A trip to the grocery store leads to a whimsical tale as a family struggles to find a home for a dozen baby dinosaurs.
At the store, Leo asks his dad to get an enormous box of eggs. When they get home, Leo and his dad are surprised to discover a dozen baby dinosaurs have hatched and are happily eating their groceries. Just what are Leo and his family to do when the baby dinosaurs take over their apartment? While dinosaurs running amok is nothing new to children’s books, this original story is pretty nifty. Loeffler’s (Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework, 2010) illustrations are clear, expressive and warm. Young readers will giggle as they try to donate the baby dinosaurs to the museum, take them to school and finally return them to the store. The narration is exaggerated just enough to draw out the humor, emphasizing the playful side of this story. The visual layout includes clear, well-designed presentation of the text on the page, varying the print size and location, creating interest in the words for new readers. Interactive features, usually simple animations or silly sound effects, add to the humor and keep children engaged with the story.
Readers will undoubtedly want to find a basket full of these silly, helpful dinosaurs at their own supermarkets.
(iPad storybook app. 3-7)
In this droll, wordless import, a dozen dogs or other animals are connected to as many walkers by, usually, very long leashes.
Walker and animal being generally located at opposite ends of a long horizontal that is only partly viewable at any time, swiping leads to an initial visual surprise. A cowboy’s “dog,” for instance, turns out to be a huge bull, a delivery man walks a giraffe, a woman in upscale dress trails well behind a skunk. Single or multiple taps on the cartoon figures in each pairing activate more foolery in the form of low-volume sounds or visual effects. These range from jumps or color changes to “poots” of colored gas from the skunk, a tilt-responsive cascade of gifts from Santa and (a sure crowd pleaser) a discreet but decidedly risqué flurry of brightly patterned and even pictorial squares continually replacing Tarzan’s loincloth. There is no particular order or plotline, and the single-screen gallery/index opened by a corner icon allows viewers to skip around at will.
No bells but maybe a few whistles and definitely some giggles.
(iPad novelty app. 5-9)
This inventive pairing of colors with musical riffs offers almost unlimited opportunities for visual and aural experimentation—plus jigsaw puzzles for more structured entertainment.
Each of the four colors are introduced individually with their musical themes, first by blank screens to draw on and then stylized, big-eared animals whose parts can be moved about with a fingertip or left to separate in a tilt-sensitive drift. On following screens, the color fields and the figures appear in combinations that can be reordered or rearranged to create both color changes and musical juxtapositions or even, with rhythmic tapping, multilayered arpeggios. The title screen’s “Play” option leads to three jigsaws and an unusual kaleidoscopic puzzle that all use the same set of shapes and colors in fresh compositions. Comical grunts, drawing lines that transform into flights of butterflies and other small flourishes enhance the artfully designed interaction. There is no narration or text, but children will find that in addition to drawing and playing with colors, they can create a story that ends with enormously satisfying chortles.
A rewarding alternative for children who find the digital edition of Hervé Tullet’s Press Here (2012) too relentlessly inscrutable.
(iPad play app. 4-8)
Alizay, the redheaded pirate preteen of the Bonny Clipper, is always up for a hunt for treasure, especially when it’s with her loving dad, Capt. Rubberfoot (his peg leg is a plunger).
When their ship is becalmed near a mysterious isle, she faces a series of challenges that include a “Frogger”-like river crossing, a music game and secrets that are revealed on a treasure map. Throughout, Alizay stays upbeat and brave, collecting four needles that will reveal the secret of the island. In the best way possible, little is left to chance in the app. Illustrations are richly detailed, with cartoonish animation blending seamlessly with scenes that change perspective when readers tilt the iPad. For younger readers who may not be able to solve all the game’s puzzles, there are “Easy,” “Medium” and “Hard” difficulty settings, and most tough spots can be skipped to continue progressing in the story. There’s not much dazzle in the writing, but the app is more like a clever game with a nice back story than a straight storybook narrative. There’s a lot to Alizay’s adventure, so much so that it wouldn’t have been unreasonable if the developers had broken it up into multiple pirate apps.
Lucky for app bargain hunters, this one’s got it all: a plucky heroine, a funny parrot, lots of treasure and more than enough material to stave off boredom at sea.
(iPad storybook app. 4-10)
Two children have trouble staying in bed until their Mooshum, their grandfather, tells them a Coast Salish cautionary tale featuring a “scary old woman who eats the toes of children as if they were grapes!”
Dropped off by their dad at the mountain cabin of Mooshum and Kookum, Thomas and his little sister Lily have trouble settling down that night—until they hear how, long ago, a group of similarly sleepless children followed the delicious scent of candied salmon into the woods and were seized by the terrifying Kalkalilh. Both the children, who look like polished wooden dolls with black, button eyes, and the skulls that float about the hunched-over old woman’s cluttered hut wriggle and giggle when touched in the tilt-sensitive illustrations. The overall flow isn’t as smooth as it might be, as each picture takes a moment to load and the text only appears a few lines at a time. Still, options include autoplay or manual advance, a multivoiced audio and a choice of four languages, including Squamish. Furthermore, a main menu with thumbnails is available any time, and tapping the occasional red word in the narrative opens a box with the Squamish equivalent and a culture-specific comment or observation. Ultimately, the children in the core tale push their captor into her own fire, whereupon she turns into a cloud of mosquitoes and pursues them through the woods into the arms of their parents. In the framing story, Thomas and Lily rise in the morning to find real candied salmon and opposite-of-scary Kookum waiting in the cozy kitchen.
Not too spooky for bedtime yet with distinct chiller-diller potential, this folk tale marries tradition and modernity with great style.
(iPad folk-tale app. 6-9)
A young girl finds she can be happy without her newfound token of joy in an app that favors striking visuals over sound design or needless frills.
Forever frowning amid the gloom of cold rain and loneliness, a child identified only as “the grumpy girl” finds a bright yellow hat with a red ribbon. The fancy hat brings sunny days, flying kites and ice cream cones. “With her fancy hat, she laughed harder, smiled brighter, and felt like the happiest girl in the world.” The girl temporarily loses her favorite new item of clothing but discovers quickly that she can be just as happy without the hat. With its well-executed, painterly illustrations, the app is more sophisticated than it first appears. The visuals favor subtle shifts of perspective over full-blown animation. Movement is activated by tilting the iPad in different directions to make the scenes breathe in unexpected ways. There are no extra features, not even page numbers, and the lack of sound effects, music or narration creates a silence that only seems noticeable when compared to the tweedles and beeps of competing iPad storybooks. A fierce seaside storm and a bus splashing through a puddle seem made for sound cues, but in this case, the decision to embrace silence works fine. The text isn’t revelatory, but its message of building happiness from within comes across clearly.
This gloomy girl’s transformation to happy camper is worth embracing, silent or not
. (iPad storybook app. 4-10)
A completely delightful interactive ride on an old train full of surprises.
From the beginning, the top-drawer artwork, filigreed, naïve and with burnished, antique color that gleams, captivates. The subject: An old steam engine with a good complement of wagons (as the English would say) filled with burly men and salamis; bananas and a resident monkey; grand pianos, piggies complete with butchers’ marks; milch cows (across-the-pond English, again); cannons and like entertainments. This provides readers with an opportunity to do some counting, learn some new words—stoker, bolster—and engage with the material. Readers can slide a window up and down or load the cannon to produce a bang of festive fireworks, place baggage into a jigsaw, pull a whistle chain and release a bunch of balloons (and then pop them). The text is curious and inviting, with an eccentric cadence that keeps it this side of child’s play: “And of these wagons there’s forty all told, / I can’t tell myself what they can all hold.” The background music is just that: in the background; merry, but pleasingly so. There is also a frame where the train slips quietly into being a toy train—a bow to the imagination—and then out, once again under steam, to resume its journey.
Children lucky enough to encounter this app will understand why certain adults mourn the demise of the night mail, the branch line and the narrow gauge.
(iPad storybook app. 4-8)
Canine explorer Millie here builds a time machine to avoid running late with a friend’s birthday gift, but she soon finds herself chased by a baby T-Rex.
The first Millie Was Here app (Millie and the Lost Key, 2011) was a giddy mix of plain dog photos, overlaid graphics and hyperbolic storytelling that made the everyday life of a dog-about-town seem epic. That aesthetic continues here, but it’s been refined. There are still levers, dials, ribbons and springs that beg to be played with on well-built pages. But the story elements themselves have evolved nicely, especially a “Story Switch” feature that adds a reader-selected fork in the road leading to games that are part of Millie’s adventure. The navigation tray that slides up from the bottom of the screen is unobtrusive but genuinely handy. Other extras include a “Bedtime Mode” (which dims the screen and tones down the games) and clear instructions for parents, two app essentials that should be standard across the board. At the end of her first Indiana Jones–inspired adventure, it wasn’t clear whether her appeal would wear thin, but this latest story shows she’s still a great canine companion. Even the short video clips of Millie do not diminish the series’ homespun, handcrafted feel or lessen its playful touch. Millie’s misadventures could continue indefinitely if the exuberant storytelling and attention to detail hold to this level of quality. She’s a good dog with a great set of apps. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)
Millie’s misadventures could continue indefinitely if the exuberant storytelling and attention to detail hold to this level of quality. She’s a good dog with a great set of apps(iPad storybook app. 4-8)
An African village child’s flights of imagination soar even higher thanks to exemplary art, narration and animation.
The titular expostulation couldn’t be more wrong. Sitting comfortably in a patch of shade, young Awa observes that the new plaits in her hair look like baobabs—thus sparking a remarkable chain of free associations. Taps on highlighted words in her ruminations bring quick glimpses of hooting monkeys and other animals around a mighty tree, piranhas and a caiman splashing in the Amazon River, and also masklike “genies” bobbing in and out of view with snatches of percussive rattling. Drawn with quick, scribbly pen strokes and bright digital paints, the rain forest scenes, the creatures within them and the skies overhead glow with colors—nearly always unexpected ones, such as a zebra that, with successive taps of the text, flashes stripes of intense green, purple and red. Adding cinematic touches, smooth pans and dissolves (almost all tap-activated) follow the twisting path of Awa’s reverie to a final close-up of her sleeping, smiling face. The designers avoid a common flaw by allowing the expressive audio reading, available in English or French, to be switched off without also turning off the animal noises and other background sounds. There is, however, no way to go back or start over without closing the app.
Quibbles aside, a terrific depiction of a young mind slipping off into vivid daydreams. Young readers will be hard put not to follow.
(iPad storybook app. 5-9)