The “Wind in the Willows” App Review

The Wind in the Willows is one of those timeless classics that has survived generations – and now it is being brought to today’s children via an app for iPad and iPhone.

One of the things we all remember about the book is the beautiful illustrations – they have been drawn by many different artists over the years, including Ernst Shepherd and Arthur Rackham. But for the new apps they have been beautifully redrawn by by world renowned muralist Steve Dooley.


He found inspiration in what Kenneth Grahame said to the original illustrator back in 1908. “I love these little people,” he said, “so please be kind to them,”

“It’s a message which I took very much to heart, myself,” says Steve. “These characters were loved into existence.”

In order to bring the drawings to life technical magic was needed in the form of Bobby Gilbert who would spend hours researching the minutiae of each and every page.

“I spent a long time researching bumblebee flight to get them as beautiful and captivating as Steve’s drawings,” says Bobby.

“We fell under the spell of the book – its characters, its humour, the wonderful eccentric lyricism of the words. It absorbed us; we had to do justice to it.”

The apps feature 190 interactive pages, where the user can drive Toad’s car, crash it into cliffs, conjure up butterflies, throw stones off a bridge to sink Toad’s boat and much more.

It’s quite magical, and for anyone who wants to bring the magic of a favourite childhood book to their own children, while reliving a familiar tale themselves, this is the ideal way to do it. A real treat to enjoy together – and something to while away a few hours on a cold and wet wintry afternoon.

For more information and links to the App Store, where the app is available to buy for $6.99, head to .

The kitchen that teaches you French

Okay, so we have long had it drummed into us that French chefs are the best in the world and British cuisine is utterly comical – especially our gravy. But really, a kitchen that teaches you French? Is this going just a step too far?


Don’t worry chaps, it’s not some subtle Gallic ploy to convert us all in Francophiles – no, in fact it has been developed by a team of computer scientists and language experts at Newcastle university (which strikes us as being a bit more Hairy Bikers than Jean-Christophe Novelli, but hey).

The kitchen tracks your actions with motion-sensor technology (rather like a Nintendo Wii) and speaks to you like a sat-nav device, while you prepare your classic French dish.

It builds on the provem technique (we’re taking the language experts’ word on this!) of Task-Basd Language Leraning (TBLL), where students are prompted by instructions in a foreign language to carry out specified tasks. TBLL has never been used in cooking before – but given its enormous popularity in rei Bake-Off, Hairy Bikers, River Cottage et al) it is hardly surprising that the boffins came up with the idea.

On a tablet or laptop computer incorporated into the kitchen, the user first selects the French recipe they want to follow. Digital sensors built into utensils, ingredient containers and other equipment then communicate with the computer to make sure the right instructions are given at the right time, or to give feedback to the user if they go wrong.

At any time, the user can ask for an instruction or a piece of information to be repeated, or translated into English, simply by pressing the touch screen.

All grammar and vocabulary has been carefully selected to ensure that using the kitchen adds to basic proficiency in understanding French.

After a session, the user can test what they have learnt by carrying out a short test on the computer.

The kitchen has been designed to be installed in schools and universities – even in homes. It has been trialled in the catering kitchens at Newcastle College.

The kitchen is slated for release by the end of 2012 – and portable versions are already being taken out on the road to be demonstrated at schools in the North East. One will be installed at the Institut Francais, a London charity dedicated to teaching the French language.

For more details head to