Sunday, May 8, 2011

Children's books top app charts

Sunday, May 8, 2011

If you look at the top 10 book apps listed in iTunes under either iPad or iPhone, you may be surprised to see that a majority are children's books.

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    The "Pat the Bunny" book app is based on Dorothy Kunhardt's 70-year-old classic, famous for being baby's first tactile book.


The "Pat the Bunny" book app is based on Dorothy Kunhardt's 70-year-old classic, famous for being baby's first tactile book.

Some, like Nighty Night HD, are created from scratch to showcase the interactivity that is possible on devices like the iPad. Others, like Sandra Boynton's Moo, Baa, La La La! take a classic children's favorite and augment the reading experience by presenting the board book in an interactive digital manner.

In the last month, book apps from such famous authors as Marc Brown, Rosemary Wells and Dorothy Kunhardt have arrived in the iTunes store. This column will take a look at these new arrivals as well as showcase some others that are particularly well done.

While there are book apps in the Android marketplace, most new children's book apps are introduced in the iTunes store first, so this column will focus on new books in the iTunes store.

Moo, Baa, La La La!

From Loud Crow Interactive, best for ages 2-4, $1.99 for iPhone/iPod touch and $2.99 for iPad.

Sandra Boynton's much beloved silliness with animals transfers well to the app format. In this adaptation of her popular board book, kids tap on the animals to hear them make noises, or better yet, sing. Tilting the device will make items like a tail swing. There are inventives like pull-tabs to open curtains, and taps that add more characters to the scene. The words highlight as they are read. touching any word will result in having it spoken again. It is darling, whimsical and hilarious -- perfect toddler fare.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)

Pat the Bunny

From Random House Digital, Inc., best for ages 2-4, $2.99 for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad

This book app is based on Dorothy Kunhardt's 70-year-old classic, famous for being baby's first tactile book. While toddlers can't touch actual fur on the iDevices, the app stays true to the artistic style and gentle exploration that the original book encouraged. The interaction is on a screen where tapping makes fun things happen. Kids can play hide-and-seek, pop bubbles, catch butterflies, paint by dragging their finger across the screen, and even see themselves in the mirror if they are playing on an device with a front-facing camera. It is different from the original book, but still magical.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)

Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toesby Rosemary Wells

From Auryn Inc., best for ages 2-4, $3.99 on iPad only

The well-known children's author and illustrator brings her unique art style to this app that uses the famous song to teach toddlers about body parts. While fairly short, the app encourages kids to tap a cute bunny's body parts to match what is being sung in the song. It makes the learning fun as well as silly, since the bunny is ticklish. The song is sung in four languages as the bunny character changes costumes to reflect the language change, so that the Japanese bunny wears a kimono and the American bunny is decked out as a colorful cowboy. Kids can also record their own voices singing.

Rating: 2.5stars (out of 4)

Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown

From Iceberg Reader, best for ages 4-8, $2.99 for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad

This app takes the original book of the same name and moves it into the digital world by having author Marc Brown read the story to children. The original artwork is showcased, and the app zooms in on specific characters as they talk. While there is no interactivity in terms of tapping the page for animations, the words of the story highlight as they are read to help children follow along. Kids can also record their own voices reading the story. In addition to a fun story with a positive environmental message, the app also offers kids jigsaw puzzles and coloring pages.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)

Nighty Night! HD

From Shape Minds and Moving Images GmbH, best for ages 2-5, $1.99 on iPad only

Created by Oscar-nominated animator Heidi Wittlinger, this lovely book app tells the story of seven animals going to bed in and around a farmhouse. As you visit each animal, you can interact with it to help it settle in for the night. When you turn off the light at each location, the animal goes to sleep (and can't be awakened, a good lesson for young kids at this age). Actor Alistair Findlay's melodious voice offers a perfect narration to this simple but charming story. Meant for pre-readers, there are no words, but you feel as if you are playing inside of an beautifully animated movie. Kids will be delighted as they see new things happen when they repeatedly touch an interactive spot.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)

The Strange & Wonderful World of Ants

From Amos Latteier, best for ages 4-12, $3.99 on iPad only

Using flowing collage-like illustrations, this is a book that teaches kids about ants. The information is interesting, but what makes this book app special is a slider bar that immediately adjusts the reading difficulty level. On the easiest level, the book is read aloud; on the hardest, it offers more information and must be read by the child. Also fascinating is that when you touch the screen, a realistic-looking ant runs to your finger and talks to you via a speech bubble. This app makes learning science fun.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)


Gudmundsen is editor of Computing With Kids magazine. Contact her at


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