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True Blue Friend Review by Dena Wood

By Cheryl Block
Illustrated by Gene Takeshita
Block Publishing
1120 Forest Ave., #306
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

True Blue Friend, by Cheryl Block, is a book and software set that introduces children to various types of whales, whale facts, and environmental concerns. The book is hardcover, of good quality, and attractively illustrated.

In True Blue Friend, a young humpback whale disregards direction from his mother as well as an older and wiser Blue Whale and finds himself ensnared in a fishing net. The Blue Whale comes to his rescue, and a friendship is forged.

This story is used to pique interest in whales while the accompanying software expands on it and addresses dolphins and porpoises, echolocation, and environmental issues as well. The True Blue Friend software offers the following options:

Whales, Dolphins, & Porpoises: A slide-show presentation with information on different cetaceans (and if you don't know what a cetacean, you will!). A zoom feature allows you to enlarge images to fit the screen.

Whales & Fish: Introduction to various whales and fish parts. Learn what each part does.

Humpback behaviors: Images of different whale behaviors accompany a description of their meaning.

Echolocation: A clearly understood presentation of how cetaceans navigate in the dark undersea waters.

Conservation: An introduction to various environmental issues with a comment on what we can do to help with each.

The Puzzler: Interactive puzzles with a "solve it" feature to help you along if you get stuck.

Fluke Match: A memory-style game using different whale flukes.

The Story: Allows your child to hear or read True Blue Friend on the computer.

In addition, the software includes PDFs of activity sheets that incorporate math, reading, and writing. Activities include mapping, measuring, counting, and much more; and a Contents file lists the activities by grade-Pre-K to third grade.

The software is easily navigated by children themselves. However, the program is not installed on your computer but rather must be accessed from the appropriate drive (clear instructions included). Since the program doesn't start automatically, a parent will most likely need to get the CD running for their children.

This set would make a good, very basic introduction to a study on marine science. The story and software in this set seemed geared toward children ages 6-9. While I found the information on the CD interesting, I will admit that I would have liked to see it go a bit further, especially in the areas of echolocation and conservation. This set seems to be attempting to include a broader age range than The Rainbow Web while maintaining the same number of activities. I think it would have been more beneficial to either stay with a more specific age range or offer more resources. However, as a starting point, this set is a fun way to arouse curiosity and the PDF activities would be good supplements to your study.

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2006