An extremely short yet effective example of what the A Story Before Bed app can do, this retelling of the classic nursery rhyme succeeds or fails in large part based on the reader's own effort. Like all of the books available for free or for purchase through the app's bookstore, readers record their own video narration using a PC or Mac computer and a webcam. While the process might seem cumbersome, recording the video only takes about as long as it takes the read a chosen book, and it's almost instantly available online to view by computer, iPhone or iPad once recorded. In the case of ItsyBitsy Spider—one of about 200 books available via the app—the illustrations are a generic kind of digital art that makes the titular character look more like a brown cotton ball with stick legs than an arachnid. Disappointingly, the spider makes it back up the spout with the help of a wind-blown leaf, which seems a bit lazy, even for such a tiny creature. But the app's magic really is in the ability to record accompanying video; a young reader's eyes are likely to light up at the sight of a parent reading the story on screen. That's especially true for parents who can't always be present; the app developer has made available free copies of its digital books to U.S. military troops and their children. While there's no way to pause the video on the iPad app without exiting the story entirely, the small, sometimes grainy video box that sits above the digital book pages is still very compelling. It shows that even the best iPad app narration can't compete with a story told aloud by a child's favorite bedtime reader. (iPad storybook app. 18 mo.-6)
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