure success when utilizing this app.

After a target vowel is selected, an auditory model of the sound can be played by touching the speaker in the top left of the screen. A flashcard with a word containing the target vowel can also be shown at the bottom. The student attempts to match the target sound by getting the orange tracking ball to land within the highlighted oval area on the grid. The mapping of the vowel is done in real-time allowing for immediate feedback and reinforcement of tongue position.

VowelViz Pro also provides vocalic /r/ targets. Anyone who has ever tried to get a child to produce /r/ with the correct tongue placement and tension knows what a challenge it can be. The use of visual feedback to help shape the sound is invaluable. In this module, the target is an oval shape containing the “R”. The trick is to get the orange ball to fall in the oval which would indicate the correct retroflex position. Tongue prompts such as “pull tongue back”, “raise tongue”, or “curl tongue” can be shown on the screen for additional prompting.

At the top right of the screen, you can find more information about the app. There is a pull down menu with basic instructions and troubleshooting help, an explanation of the vowel quadrilateral and vowel formants, a chart of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and links to the developer’s website for support.

The settings tab allows you to adjust the following:

  • Live Vowel Tail Length and Input Sensitivity can be adjusted with a slider bar.
  • Show tongue prompts: on/off
  • Show flash cards: on/off
  • Themes: Default – Planets – Flowers – Spelling – Colors – Sports

The applications of this tool are numerous. This app would be very beneficial to use in speech therapy with students with apraxia or hearing impairments. It would also be effective for accent reduction in helping to fine tune their productions of vowels. Any child struggling to produce vocalic /r/ would likely benefit from the visual feedback provided.

I personally used this app to successfully elicit a vocalic /r/ from a student previously not stimulable for the sound. The visual feedback gave the student a target she could shoot for that auditory feedback alone couldn’t provide. She was able to make the necessary adjustments to hit the target on her own with very little prompting from me. The look of pride on her face when she saw that she had hit the target was priceless.

However, this app is not without its flaws. On attempts to produce the /i:/ sound, my voice was consistently mapped in the upper right quadrant rather than the upper left. I was only able to hit the target on this sound, by dropping the pitch of my voice significantly. But for the most part, I was able to land within the target oval on other sounds.

With a bit more fine tuning, this will be a truly wonderful app. The potential application for use in speech therapy is considerable and may be worth the investment especially if you have some tricky /r/ sounds to remediate.

iTunes Link Vowel Viz Pro

Vowel Viz Pro Vowel Viz Pro by SmartPalate International, LLC

Price: $49.99 USD

VowelViz Pro takes the innovative speech mapping app, VowelViz, and makes it even more FUN! VowelViz Pro implements fun, new themes, flash cards, and Vocalic R View to help further engage students in.

All the Different Colors by Jean Ruth – Review

iPad Screenshot 3

What we love…

cute story, good graphics, interactive

What we’d love to see…

forward and back navigations should go the the next part of the story, not just the next page.


A story about crayons that highlights friendship and purpose.

Our Rating

If crayons came to life, what would they do?  What would be on their minds?  What would they talk about?  All the Different Colors by Jean Ruth and Merripen Press imagines that scenario.  It focuses on the color Gray.  Every other color in the crayon box has been used except for Gray.  This makes him feel quite left out and invisible until one day when he finally gets picked and used for a very special purpose.

The story opens up as the crayons wake up early in the morning.  They are all inside a crayon box eagerly waiting for their boy to come and use them.  I love how the author gives crayons faces and personalities of animals that represent them.  Gray is a timid mouse, Green is a crocodile, Blue is a bluebird, Yellow is a duck, Red is a ladybug, Pink is a flower, and Orange is a Tiger. The colors talk about the things they have made with the boy.  Green is the one that has been used most and sure enough, when the boy comes, he chooses green first and begins to create a drawing of a Stegosaurus enjoying a sunny day.  One by one the colors get taken out of the box and used until only Gray and Red are left inside.  Gray was sure he would remain inside the box again, but to his delight and surprise, Gray gets picked and all the colors cheer for him.

My little artists enjoyed reading and playing this app.  The illustrations are whimsical and every page has a lot of interactivity.  Almost every object on the page has an associated action or animation.  My kids found all the interactivity exciting, and for the most part I thought it was good too.  The only thing that bothered me was that some of the interactive actions included revealing the next sentence or paragraph of the story, which means that if you miss clicking on that object before going to the next page, you would be skipping over part of the story. I think it would better if interactive actions are only used as a supplement to the story and not a direct part of it.  This way, children who simply want to read the story will not miss out on anything.

The app uses a typewriter font which is an unusual choice for children’s books.  I’m still not sure how I feel about it.  While I found it nostalgic, it simply did not catch my children’s attention.  The navigation is simple, just swipe left to go forward or right to go back. Or, you can use the forward and back buttons on the menu.  The menu can be accessed any time by clicking on the small rectangular icon on the top middle of the page.  The menu also allows gives you the option to jump to any page in the story as well as to toggle the music and sound in the settings page.

Overall, I liked the app.  The story itself is charming.  I love how the colors encourage Gray, and I love how Gray discovers he has a very special purpose.  The best part, however, was seeing my little artists smile and laugh through the app and then eagerly grab paper and crayons to make their own whimsical illustrations.

All Different Colors All Different Colors by Yannis S. Arvanitis

Price: $0.99 USD

Reviewed by Best Apps for Kids - 4.1/5.0 and 4.9/5.0 rating from Delightful, heartwarming, engaging, and fun, this beautifully illustrated interactive story book also weaves in positive.

Prairie That Nature Built by Dawn Publications – Review

iPad Screenshot 1

What we love…

beautiful illustration, informative primer, educational

What we’d love to see…

sounds and/or music, consistent layout, better audio for the narration


An app that is based on a book that helps children understand and appreciate life in the prairie.

Our Rating

The Prairie That Nature Built, by Dawn Publications, is an app based on the book of the same name by Marybeth Lorbiecki. It has 3 parts. The first part is the story, the second part is a matching game, and the third part is a primer.

The book was born out of the author’s love for the prairie. It describes, in poetry from, what the animals and plants in the prairie are like. It starts from the underground and works its way up to the sky. Suddenly lightning strikes and starts a fire. The rain that follows quenches the fire and then months later life in the prairie begins anew. The story does a good job of describing life in the prairie, and I loved how it ended with a little boy who we find out is the voice behind the poem. However, it felt a little tedious and did not hold my children’s attention very well. It was also inconsistent in form. It starts off as a cumulative poem but changes in parts of the book. The illustrations are beautiful and very vivid, and some were interactive. My children enjoyed looking at the animals and seeing if touching them would trigger movement. However, because it did not include any sounds, their interest quickly dissipated. Most of the illustrations were up close, which did a great job of helping children get a good and detailed view of the animals, but failed to communicate the vastness of the prairie. It felt crowded instead of expansive. I also did not like how the view switches from landscape to portrait in the middle of the book and then back to landscape again. The switch felt very strange and distracting to the flow of the book. The audio (narration) was also too loud. You can hear breathing and popping noises every so often. My children eventually decided to turn off the narration as it was more pleasant for them to read the book on their own.

The matching game revisits several pages of the book. This time it only includes the illustrations and a list of items to find. You drag a name from the list to its matching object. If the name matches the object, the name vibrates and stays with the object. If not, it goes back to the list, indirectly prompting you to try again. Other than that, the game provides no helps, hints, or answers. It also has no sound. Once again, it failed to hold my children’s interest. I think the game would make a lot more sense if the animals and plants were introduced in the story. This can be accomplished by displaying the animal or plant’s name whenever it is tapped. The matching game will then serve to test their memory of the plants and animal they came across. Also, it would be great if a correct match revealed a little more into about the animal or plant.

I think I liked the primer most of all. The audio was much better on this one. The pages were clean, easy to read, and informative. I also liked the author, illustrator, publisher, and developer pages. It is presented with audio and it is as though they were speaking directly to the kids. I have never seen it done this way before.

While I feel there is much improvement needed in this app, I appreciated how it seeks to inform and excite children about the prairie. If you decide to check this app out, I would suggest using it on an iPad since the font is much too small to read comfortably on an iPhone.


Price: $