Monday, May 7, 2012

Non Fiction

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night is a joy to behold. School Library Journal praises this app, and Kirkus gave it a star. A 4+ rating is given by iTunes. Seven amazing chapters from Fliers with Fur, Bats of Many Kinds, and Bat Colonies plus more. The chapter on echolocation is stunning. The voice and sound effects can be turned off and on. The many interactive visual effects are amazing. The text is large enough to read, but not highlighted as read. However, a small portion of the text is not read aloud. The text is very informational and uses the correct terminology when needed. iPad only. Published by Story Worldwide. $3.99 (A) Expensive but well worth it.

The Strange and Wonderful World of Ants has a cool feature in which you can adjust the reading level from beginner to intermediate to advanced. The narration is only on the beginning level. The text is large. There is a little ant that looks so real crawling on the screen. When you click on him, you get a message from E.O. the ant. But the narrator does not read it aloud. The art is soft and a little erie. This book has a glossary, list of ant web sites, and ant books. Some reviewers critiqued this book harshly as it interprets the cooperative lifestyle of the ant. However it is a very informative lightly interactive app and well worth the price. iPad only. Published by Amos Latteier. $1.99 (aa)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unusual, Enchanting, Three Bears

The Three Pandas Animated Storybook is a sweet rendition of the three bears with an adorable little real Asian Goldilocks named Mei Mei.  Lovely soft music. Their bamboo home is loaded with bamboo furniture and Asian accents. In English and Chinese. Has read to me and read to myself options. Words are not highlighted as read, however, this is a lovely original version of the old story with full animation.  Love the ending as Mei Mei apologizes for her errors. Plus there is a small section giving information about Pandas. Works on all the idevices. Published by See Here Studios. $3.99  (AA) Totally Awesome

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Inexpensive Book apps

From time to time I will add apps that will go on all the idevices that are free or inexpensive. There are universal apps that will go on the iphone for $.99. If you have an ipad or itouch you can also install it on those devices. Sometimes the app is exactly the same as one that is on the ipad, but a lot less expensive. If you install an iphone or itouch app on your ipad it will come up as smaller, but at the bottom is a 1x or 2x that you can make it much bigger almost the same size as the iPad app for which you could have paid $3.99.

The icon says Bella the Great, but the title is Bella Goes Bump in the Night. It has a read to me and read to myself section. It is rated 4+ as it is a story about those imaginary monsters that show up in the dark of night. Each page is a short rhyme and the illustrations show creatures such a minotaurs, sea monsters, or vampire bats. No sound effects or animation. The pages look exactly like photocopy of a hard bound book. The creatures make it a fun little story. Published by Gramercy Consultants. $.99. (RR)

Hildegard Sings for iphone. Also works on the ipad. Music and sound which can be turned off and on. It is also rated 4+ probably because of the topic which is opera. Has a read to myself and read to me section, but words are not highlighted as read.  Hildegard has a problem singing which is fixed with an amusing idea.  For a Hippo, Hildegard has a certain amount of charm. This app has light amusing animation and will delight many young readers. Kirkus Star. Published by One Hundred Robots. $.99. (A)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Standout iPad Award Winners

Welcome to the Bartleby's  Book of Buttons, Vol 1: The Far Away Island. This is an unusual book and the price is great. It's a story and a puzzle, but not the usual kind of puzzle. Has music, sound affects, and unusual animation. Excellent illustrations. Listening or reading the story and pushing the right button gets you to the next page. Has a read to me on and off button. Even on the front cover of the book, you have to find the button that takes you to the next page. The button on the side turns green when all the correct buttons have been pushed. Occasionally this app will stick and not work on a button. Push the home button, wait 10 seconds, and open it up again. Then it will work. This app is best for ages 7 and up, or it's a fun read with a parent. There is some thinking involved. Recipient of the Children's Technology Review Editors Choice award and a Kirkus Star for 2010. iPad only. Published by Octopus Kite. .99 (A)

Sunday in Kyoto is described by School Library Journal as enchanting and delightful. It is much more than that. It is exquisite. The Japanese music and finely detailed illustrations bring the user into another world. The words show up individually as the song is sung. It has a non standard approach as there is animation but the user cannot start or stop the animation. The user does not have control of page turning during the singing. The story can be read by the user without the music. Here the user can control the page turning and the text can be made bigger. Sunday has an excellent menu and the story/song ends much too soon. iPad only. Published by Les Productions Folle Avoine. Secret Mountain. $3.99 (A)

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a spinoff app from the short award winning film. As a librarian this is a book lovers delight, but it is the ground breaking presentation that really sets this app apart from the thousands of book apps available. As Morris ages, 27 interactive pages are available for exploration. Some of the animation is fabulous. The side menu allows for read aloud, read to yourself, turning off and on music, and eliminating seeing the text. In the read aloud the text is not highlighted. Beautifully constructed story reminding us all that we each have a story to tell. A 2011 Kirkus Star app has a 4+ itunes rating meaning that the story is not for under 3. A 4 year old would love it. iPad only. Published by Moonbot Studios. $4.99 (A)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Astrid and Siri: A Girly App

Astrid and Siri is a very nice FREE ipad only app if you have young daughters or granddaughters. It's not perfect, but fun for the girly girl. The illustrations are in a gorgeous Scandinavian design. Very detailed somewhat like Jan Brett but in muted colors. The animation is charming but not sophisticated. There is interaction on every page. There is way too much giggling and animal sounds, otherwise the story is unusual and fun. There is both a read to me and read to yourself section. Words are highlighted as read. Music can be off or on. The last page is a fashion page where the reader can change Astrid's outfit. Published by Artic Star. (free) (aa)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Charlie Brown's Christmas

Although Christmas gone for this year, this is an iphone, ipad app to treasure from year to year. It uses the original Charlie Brown music and the original voice of Charlie Brown, Peter Robbins. Beautifully presented. Here is the title page. The opening page includes a store to buy more Charlie Brown videos and include a Christmas tree to decorate.

Here is the charm of the famous Charlie Brown videos. The very first page shows all the kids ice skating. The user can move the skaters across the ice with falling snow. The print is very small on the iphone, but the reader is reading it. You do not have the choice of reading to yourself or listening to story.

You can play Schroeder's Piano, but just listening to the music is fun. There is a lot in this app that might surprise and delight you. This would be the perfect app if not for the store and the small print on the iPhone. I don't care for apps that push more consumerism by kids. On the iPad the print is much easier to see. Published by Loud Crow. $3.99 (A)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cookie Doodle

A fun little app for kids and Grandma. No surprises here with no in app extra costs. Lots of variety in the choice of cookie. Only 99 cents and you get frosting, candy, sprinkles, and piping frosting. You get all the extras, including lots of colors you may need or want. You also get a choice of tablecloths and a variety of plates. Roll out the dough, cut the cookie, bake it, decorate it, eat it, or put it either in a cookie jar or on a plate. You can also photograph your cookies. Love how easy this is to use. Published by Shoe the Goose. (.99) (A)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earthday 2010

The Lorax. Celebrating Earth day, Oceanhouse Media has released the Lorax. Illustrations are panned in and out of the book. Read to me, Read to myself, and Autoplay. Text font is very small but readable. Text is highlighted as read. Read aloud is a storyteller voice. The Onceler voice should have been much more crusty and cranky. Light sound effects. Animation is words and sound appearing when objects or text are touched. This is their usual handling of Seuss books. I would like to see Oceanhouse pushing the envelope. Well done as far as it goes, but not remarkable. Expensive. Published by Oceanhouse Media. $3.99. (aa)

Lorax Garden. Not sure what they were going for here. It's a flower growing garden game. Few instructions and it's not intuitive. Water the garden, watch the flower grow, and pull out the weeds. I had high hopes for this game. It should be a fun app, but it is not. I suspect the game is supposed to go along with the reading of the Lorax, but very young children usually don't get the Lorax. The game is designed with very little to do. The idea is good, but just not done well. It feels like they tried to hurry the production of the game to be out with the release of the ipad and missed the mark. Published by Oceanhouse Media. $2.99. (BB)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Fables are very old tales going back centuries. They usually are very short and have specific point or moral on behavior. Often young children don't really understand them if they are not explained or discussed. Animals are usually the characters. The animals are not personalized. The wolf in The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing is not named, Tom. However, the animals do exhibit limited human behavior. Aesop's Fables are the most famous, but there are fables from many countries. In book format it's often the illustrations that really enchant children. For example, the illustrations in Jerry Pinkney's Aesop's Fables picture book are beautifully drawn with watercolor and colored pencil. There are 61 fables in the book with text which is a bit much for the very young. However, in Pinkney's Lion and the Mouse there is just one story with very limited text. The stunning detail in the animals facial expressions are one of the reasons this was a Caldecott Medal winner. Pinkney is an amazingly talented African American artist. To do this format justice, iphone or ipad apps need to be have charming illustrations. I will be looking at fable apps for a few days. If I can't find significantly fabulous apps, then go to and get a couple of Pinkney's books for your child. Don't settle for a weak app. Everytime you reread Pinkney's books you will see something new and beautiful that you did not previously notice. Look at this face...

There are numerous collections of Aesop's Fables, such as SmilingMobile Inc's, Aesop Fables! for $0.99. However these collections are not individual books on one fable. These are available for those adults and older students who may be studying fables. Most are not illustrated collections, but some have one illustration per fable. There are also audio iphone fable collections with audio only. Preparing an app for fables is challenging. Even though the story is short, the same amount of thought should go into a presenting a fable as with any other story. It's not easy to be awesome on a fable. Below are a some individual fables for the young child.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Music on cover only. Read aloud and Read to myself. Light animation. Text large enough to read easily but not highlighted as read. Illustrations in an acceptable but not lavish folk art style. Good Wolf. Touch control of boy and animal voices with just enough variety to make it almost awesome. Good voice over by child. Moral is at the end of the story. Published by Kidzstory an imprint of Stepworks Company. $0.99. (aa)

The Tortoise and the Hare. Read aloud and read to myself. Music on introduction. Animation adequate. Text large and easy to read, but not highlighted as read. The illustrations do not have an earthy quality. Animals much too cartoon like, including the touch control animal voices. The giggling of the hare is obnoxious. Same child voice as above, but this has a slight sing song pattern that is not appealing for a fable. Moral at the end of the story. Published by Kidzstory an imprint of Stepworks Company. $0.99 (BB)

The Tortoise and the Hare. Cartoon version of the story. Illustrations disappointing. Auto read only. Text too small. No read by myself. Words are not highlighted as read. A short story made long. Some animation but it doesn't significantly add to the story. The reading sounded like it was recorded in a basement. This was 5 star rated. No Way! Published by Storyboy. $0.99. (BB)

The Lion and the Mouse. Read to me and a read to myself. In English and Cantonese. Cartoon illustrations. Ugliest lion I have ever seen. Text is highlighted, but not as read and is too small. Child readers. No animation. No sound except for readers. This app exhibits absolutely no charm. Published by iReading an imprint of AppleTree. $0.99. (BB)

The Lion and the Mouse. Music on intro only. Read to me and a read to myself. Text not highlighted, but large enough to read easily. Illustrations are average but just a little too cartoony, for example, the mouse has on a dress. Child reader. The reading is in a slight sing song pattern and doesn't quite fit. Animation not spectacular. When animals are touched there is squeaking and roaring. By the end of the story the reader has had an overdose of the same squeaking and roaring. Published by Kidztory an imprint of Stepworks. $0.99. (BB)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's Spring: Best iphone Peter Rabbit?

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Children's Book by Beatrix Potter. No music. No Animation. Has choice of read to myself or auto read. Looks like they just photocopied the book and made it into the app. Print is too small. Pictures should be larger. Text is not highlighted as read. Pages are hard to turn as the page turner is very tiny at the very bottom corner and tricky to use. Save your money. Published by Touch Tales. $0.99. (BB)

Peter Rabbit - Touch Play. The actual Beatrix Potter tale with the beautiful illustrations. Print is large enough to read. Can auto read or read to myself by turning off sound. Illustrations have touch points where the characters talk and the words they speak are readable. Text is not highlighted as read but very faintly highlighted for easy reading. The readers voice is lilting and charming. Easy slide page turn. The birds sing. Hear Peter chewing and even when he has a tummy ache. Go to a scene, add characters, and email or save the page. A lovely fun app. AWESOME but expensive. By SnackLogic Studios $3.99. (A)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Illustrated Story with music. A read aloud only. No text. Illustration are average. Similar to Beatrix Potter but a not so charming copy. As each page is finished being read then it automatically colors it. It has a puzzle story. The puzzle page is difficult. You are asked to find something on each page and it's difficult for an adult to find. When it's found the page is colored. The concept is good, but the production process misses the mark. Published by Once Upon an App. $0.99. (BB)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Search for Top iPhone 3 Little Pigs App

The Three Little Pigs is a classic fairy tale which should have an outstanding version for the iphone. Hold the iphone... Not so easy to find. I did find one version that is very good. Let's look at the ones that missed the mark first. Some of these are rated with 4 stars at the Applestore. Must be all their friends and families. Classic Three Little Pigs is reviewed in the Preschool column and is a Buyer Beware.

Three Little Pigs by Storyboy. Only an autoread. No read by myself section. The illustrations are very cartoon like. The pigs barely look like pigs although the wolf is very good. The pigs are friends not brothers. The text is large enough to be readable, but is not highlighted as read. The wolf is blowing the house but no huffing and puffing. How can there be a 3 pigs story without huffing and puffing? The wolf falls into the soup. The pigs pulls out the wolf, fix his sore bottom, and he promises not to eat meat. Yikes! The story is an abomination. No animation, no music and not worth the $0.99. (BB)

Three Little Pigs: Level F leveled Reader by Language Technology Inc. Level F is supposedly 1st grade. There is only a read to myself level. No auto read. No music. No animation. Very simplified version. At the end has questions about the main idea, compare and contrast, and analyze, etc. Have to go page by page to get back to the story, no back to home. Illustrations are ordinary. The only good thing is the cost. $free... Maybe a home school family might use it. No real literary value. (BB)

The Three Little Pigs by iReading2. Evidently the parent company is Appletree Books. Has an auto read, a read to myself, and a bookshelf for other books by the same company. If by chance you would want to waste your money on more of these. In English and Chinese. The text is very small and difficult for a child to see. This is a politically correct 3 pigs. There is little black pig, little white pig, and I would guess a gay pig named Little Flower who is the eldest brother, shades of Andrew Lang's version. The illustrations do not match the story. There is no black pig or white pig. The illustrations show a brown pig and two pink pigs. There is a forest of candy trees instead of apple trees. Joseph Jacobs must be turning over in his grave. There is huffing and puffing in the animation, but the words huff and puff do not appear in the text. The text says "evil" wolf too many times. Actually the word is not necessary. The pigs crying is obnoxious. The wolf sounds like a dog. $0.99. (BB)

The Winner

The Three Little Pigs by Kidztory. If it had the part about the apples and the fair, it would be perfect, but it's almost awesome. Music on intro only. Auto read and read by myself. Charming read aloud by a child. Text is large enough for kids to read, but not highlighted as read. Plays with the theme a little by saying mom told them to do their best when she actually sent them out to seek their fortune. Pigs not too cartoon like. Has the huff and puff in the text and even the "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin" which is in none of the above versions. The teeth chattering of the scared pigs adds to the story. Animation and sound effects are good as the wolf huffs and puffs and blows the houses down, licks his lips in anticipation of a pig dinner, and runs out of the house with his tail on fire. Just misses overkill on pig grunting. $0.99. (aa)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Awesome Alert -Top Apps Still A Great Price

Lots of Good Fun

CatCamgram and GrinchBobcat

Dr. Seuss iPhone apps
As of March 8th Sale Extended for an Unknown time
$0.99 to $1.99

Oceanhouse media in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday and NEA,s Read Across America is giving you a chance to get the awesome Dr. Seuss apps at the fraction of the regular cost. The regular price runs between $2.99 to $3.99. The photos above come from the Dr. Seuss Camera - Cat Cam Edition and Grinch edition. For more information about all the Dr. Seuss apps checkout

Check your apps on your iphone to see if sale still applies.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chomp! Chomp! Eating up App Space

How to decide which apps are worth the space on the iphone? We can only have 12 pages of apps. When you get to page 11 you start freaking out about app space. The Lego app here is a fun little app. It has a camera and you can bring in a photo. It turns that photo into a nifty little Lego picture in a few seconds. It choses a variety of colors and the user cannot actually move the bricks around. Where is the creativity here? So the dilemma becomes when your app space gets crowded, "Do I keep this app, or chuck it". There are plenty of other camera apps, so what do you do?

This is also a problem when it comes to books or graphic novels sold by each chapter. Each chapter puts an icon on your app page. You could have 6 or 7 icons for one book eating up your app space. Uclick sells most comics, but not all, by the chapter. Lots of icons for you. IVerse Media sells each comic and places it within one icon. A lot depends on your own needs.

Are you choosing apps for educational purposes? If so, look for an app that goes beyond what can be done with paper and pencil. Flash cards on apps. Yikes, no thanks. Find an app that uses the media to make that application fresh, full of wonder, and fun. Get kids interested in the world around them with exciting apps. Deliver a 21st century education. Choose your apps for kids wisely and save your app space for the great apps. Right now some companies are trying to use their old formats to make iphone apps, but they won't get away with that for long. World wide competition is getting too stiff. As the technology improves, the apps will become more awesome.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Publishers Quality May Vary: Buyer Beware

By just looking at the publisher, you cannot tell the quality of the book. For example, iStoryTime has a variety of book apps available. Some are classics and some are original works. I found the Reading Bug to be a lovely original work. However, their version of Little Red Riding Hood is lamentable. The illustrations are unremarkable. The words are not highlighted with the narration. The story varies from the original with too much unnecessary conversation. They have other classic tales also on the loose in the app store.

Wiener Dog and the Brave Monkey are both original works published by iStoryTime and have little substance in the story, illustrations, or narration. Frogdogmedia is the parent company of iStoryTime.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Criteria for iPhone Books

The criteria for iPhone books is the same as print books in some ways. A good story is a good story. If the story is a classic, is it dumbed down? Has conversation been added to the story that doesn't fit? It can have a modern twist, but it should enhance the story, either with humor or interesting illustrations, hopefully both. The illustrations should always match the writing on each page.

Audio books, CD's, iPhone, and internet stories have additional criteria. If the story has some sound or music it should not distract from the story. If the story is animated the animation should not be overwhelming. The stories should always have a read to me and a read to myself section that can be turned off and on. In the read to me section it's a plus if words are highlighted as they are read. The story should have carefully crafted illustrations. If it's a classic with a classic illustrations by the author, those illustrations need to be there. The example used here of The Little Red Hen uses beautifully constructed illustrations with a folk art theme. The narration, read by a child, has given the Little Red Hen a clear sparkling voice. In this book the narrator misreads one word on the first page and the words are not highlighted as they are read. However, it does not affect the charm of the narration. The reader can choose narration in either English, Spanish, and Chinese (Cantonese). When looking for the app on your iphone search by Kidzstory although Stepworks is listed as the publisher. Kidzstory also has The Tortoise and the Hare and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Kidzstory is probably an imprint of the parent company.