Review by Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014
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NYPL Biblion: Frankenstein

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Wealth of info on a literary classic, a bit buried by complex design

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: This collection features a large selection of high-quality texts that help students delve deeper into the novel Frankenstein and its larger themes.

Cons: The confusing design and lack of audio and video make it difficult to navigate; some students will find it hard to access content.

Bottom Line: More advanced learners will appreciate the high-level content and discussion of themes, but you'll need to find another resource for general learners and struggling readers.

Teachers can use NYPL Biblion: Frankenstein to get students to think more deeply about the novel Frankenstein and to introduce students to many of the major themes in the novel. While the Ask Biblion function has been closed to new submissions, teachers will still find the discussion questions and user-submitted responses contained within the app useful for sparking discussion in their own classrooms. They can then pull out specific essays or images for students to consider as they discuss some of the specific questions. One section students may particularly enjoy is the collection of images from the various movie adaptations. While not as academic or in-depth as many of the other essays, they serve as a way to get students talking about the novel and could help lower-level learners become more interested in the text.

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NYPL Biblion: Frankenstein explores the classic novel by providing students and teachers with essays, copies of manuscripts, and photographs related to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. These resources cover the original text, adaptations of the text, and in-depth analyses of the text, and discuss how its theme connects with life today. When students enter the app, they have the option to select from multiple themes, including Frankenstein, Shelley's Ghost, Creation & Remix, and Outsiders. These themes appear scattered on the screen, requiring a student to swipe around the screen to discover them all. Tapping a theme brings up a selection of related essays that students can read, bookmarking their favorites. Throughout the essays, students will find "Ask Biblion" questions -- user-submitted questions accompanied by user-submitted answers that cover major themes related to Frankenstein, such as "What does the 'Modern Prometheus' mean?" and "How have you misjudged someone?" 

Turning the device to landscape mode reveals a collection of source documents, including Mary Shelley's handwritten draft of Frankenstein, early poems from Percy Byshe Shelley, and a collection of letters and other correspondence. These documents appear as looseleaf versions of the originals, stains and rips included, and also feature transcripts to make them easier to read. Both formats help students see and read the text -- and related texts -- firsthand, adding depth to the essays they can access in portrait mode.

NYPL Biblion: Frankenstein does not lack information. In fact, the sheer volume of high-quality essays, transcripts, and discussion questions make it a great tool for teachers who want to engage students in an in-depth discussion of the classic work. Unfortunately, its overall design makes it difficult for most students to access and understand the information it contains. The busy-ness of the design often proves confusing and makes it hard to focus on the essays, pictures, and other information. A lack of audio or video makes it hard to capture the interest of less advanced students. However, teachers who only incorporate bits and pieces of the app into their teaching, doing the exploring themselves rather than leaving it to students, may find a few nuggets to bring into the classroom.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Complex design and largely text-based and highly academic content will only appeal to a select group of students.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

In-depth passages and discussion questions encourage students to think deeply.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Students will find some support for navigating the complex design, but there are no supports for struggling readers, ELL students, or students with learning difficulties.

Common Sense Reviewer
Stacy Zeiger Homeschooling parent

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jennifer D. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Huntington High School
Huntington, United States
A App for the mature learner.
Hard to navigate.
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