Monday, November 29, 2010

TOS Review: Nanuq

Nanuq: A Baby Polar Bear's Story is the story of a young polar bear and his family.  But it's so much more!  From Smart Kids Publishing, Nanuq is one of five books currently offered in the "My Animal Family" series.  More books are planned.  The book retails for $12.99 (on sale right now for $10.39, as are the other four books in the series).  The book is very nice - solidly made with beautiful illustrations.  Additionally, it comes with a DVD, and a card with the web address and password to "My Animal Family" online kids club.

Since there's so much material to cover, I thought I'd address each one separately for you.

The Book:  The book had a story that kept my younger girls' (ages 5 and 7) attention.  The illustrations are very pretty and engaging.  It's a good story for younger kids - explains about eating and hunting, but doesn't go into details that would disturb them.
One thing I thought rather odd: Usually when I read a book out loud, I read the title, the name of the author and, if applicable, the name of the illustrator.  This book didn't have that information where you'd normally see it, either on the front cover or on the title page.  In fact, I had to look at the Copyright Page to find that information.  I was surprised to see that instead of just the names of the author and illustrator, there were Executive Producers, Art Directors, and Production Managers, among others.  This is definitely a book WITH a DVD!

The DVD:  The DVD contains award-winning BBC footage (not high resolution, for those who wonder).  The first item is a short movie (about 10 minutes long) about Nanuq that is similar to the story in the book in some ways, and very different in others.  It shares some new information the book did not, and includes footage of newborn baby polar bears (aw!) and some really cute action scenes.  To get a better idea of what the DVD short movie contains, you can also check out a free clip from the "Ella: A Baby Elephant's Story" DVD.
The DVD also contains "Fun Facts" that are both educational and come in useful if you use the website (more on that in a minute), Polar Bear Paradise (song without words on screen), and "Nanuq's Song" (Polar Bear Paradise with words on the screen so you can sing along).  The last link on the DVD, "The Creative Team" is essentially the credits.

In the Habitat (online play):  My kids always look forward to online/computer play, and the My Animal Family online kids club was no exception.  Once you log in and supply the password that comes with your book, you can customize your explorer, then PLAY.  The kids club has two parts: Paint 'n Play, and The Habitat.

The Paint 'n Play games are pretty simple, though the mazes, dot-2-dot, matching and others don't have any feedback for the child; they could play everything wrong and not know it.  It is strictly a "have fun" without any educational value.

The games in the Habitat are generally your basic educational games, with a basic beginner, intermediate and advanced level for each game.  The games played correctly earn the player points, which they can spend in the little store for items that open up new parts of the game to play.  My girls enjoyed the games, but became frustrated when they realized that they had to play A LOT of games to earn even one item from the store.  My older daughter asked after about 20 minutes if she could stop.  When I asked her why, she told me that it wasn't worth her computer time to play.  Since she has limited computer time every day, she felt like she was only playing to earn the points (she said all the games were 'too easy' for her), and it was taking too long to earn enough to do the other fun stuff.  To her, the "fun stuff " wasn't enticing enough to keep playing the games.  My younger daughter wasn't as picky, and would gladly keep playing just to play (the points were just a bonus to her).  I guess we'll see what happens when she finally earns enough points for a tool from the store; maybe the older daughter will regain interest.

The website login provided with the book gives the user 6 months of access to that particular book's Habitat. Anyone can try the website out on a 14-day free trial.  After the 6 months or free trial runs out, additional access can be purchased (all Habitats) for $22.50/6 months or $36/1 year.

The My Animal Family series is a unique approach to learning about different animals.  Though I personally wouldn't pay $13/book to do so, we did enjoy the one we were sent.  If these books were available in our library, I'd definitely be checking them out!

Want to know what other crew members thought about Nanuq?  Click here to read other reviews.

Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Nanuq: A Baby Polar Bear's Story (book, DVD and website access) in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

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