Voicing, small-scale animations and a matching game suit MacDonald’s 2008 abecedary to a T.
Realistically reproducing the original’s square pages with their slide-out cards, each screen of this digital version features a simple, brightly colored, graphic-style animal portrait based on a clearly recognizable capital letter. Beneath that is a “tab” that pulls out an image of the letter unadorned and that triggers a simple animation. Young viewers can hear both the animal’s name and the letter pronounced with taps, and they may either swipe to the next letter or choose it from a strip running below. The names do not appear in print, but aside from xenops (a type of South American bird), all of the animals are common (and real, except perhaps for the unicorn). A “Game” icon on the title page opens a screen on which children are invited to spell their names and then drag animal thumbnails to match the letters.
Overall, a well-designed edition with extras that will appeal to diapered digerati.
(iPad alphabet app. 1-3)
Colorful, simple artwork will draw young children to Tino’s story, in which the little triangle meets 10 different animal friends.
Tino, a bright yellow triangle, is in search of new friends as he explores the world. Tap Tino, and he is surrounded by a bright blue background. Quiet sound effects provide clues to guess the next friend Tino meets, revealed with another tap and creating a peekaboo game. Barks and pants signal the appearance of Fido the dog, “a funny fellow./ The fleas just love his fur.” Tino the triangle is incorporated into each illustration, whether as the dog’s ear or a crocodile’s tooth. Each animal spread contains a few interactive elements—enough to keep up interest but never impeding the pace. The order in which the animals appear changes with each reading, heightening the pleasure of the guessing game. (Unfortunately, not all of the sound clues are obvious: Do hedgehogs really snore?) The story can be read in English, Italian or German. Interestingly, the authors did not directly translate the text, instead creating text suited to young children in each language. For example, Tino meets Fido the dog in English, cane Tobia in Italian and Hund Lumpi in German. In each language, alliteration and internal rhyming combine with smooth, gentle narration suitable for toddlers.
While this app may seem simple at first glance, it is actually just skillfully restrained, providing a reading experience nicely tailored to very young children
. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 13, 2013
This simple yet substantive story gives toddlers a valuable primer on color and music.
The story begins with seven little characters—they look like peas—snuggled in bed. Each one represents both a color in the rainbow and a note on the heptatonic scale. Tapping each colorful sphere produces a cheery note, with the exception of Red, who honks instead of dinging, as it’s feeling under the weather. “Don’t worry Red / we will color for you,” says Orange, as all of the other colors tumble out the door. Each subsequent screen finds the beadlike characters hard at work to color things that correspond to their particular hues. But each one also picks up the slack for Red, who is home sick. Blue colors the sea and the sky, for example, but it also tints a fire truck—blue. Little fingers help bring the colors to life by tapping on the named elements; each one dings except the incorrectly colored item, which produces a noise that might be what a question mark sounds like. When Red starts feeling better, it learns that all of its items are the wrong color. Tapping the miscolored items returns them to their proper color, and as night approaches, the dots head back to bed. Available in English (with either American or British spellings), French, Spanish and Hungarian.
A solid and satisfying offering on all fronts.
(Requires iPad 2 and above.)
(iPad storybook app. 1-5)
Barton’s books about transportation are notable for their spare simplicity and bright pop-art illustrations; here, four gain added value with features that both entertain and encourage reading skills.
Introducing the setting for each mode of transport, the books open simply: “On the road,” “In the sky,” etc. Each subsequent page then highlights a different type of truck, airplane, etc., and with a true minimum of words conveys a good bit of information about their functions. “Planes” and “Boats” focus on the passenger jet and cruise ship as specific types, while “Trains” and “Trucks” concentrate on what they do. To assist early readers, words zoom up and are spoken when objects in the pictures are touched, and all words are highlighted as they are read; Oceanhouse’s signature style is an excellent complement to Barton’s simple compositions and text. Young readers will enjoy moving the vehicles, people and even the clouds while realistic (and optional) sound effects such as honks, murmured speech and engine noise play in the background. Extra movement is provided by subtle animations. A drop-down bar gives easy access to the audio options, page selection and information tabs.
Bright, simple and loaded with big machines—a steam engine, a fire boat and even a crop-duster, among others—this app is sure to appeal to young transportation enthusiasts. (iPad informational app. 2-5)
While ABC apps are certainly plentiful, these playful Claymation-style critters will bring giggles and multiple readings.
With its creative animation, this app puts a twist on an otherwise fairly typical ABC book. Each page features a large uppercase letter on a bright background. When young readers tap it, the clay letter folds up into a ball and then unfolds into an animated creature that corresponds to that letter. Preschoolers will certainly laugh at these goofy animals, with their big, round eyes, oversized mouths and silly expressions. The unicorn, xiphias and yeti all provide amusing variations on the standard fare of ABC animals. Tap the animal, and it will form into a ball before reverting back to the letter. Unfortunately, the narration does not repeat the letter name at this point, missing an important opportunity for reinforcing names and sounds. The letter names are clearly articulated with cheerful narration; however, the letter sounds are not as clear. An original song plays continuously if users tap the musical-note icon, a useful feature for very young children. The settings are easy to use, enabling parents to toggle between letter names and sounds. Four games extend the interactive learning with matching games and puzzles.
These appealing creatures will draw preschoolers back for repeated readings and exposure to letter names and sounds—a winning combination.
(iPad alphabet app. 2-6)
An airy introduction to holes of, mostly, the anatomical sort with touch-activated effects that run the scale from whimsical to hilariously edgy.
Preserving the format of the original Danish print edition (with a black dot in place of the die-cut hole), this digital version alternates white screens of text printed in curved lines—read expressively in a childlike voice—with thematically related Monty Python–style collages. Practically every element in each collage will drift, drop, spin, chime, blink, mutter or otherwise respond to taps. Along with defining useful new words like “anus” and “nostril” (“The boogers come from your nostrils”), the presentation not only covers bodily orifices, but also black holes and the Big Bang, dental cavities, and holes in nature or around the house. Particular highlights include a mouth that pronounces the word for “mouth” in nine languages and a not-exactly-graphic look at reproduction: “It is certain that you entered this world through a hole. But that’s a long story. Ask your dad….” Several of the collages feature items that can be played like musical instruments or, as on a face with scrambled features, require rearranging. An icon on every page leads to a thumbnail index and a key to all the interactive extras.
Educational and entertaining—and tailor-made to spark stimulating interchanges between younger children and unwary grown-ups.
(iPad informational app. 2-5)
Gently rhyming narration follows Ollie the zebra and his father as they spend a day together cooking, going to the park, painting a fence and reading a story at bedtime.
The delicate illustrations in gray and white with highlights of color are simply and effectively animated with no extra clutter to take away from the charm of the original book (2010). Tapping the characters starts them walking, riding bikes, swinging and so on, with the overall effect enhanced by realistic sounds and refreshingly high-quality, original music. Ollie’s ascent of the tree full of singing birds is particularly noteworthy; each bird is gently animated, and Ollie’s father watches with a smile from a lower branch. The littlest ones will love it when Ollie hides under a blanket and then pops out to shout “Boo!” in classic peekaboo fashion. Although easy page turns and an index page option are available, there is unfortunately no option to turn the narrator off and read it aloud. [Editor's note: "read to myself" option added in version 1.1, Nov. 22, 2013.]
Simple enough for preschoolers to enjoy independently, but like the subject itself, this app will be enjoyed most when shared together. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)
A winning combination of cute characters, soothing music and gentle bedtime activities for toddlers and preschoolers.
Nott (“night” in old Norse and Icelandic) is a delightful child dressed in purple pajamas and a cap that sports heart-shaped antennae. She’s sleepy but not quite ready to go to sleep (sound familiar?) Dutch author Dorrestein’s tale begins with a sweeping view of Nott’s treehouse bedroom, where she’s gleefully jumping on her bed. Once she hops to the floor, three pulsating puzzlelike images appear. Tapping each one causes Nott’s pillow to carry her off to three distinct dreamlike adventures. Touch the moon and she’ll land in the clouds, where readers can help clear them away and feed stars to the moon. Touching the outline of Nott’s cuddly sidekick, Nox (Latin for “night”), transports her to a pond where she must complete simple yet clever tasks that lead her friend to shore. Finally, the outline of the lantern takes her to a forest, where catching fireflies reveals creatures that, when tapped, move to center stage and settle down to sleep. There’s no text, and Nott doesn’t speak except to say “Yay!” and giggle when touched. But the story carries itself and will, in all likelihood, carry many a little reader off to dreamland.
A worthwhile bedtime ritual that children will return to again and again.
(iPad storybook app. 1-5)
This quadruple-screen “flip book” with 121 possible combinations uses the first letter or phonetic sound of an animal’s top half combined with the name of a different animal’s bottom half to create such creatures as a “purkey” (a pig/turkey—a greedy animal that can’t fly, of course) or a “dicken” (a dog/chicken, which herds the other animals and is great at laying eggs). As readers slide either half from side to side, they create new creatures and also new rhyming descriptions, with one quatrain for each half. In this way, the app explores phonetic sound as well as rhyme, with highlighted words to assist emergent readers. Subtle background music never interferes with the narration, and each poem is engagingly read by child actors with British accents—details users have come to expect with Nosy Crow creations. With the exception of the “For Grown-ups” button, which is purposely difficult to open, all of the interactions are quick and responsive. Page flips are quite easy, but young readers must wait for the poems to finish being read before they are able to tap the animals for sound. At that point, both animal halves can be tapped simultaneously, combining their noises and making for some pretty silly fun that will appeal broadly.
Scheffler’s bright, colorful illustrations combine with wordplay for a winner. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)
Comfy-cozy digital version of a board book (one of a 1998 trio) featuring a black cat and a squeaky toy mouse.
Touch-sensitive elements—a snoring cat, a toy that squeaks when tapped and can be dragged across a floor or tabletop—and animations such as a slowly setting sun or a falling tablecloth add very easy-to-follow motion to Hines’ original, extra-simple domestic scenes. Here, views of Bean snoozing beneath a window sandwich a brief nighttime stalk and chase. Bean’s Baby offers a nose-to-nose encounter with a laughing infant followed by a shared nap. Bean’s Games include quick rounds of “Jumping Bean,” “String Bean” and, at last, (unsurprisingly) boneless slumber on the lap of a “Human-Bean.” Along with auto-play or manual-advance options, in all three 11-screen episodes, a child reads aloud (optionally) the one or two words or two-word sentences on each screen, then at the end chirps “Again?” Toddlers will certainly take her up on the invitation.
Not as chewable as the originals, but the enhancements are expertly integrated rather than just tacked on and will welcome rather than overwhelm the target audience.
(iPad storybook app. 6 mos.-2)