Do ipad book apps count as books? Some bibliophiles argue that they don’t, insisting that book apps are more game than book.
But, I disagree. I think it’s great that kids can access books in this new way. Sure, there are interactive game-like elements, but in a quality app, these don’t have to be distracting and can add meaning to the reading experience.
This year, I’m a Round 1 judge for the Cybils in the book app category and in this role have read even more ipad apps – around forty. Predictably, the book apps varied between poor and excellent. But, what makes a great book app anyway? Here’s what I’m thinking makes a good book app – but this could change. What do you think makes a good book app?
A good book app needs to have:
- an interesting story
- compelling, kid-friendly illustrations
- appropriate text to picture ratio (not too much text – bluck! – not okay for kids)
- easy navigation: pages which are easy to turn, way to return home, way to skip pages
- choices of read to self and read to me
- clickable elements that relate to the story and aren’t just for fluff
My 2011 Favorite Book Apps
The Monster At the End of this Book
Remember life before Elmo? When Grover was the cutest character back in the day? Well, Grover gets to star in this funny, well-made story app, The Monster At the End of this Book.
*If you have younger kids who might be scared, remind them that Grover is a monster, and reveal that there’s only one monster in this story, Grover. (I think it’s okay to share that information, then your child will think it’s funny and not scary.)
Unlike other book apps, the words only appear when Grover narrates them, and are shown in yellow highlighting. This feature makes it great for younger readers to follow along with the text. While Grover talks to us (I just love that he talks in dialog bubbles,) more illustrations are added to the page with great, noisy sound effects – crash, boom, bang!
My kids and I adore this silly Grover-narrated story and think it’s the perfect book to be told digitally. The sound effects and Grover’s very dramatic narration make this hilarious story so much better than the original book (which I have never said before about any book, and might not ever say again.) This book app will be a favorite for years to come and is perfect for ages 3 to 10.
Pat the Bunny
A fun, very interactive new version of the the classic lift the flap picture book. Simple but engaging.
“See the colorful toy.
Can you find out what’s inside?”
A Charlie Brown Christmas
It just took once time reading this book for my kids (ages 6 and 9) to become huge Charlie Brown fans! While we hear the narrator, the original Charlie Brown voice, the Vince Guaraldi music plays. What’s more, when the characters speak, its the voices we’re used to from the 1965 TV movie, plus interactive bonuses like playing Schroeder’s piano and decorating Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.
Instead of comic style illustrations, Charlie Brown Christmas uses layered textured paper-cut illustrations. Love it!
Cinderella A 3-D Fairy Tale (Noisy Crow)
A British female voice narrates this wonderfully illustrated Cinderella filled with character’s speech bubbles. Touch the characters and they flip around or speak. Touch the room and move around to get a closer look. As Cinderella gallops to the ball, we get more of a movie feel.
The Three Little Pigs 3D (Noisy Crow)
The same cute narrator reads us this story and yeah and hallallulah, one of the pigs is a girl!! Like Cinderella, the illustrations are colorful and a bit like the Charlie and Lola collage style. It’s a great retelling of this familiar story.
My Little Pony Twilight Sparkle: Teacher For a Day
Not only can you both listen to the story or read the story yourself, kids can record themselves reading the story! Is a great feature for parents who want their child to practice reading?
If your child loves My Little Pony like mine, then anything to do with MLP will be a hit!
Harold and the Purple Crayon
I’m one of those random people who don’t adore the Harold story. I get worried for Harold and where are his parents anyway? I guess you either do or you don’t.
This Harold is very much like the book Harold but it looks like a movie and there are interactive elements to touch and swipe. Some such elements include coloring in the gray lines of objects like the moon Harold first draws or on the pie picnic, you can read the different kind of pie individually when you touch each pie. Overall, it’s a great app; better if you actually like the story in the first place.
Oh, the Thinks You Can Think (Dr. Seuss)
This app requires a lot of swiping to continue the sentences in the story. While the next sentence brings colorful additions to the page, be forewarned, it does get a bit tiresome.
As in the book version, the app is a great story for beginning readers.
Mr. Brown Can Moo, How About You?
I think if you like the book of this story, you’ll like the app. It doesn’t have any extra special interactive elements.
There’s No Place Like Space
I love this book and how much information it gives readers. However, I didn’t like that I couldn’t skip ahead in the story like most other book apps.
Little Critter All By Myself
The story is exactly the same as it’s book counterpart, the only interactive elements are when you touch pictures, you see and hear the word like “socks” or “door.
Andrew’s teacher wants Andrew to tell her a word that begins with the letter N. Andrew responds, “No.” And so starts this educational and silly story of Andrew and his words. Between scenes we can tilt the screen to steer Andrew through the hallways and Andrew’s parents into a parking space. The teacher sends Andrew to the principal. The principal sends Andrew to the mayor. The mayor to the president, who finally understands Andrew. Andrew is a genius.
Previously Recommended Book Apps
Bartelby’s Book of Buttons Vol. 1
The Going to Bed Book
This Too Shall Pass