Roxie's a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure by oc graphics

Based on the print books by Roxie Munro, this game app is a unique title that offers literally hours of entertainment to children (and adults) with a variety of challenges that require attention to detail and problem solving skills. Search & find titles have been popular in print for a long time, but this one is even more engaging in digital form. It is hard to believe these images weren't originally designed for the iPad.

There are 16 different segments to the map that you can drag a little car through or even get out and walk to explore. The illustrations are delightful and so detailed that you notice something new with every replay of this extraordinary title. Offering Read more …

The Trip Little Critter Reading Adventure by Baker & Taylor, Inc.

Based on Mercer Mayer's original illustrations of the "Critter" family on a road trip, The Trip: Little Critter Reading Adventure, is truly just that - a reading adventureWhile adults delight in the familiar characters and storyline, a whole new generation of Little Critter fans is virtually guaranteed with engaging apps like this one, created by Silver Dolphin Books.

Mayer originally wrote "The Trip" as an ABC style book in 1988 before its more familiar edition in 1997 that edited it down significantly. This app is based on the later edition, with wonderful enhancements that take young readers ages 2-6 on more than just a figurative adventure, by Read more …

Numberlys by Moonbot Studios LA, LLC

"Once upon a time there was no alphabet, only numbers," begins this highly polished app from Moonbot Studios. The story is told in a theatrical way, with exceptional computer animation and interesting games built into the storyline. The look of the app is very dark, in monochromatic tones that remind one of a black & white propaganda film about a communist country during the cold war. It even feels omnious at times, with dramatic music and a narrator with what sounds like a combination of an eastern European accent and a computerized voice.

This grim world is transformed by five number-named characters that have a dream ... to go beyond numbers and create a world that is more expansive Read more …

Treasure Kai and the Seven Cities of Gold by Treasure Bound Books Pty Ltd

In this sequel to Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island, readers are in for a treat! Full of exceptional interactivity that is both story-related and fun, this title surpasses the first book in a way that is rare for a series. The first title was based on a print book with a similar approach to non-linear storytelling, using a series of treasure chests at the bottom of the book (with small toys representing each new page). In print, this title has been a family favorite in our home to this day. But, in digital, this title really took the storytelling up a notch, with a design that feels tailored to the medium of the touch tablet without losing any of the ingenuity of the original Read more …

Spatter & Spark Pro by Polk Street Press LLC

This absolutely adorable storybook app from the Polk Street Press, creators of Goodnight Safari & The 12 Days of Christmas was just released last week. It features an original story from New York Times bestselling children's book author Deborah Underwood and a whole host of interactive in-story and extra activities. Pitch-perfect enhancements and a lot of thoughtful care in development make this a seamless storytelling experience your kids will return to over and over. And there's even a way to find out just how often and how much kids are reading with an email option to get parent reports.

Spatter & Spark is definitely a 5-Star app in more than one way, especially for really Read more …

Roxie's Doors by oc graphics

Based on Doors, a popular lift-the-flap print book, Roxie's Doors makes the digital transition so beautifully, it's hard to believe it wasn't originally designed for the iPad. There are over "50 flaps to lift & explore", bringing new discoveries on every page. The illustrations are delightful and so detailed that you notice something new with every re-reading.

The talented author/illustrator Roxie Munro brought the print book to children in 2004. I was not surprised to find all 5-Star reviews on Amazon.com for it, too. As a digital title, the book is lightly enhanced with animation, but the interactivity is the real star of this show! There are fun things to discover under Read more …

Jack and the Beanstalk by Nosy Crow by Nosy Crow Limited

Fans of fairy tales have flocked to Nosy Crow's beautifully produced apps since the launch of the Three Little Pigs app in early 2011. Jack and the Beanstalk follows in the same tradition as Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, featuring familiar stories with humourous dialogue (in speech-bubbles, which kids love) and reader-driven features that make for an immersive reading experience. The Grimm aspects of this and the other tales are softened, so there is nothing especially scary, although the characters can be a bit 'sassy' or impertinent at times. This dry humor, coupled with Ed Bryan's beautiful artwork and seamless animation, are a winning Read more …

Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic for iPad by Learning Touch

Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic for iPad is an incredible app offering under the category Education. It is based on the print book series of the same name, created by Bobby Lynn Maslen and John Maslen in 1976. According to Wikipedia, "Author Bobby Lynn Maslen was involved in cooperative preschool education for nine years and then became a teacher of 3-5 year-olds at a private school in Portland, Oregon. It was there that she created the Bob Books." I loved this little fact because my husband & I are very involved in our son's cooperative preschool and have found the educational philosophy and focus on parent education/involvement so helpful in raising our son.

The digital Read more …

Bob Books #2 - Reading Magic HD by Learning Touch

Bob Books #2 - Reading Magic for iPad is an incredible app offering under the category Education. It is based on the print book series of the same name, created by Bobby Lynn Maslen and John Maslen in 1976. According to Wikipedia, "Author Bobby Lynn Maslen was involved in cooperative preschool education for nine years and then became a teacher of 3-5 year-olds at a private school in Portland, Oregon. It was there that she created the Bob Books."

The digital transformation of these titles is really amazing for children learning to read. The 'book' itself is more of a hybrid book/educational game. There are 12 pages with short statements using simple words. These sentences are a bit Read more …

Toy Story Showtime! by Disney Publishing Worldwide Applications

Unless your child lives under a rock, they've probably fallen in love with the movie, characters and storyline behind the Toy Story series. This new digital title is based on a new plot not in any of the movies, told originally in a print title published in the summer of 2011. The toys are having a talent show in this tale, and Buzz is hoping to impress Jessie with his performance. But will he think up a talent in time?

As a digital title, this one is very solidly made with nice settings; easy-to-read text highlights as narrated and several great extras in the form of games extend the storytelling. These games are top notch, including a "Simon" style game with 4 colored buttons to follow Read more …

The Waterhole - Graeme Base by AppBooks

Based on the 2001 print title, this fascinating app brings Graeme Base's tale about animals gathering at a waterhole to life. Filled with games and an interactive storybook, this app is sure to please young and old alike. It isn't quite the same as the art-book style print title, but children will pour over this digital version to find the hidden creatures in this stellar counting book all the same.

The images are gorgeous in this app, however I would love to see the initial page with text much larger and highlighting as it is read. It is tiny and the image doesn't seem to really take advantage of the screen size. A 'loading screen' also disrupts things periodically. A page guide and Read more …

Millie Was Here, Book 1: Meet Millie by MegaPops LLC

Millie Was Here is a short but absolutely adorable book about an ordinary dog with extraordinary capabilities. The app has great background music, delightful narration and a charming interactive interface that will please adults as much as children. The story, while slight at only 8 pages, is humorous, including lots of typical dog 'shenanigans' like pushing food into the corners of the couch & refusing to eat anything but bacon.

A cute extra is included that involves hunting for a hidden sticker on every page. The other interactive elements are the real star of this show, though. You can pull tabs and slide levers that respond with crisp sound effects, revealing Millie's many secrets. Read more …

Goosed Up Rhymes HD by Brain Freeze Entertainment

According to Wiktionary.org & my handy bookmark at Thesaurus.com, to goose-up is "to boost or take steps to make something appear more attractive, to increase or augment." And Goosed-up Rhymes could not have been more appropriately named. It is an app that is so packed with games, tappable interactivity and hidden surprises that I emailed the developer to be sure I hadn't inadvertently missed something. I usually spend a few hours with an app, but this one took twice the normal time to review, simply because it has more than twice the content of a typical book app.

The book is broken into 8 'pages' with each nursery rhyme presented as a full multi-media event. Read more …

Endless Alphabet by Originator Inc.

Endless Alphabet, from developer Originator Inc., opens to a big monster’s mouth full of word cards that can be chosen by swiping or by browsing words under a particular letter. The selected word is narrated, then the letters are jumbled out of place by a raucous herd of adorable monsters who run across the page.

When letters are touched to move back into place, the letter chosen comes alive wiggling and makes the phonetic sound for that letter. When it is placed correctly, the narrator says the letter name. If a letter is placed incorrectly, the letters make a subtle “nuh, uh” or “whan, wan” sound. Maybe the sound is more “eh, eh.” I have Read more …

Hairy Letters by Net Educational Systems Limited

Hairy Letters is more of an educational game than a storybook, but it does have a lot in common with a print alphabet workbook. It is produced by a UK based company that has been making educational software for children since 1999. They work closely "with the Bristol Dyslexia Centre to ensure that all the Nessy titles are especially helpful for dyslexics." In this app they have created a wonderful bundle of activities to keep a child engaged in learning for hours.

This title has a clean & intuitive interface with three sets of alphabet tiles, each with their own unique role. In uppercase mode the tiles simply say the letter's name aloud. In 'trace' mode, the child is shown the Read more …

Caillou: What's That Funny Noise? - i Read With learning method and creative game for preschool kids by Tribal Nova

iRead With is a new educational app series from Canadian app developer Tribal Nova, developers of the iLearn with series of educational apps. The first 2 books in the series feature Caillou the popular children’s television character. The books are designed to be used by parents with their preschooler to help prepare them to learn to read. They were developed with McGill University’s Child Phonology Lab and uses the Dialogic Reading method. Simply put this method encourages parents to interact with children when reading to them- prompting them with questions , expanding on their responses, re-iterating important information and encouraging them to re-tell the story.

This Read more …

The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ & Friends – Play & Explore by StoryToys Entertainment Limited

March 20, 2014 marked the 45th birthday of Eric Carle’s beloved book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. To celebrate StoryToys released a fantastic new app called The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Friends: Play And Explore. Parents and Children who have grown up with Eric Carle’s works are sure to recognize characters from several of his books including Brown Bear, The Very Quiet Cricket, Mister Seahorse, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, The Grouchy Ladybug, and Hermit Crab. Indeed, this app feels as if all these characters came together for one awesome birthday party!

There are eight chapters or sections in this app. It features the same beautiful and vibrant illustrations children have come Read more …

Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash! – A Sesame Street Step Into Reading App by Random House Digital, Inc.

Elmo's Birthday Bash is a fun app with a few areas for improvement to live up to expectations of educational enhancement worthy of the Sesame Street label. It has a story that isn't riveting but does provide for an "early reader" quite well with simple text that highlights as narrated by Bob McGrath, an original cast member in his 43rd season on the show. Fun games are also included that let kids match beginning letter sounds and rhyming words. These games can be included in the story or excluded in the apps ample settings.

These settings include a page guide, easy self-recording options and other solid ways to navigate and set-up the app. Arrows are present to turn the page forward, Read more …

Cars 2 Storybook Deluxe by Disney Publishing Worldwide Applications

Have you caught the Cars 2 movie yet? Well, my little boy was delighted to help me review the new digital book app by the same title, especially after seeing the movie. The app is a packed offering that includes a storybook, puzzles, painting pages and two small mini games. If you liked Cars 2 or plan to see it soon, this is sure to be a hit with your little Disney fan, too.

The movie plot points are highlighted throughout the book, but it could be difficult to follow if you aren't familiar with the film. For my little boy, I think seeing the book before the movie gave him a lot of fun anticipation, but he didn't fully understand the way the plot was connected until after we saw Cars 2 in Read more …

Bartleby's Book of Buttons Vol. 1: The Far Away Island by Monster Costume

Bartleby's book of buttons is a truly unique iPad app offering.  At first I didn't know what to make of it, but my 4 year old dove right in and discovered the charm of this book-game adventure.  Bartleby & his obsession with buttons, is at the heart of the book, as he travels to collect even more rare buttons for his collection. In the few short pages of the book, there are tons of buttons to push and a mystery of sorts to solve on every page.

The page turn button will be red until the proper combination of buttons, levers, switches, etc. are in place, so it can be a challenge for younger readers at first. Once the challenge is met, the button will turn green to allow the Read more …

Bartleby's Book of Buttons Vol. 2: The Button at the Bottom of the Sea by Monster Costume

Bartleby is back! My little one loved Vol. 1: The Faraway Island and was very excited to explore this new title. In the sequel, we find our button-obsessed protagonist heading out on a quest for a button at the bottom of the sea. Bartleby's lady-friend Sally helps him on his quest, which involves traveling in a submarine to the ocean floor. With light animation and ingenious interactivity, Bartleby Vol. 2 is a book-game hybrid that children (and many adults) will find deeply entertaining.

The reader needs to find the proper combination of actions on each page to allow the story to continue. There are buttons, switches, levers and pulleys on nearly every page that challenge the reader Read more …

Kiwi and Pear's World Adventure by Zephyr Games

Kiwi and Pear's World Adventure is a storybook/game hybrid title under Games. It is an iPhone/iPod title that does expand to 2x on an iPad, although the resolution for the iPad is not ideal but still enjoyable. The book features two little monkeys that travel around the world, seeing all the famous sights, from the Statue of Liberty to the Great Wall.

It is educational and could have been listed under any one of three categories (Games/Books/Education). The storybook is the main feature, and it is full of delightful animations, most of which are triggered by the child touching a picture. The sun on most pages bounces in the sky, the animals move around and much more.

This book is definitely Read more …

The Vitamin Adventures of Don and Flip by EMANTRAS

This ebook for the iPad is under the category 'Games' and it is really more of an educational game, although it does have over 20 pages of 'story' to go along with its 'extras'. It stars two birds, Don and his side-kick Flip. The birds are irreverent and not always kind to each other, but in a funny way that is typical of many cartoons aimed at children. For instance, in one of the first books Don calls Flip 'stupid' which can be a concern for many parents. It didn't bother me, but I usually talk to my child about these types of cartoon interactions whenever I catch them in media he watches.

The stories, each about 4 pages, end with a short game with falling foods that represent things you Read more …

Loose Strands: Unlockable Edition by Darned Sock Productions Inc

Loose Strands, by DarnedSocks Productions, is a choose-your-own-adventure style story app with dozens of different possible adventures. This imaginative tale is about a boy who is trapped in world where he can never go outside and everything (and I do mean everything) is made of hair from the family's barber shop. Tween readers can be picky about what they want to read and difficult to motivate, so you can try out this app for free (for iPad), with a sample chapter. The rest of the book can be unlocked to the full storybook by an in-app purchase, which is very worthwhile for a title that has nearly 2000 pages. The full storybook app is also available separately as a paid app for iOS, Kindle Read more …

NetKids Digital Entertainment Network for Kids by CUPCAKE DIGITAL INC

After installing and setting up the free app, parents create an account for themselves and for each child age two and up using the app. The settings are parent-protected by year of birth and have everything you could want in terms of settings: child profiles, parental account, manage titles (where certain titles can be removed from the child's view, like maybe Barney), quality settings (for switching HD off or on and allowing the app to use cellular data for downloads), manage downloads (where items can be removed), support, rate app, privacy policy and the unlock content area where the subscription is made.

After all of the parental tinkering in settings, adults can hand over the app to Read more …

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System by MINILAB LTD

Blast off with Professor Astro Cat in this delightful new learning app from Mini Lab Studios in partnership with their sister company, Flying Eye Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher. Professor Astro Cat's Solar System features fun facts about all the planets in our solar system. Presented in a book-game hybrid app, this content is not only educational but also deeply engaging. Kids earn medals as the learn, including answering True/False questions in a rocket game that is so fun they barely realize they are being tested. My 9 year old was enthralled and especially enjoyed the chance to build his rocket as he progressed through the levels.

Navigation Read more …

HangArt: Play Hangman, Draw Pictures, Tell Stories by LITERARY SAFARI INC

Beginning with the opening screen and spying that Mondrian inspired logo, you just know you’re going to be in for some fun with Literary Safari’s HangArt. It has some of the features that we love from classic games like Scrabble, Pictionary, and Mad Libs and combines them in one app cohesively.

There are a lot of learning objectives packed into this little game; Whoops – I mean educational app. Kids K-3 will not even realize the extent of what they are taking in because the app is centered on play. There are 3 modes to choose from, Classic Hangman, Word Gallery (intro to grammar), and Story Studio; and each one is addictive.

Plenty of research has gone into the Read more …