2014 Best of the Best: Top Ten Apps – Most Innovative Interactive Picture Books

| September 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

It’s time for Digital-Storytime’s fourth annual “best of the best” list for the top picture book apps for children, ages 2-12! This year we have broken the list down into five separate categories, including this final one – ten apps with the most exceptional, innovative and relevant interactivity. All of these books are unique storybook apps with enhancements that create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.

Quality storytelling can still stand on its own, of course, but in the digital realm it doesn’t have to. But it isn’t easy to tailor interactivity and animation to a well-paced narrative for children. You want to integrate these features in a way that reinforces rather than distracts from the story; it is as much an art as a science to get a story right in the digital realm. These ten book apps stand out above the crowd for having seamless interactivity that supports the storytelling beautifully, while challenging print conventions by thinking outside-the-book.

You can see the other categories and get more information about our reviews, here: http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=3261.

At Digital-Storytime, we take book apps seriously, as both books and apps. This format is all we review for a reason. We believe the best formats for presenting good books will always be story-driven and reader-driven, not technology-driven; technology may be how we tell stories, but it should never be why we tell stories. In a sea of content, it can be difficult to separate a fun kids app that happens to have a storyline from more meaty literature and educational content for young audiences. We hope we’ve helped.

Best Picture Book Apps – Innovative Interactivity

1. Moon & Sun

Moon and Sun – Children’s Book by Marcio Monteiro tells the story of two lonely children, the Sun and the Moon. They live separate lives, never imagining the other exists. Until the day that Moon climbs down from the sky and finds the Sun. The two become fast friends, enjoying the days and nights.

Follow the two friends as they learn the joys of friendship and the ensuing stars that are born. This storybook is filled with whimsical illustrations that tell the tale of two new friends. As children engage in the story, they tap to find smooth animations as Sun and Moon dance and play. Tapping in other areas of the page elicits a relaxing swirl of dots, and occasionally other small animations. Tapping on specific words reads the page again.

(Guest Review from FunEducationalApps.com)

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2. The Very Itchy Bear

The Very Itchy Bear is the third picture book to follow Nick Bland’s print title, The Very Cranky Bear, about four animal friends who just want to find a nice, dry place to play cards on a rainy day. In the 2nd book, The Very Hungry Bear, each animal tries to placate the angry (and hungry) bear in hopes of sharing his cave. This book takes the bear (and the reader) away from the familiar cave and animal friends.

Bland’s storytelling style and gorgeous illustrations are still a highlight in this title, though, published in print in the UK in 2011. In fact, I think this is my favorite app, so far in the series. Bear is peacefully reading a book (perhaps one of Bland’s earlier hits?) on a grassy knoll when a flea jumps up to say hello (by biting the bear, of course). With beautifully paced text and charming narration from Angus Sampson, a story unfolds about two opposites who attract and eventually become friends. Children will love the subtle but polished animation that reinforces the storyline perfectly.

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3. Four Little Corners

Four Little Corners, by DADA Company, is a simple storybook app with a sophisticated message – fitting in with your peers can be as difficult as fitting a square peg through a round hole. Wow! Four Little Corners is digital masterpiece, based on the original book by Jérôme Ruillier, whose message is a timeless classic. We LOVE this unassuming yet profound story/app; it is a delightfully darling little tale that has such a powerful message!

Four Little Corners reinforces integral values such as friendship, integration, equality participation, comradeship, and social justice. The message that it is just fine to be different comes through loud and clear!  “Four Little Corners” makes a perfect book for young readers as well as teenagers to be reminded of what is really important. The author uses simplistic concepts to signify objects and ideas, a taut piece of string represents  an argument, a bit of cardboard for a man who lives on the streets, colors to represent emotions and of course a square and circles represent the children.

(Guest Review from TeachersWithApps.com)

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4. Rita the Lizard

Based on the 2006 print title, published in Spain, Rita the Lizard is an award-winning story available in many formats. The app version, reviewed here, is extremely interactive. It focuses thoughtfully on the rhyming text of the short storybook, which is likely what won over the judges for the many awards it has been mentioned, including the Bologna Digital Ragazzi Award.

Rita the Lizard also received a Kirkus Star and high marks from Children’s Technology Review. Each page features text that can be removed with a quick tap, after finishing with the reading/narration, to see the illustrations more fully. Tapping on the scene reveals dozens of touch-points on every page, totalling more than 200 surprises for young readers.

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5. Gary’s Place

Gary is a gopher with a keen desire to set out on his own in this adorable storybook app written by Rick Walton. Created with Kwiksher, this title is illustrated by Will Terry, a talented artist and articulate blogger about the artist’s journey into digital publishing at willterry.blogspot.com. Readers can also see Terry’s art in the suspenseful and nearly wordless book app, Monkey & Croc (one of my personal favorites).

On the first page of this app, we meet Gary and his parents. [Note: Readers must tap each character to start the narration, but after this page it starts automatically.] Gary’s parents think their underground home is comfy and cozy, but Gary says it’s crowded. “Then it’s time,” they say, “to get a place of your own.” Gary sets out to do just that, tunneling near the pond to create a labyrinth of rooms. The detail in the artwork is delightful, featuring every little thing a gopher could need and many things he doesn’t need, like a gameroom and private home theater with separate concession stands.

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6. Monster’s Socks

Storytelling just got a lot cooler with this title about a little monster on a quest to find his lost pair of socks. Not-at-all-scary, this is a book app that will enchant youngsters with innovative features and top-notch production values. The little monster ‘walks’ across the screen with the help of the reader. Arrows in the bottom corners of each page let kids move the main character back and forth to explore  without any actual page ‘turning’ involved. This fits the medium beautifully and feels fresh and game-like, despite the more-or-less linear storytelling and well-crafted and paced text.

This is definitely a ‘book’ but also something more. Creative interactive elements are immersive and make the young reader an essential driver of the narrative. The little monster needs help to pull a bridge into place, set sail across the ocean and take-off in a rocket to the moon.

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7. The UnStealer

The UnStealer, by Joshua and Donna Wilson, is a new book app from developer the happy dandelion, with an enhanced tale about semantics that is never un-satisfying. The ‘unstealer’ is a bandit who steals the prefix ‘un’ from the front of many otherwise un-happy utterances. He is pictured primarily in silhouette as he leaves each page, although a full picture is on the cover, showing him with UN’s spilling out of his pockets. These fun illustrations create a nice visual background for a well-written picture book about modifying the meaning of words (for the better).

A sad clown is cheered up when his unfunny feelings are ‘undone’ by this word-smithing thief, as well as many others who find themselves in unwelcome situations. The interactive elements for young fingers are perfectly tailored to the narrative, reinforcing concepts well. Tapping on the colored words for things like ‘large’ or ‘small’ and ‘upper’ or ‘lowercase’ causes the “UN” on the screen to change accordingly, for instance. The app has no ‘extras’ but plenty of content to engage young readers in their pursuit of a good story.

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8. My Friend the Spider

Amico Ragnolo, from Small Bytes Digital, was shortlisted in 2014 for the Bologna Digital Ragazzi Award. It is an original story, based on an Italian children’s book of the same name. In English, the title is “My Friend the Spider” and it is about a duck that befriends a rather talented spider (along the line of Charlotte’s Web).

Ragnolo can make his web into many things, including the Eiffel Tower or even a sword for play-fighting with his new ornithological friend. Short and very sweet, My Friend the Spider is a precious children’s tale that could easily become a classic. It is about friendship and appreciation of differences, overlaid on the natural world in a way that teaches many good life lessons to human children. It’s also an easy storybook to enjoy with both young and old readers alike.

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9. Jazzy World Tour – Musical Journey for Kids

Jazzy World Tour – Musical Journey for Kids, from My Melody Book is much more than a reading app, although it includes plenty to explore in text, describing each of the locations on the map. These include the United States (New York), Ireland, Brazil, Spain, Egypt, Kenya, India, Japan and Australia. Children can record their travels in a digital travel book, collecting photos of their journey.

The navigation is intuitive in this solidly made app for children ages 3 to 8. Each location has the choice of Learn, Create and Play. Tap “Learn” and you can tap items like musical instruments, traditional foods and other items from each culture featured to find out more about them.

Tap “Play” to hear more about all the images, including musical sounds from many instruments from around the world. Tap “Create” to select the items you want to play with, including images of people, places and things. Press the “record” icon and you can create your own brief video, with unique audio to narrate your scene. A great way to make exploring the world even more interactive!

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10. Alizay, Pirate Girl

Get ready for an adventure with Alizay the Pirate Girl! This app by French developer Slim Cricket Books takes children on a treasure hunt with Alizay and her father, Captain Rubber Foot. Together they will set sail to Wind Rose Island where they must complete several activities in order to find the treasure.

This book can be read in either French or English. It has two reading options: Read to Me and Read by Myself. It also has three difficulty levels to choose from. The harder levels will take more skill and time to complete some activities.

The combination of interesting characters, beautiful illustrations, and entertaining, brain-stimulating activities made this app very enjoyable and hard to put down.

(Guest Review from TheiMums.com)

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See more of our 2014 “Best of the Best” recommendations:

Category: All About Apps, Top 10 Lists

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of Digital-Storytime.com, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.