2011 – The Year’s Best Digital Books for Kids – 31 Five-Star iPad Apps Not to be Missed

| December 27, 2011 | 3 Comments

Overall Star Award - Digital-Storytime.comAt Digital-Storytime.com, we are celebrating our first birthday! We’d like to pay tribute to last year’s very best picture book apps for the iPad and the developers who made these reading experiences possible.

For the final post in our blog, I want to highlight the 31 books to receive a perfect 5-Star review on our site. With over 400 reviews, that means these apps are the cream of the crop, representing fewer than 10% of all the titles we’ve seen. We have awarded all of these developers our “Digital Storytime Star” for overall merit.

Since there are 31 days in January, we will be celebrating these wonderful books, one each day during the next month. Join us on our Facebook page for all the festivities to honor the 27 developers who’ve produced these fine apps for children.

This list is in order from oldest review to newest. The first few were reviewed in the very last days of 2010 but all were hits in 2011. And who knows what 2012 will bring?

 December 2010:

Teddy’s Day by Auryn Apps

Teddy's Day iPad App

This book is a favorite in our house! It is a story about a little girl that wants to find out if her teddy bear is actually coming alive and doing things when she’s asleep or at school. So she hides watching him, page by page, saying “I’m gonna catch you” until eventually she finds him with honey on his lips at the end of the book. This is a very cute story appropriate for the youngest of kids and yet touching in a way parents will enjoy, too. Read more …

Zanny: Born to Run by Extra Special Kids

Zanny iPad App

“Zanny” was a hit in our house right away, partly because ‘Zanny’ is my child’s nick-name. It is a relatively short book, but one that is fun and interactive. I would suggest using it with younger kids, possibly even as young as two … the over 6 set might find it a bit boring after the first couple reads. The story follows a very active boy, Zanny, as he runs, runs, runs, through everything he does all day, with fun interactions like tapping on Zanny to see him run off the page or playing with a ball (by either dragging or just shaking the iPad). Read more …

Astrojammies by Demibooks

AstroJammies for iPadAstroJammies is well-requested at bedtime by my little astronaut, so maybe yours will like it too? Traveling along with Jimmy, the little boy in star-covered jammies, is a real treat in this imaginative book. Shake the iPad on the first page and Jimmy’s jammies shimmer with stars. As the book continues, the reader can interact by spinning Jimmy, flicking him around the universe, making him dodge comets, tapping on a rocket that takes off, touching a planet that oozes or revealing a space baboon’s face on a planet. But by far my favorite page is the one where several planets hover calmly … until you touch them or move the iPad, then they literally sing in different chords with beautiful, crisp sound. Read more …

January 2011:

Mabel & Lulu: The Real Life Adventures by AppHaus Design Inc.

Mabel & LuluTwo very cute dogs, Mabel & LuLu, are the main characters in these two stories, along with their ‘mom’ Beth-Anne.  I say she’s the mom because these dogs are definitely the type of pets that are people, even in real life I suspect.  That’s because Beth-Anne is the name of the developer and it’s clear from reading her website that she lives, loves and maybe even daydreams story adventures about her two pups.  I’m a cat person by nature, even a bit afraid of dogs sometimes, but I LOVED these two stories.  They will appeal not only to children, but to adults who love their pets like children. Read more …

February 2011:

A Fine Musician by Tokeru Publishing

  • A Fine Musician

“On a very fine day, ratta tat ratta tat. With his drum and his hat, ratta tat ratta tat. He came into town and he walked down the street as he drummed out a beat ratta tat ratta tat,” begins this enchanting musical storybook for the iPad. It captures the romance of a walled European city in its sepia pages with tidy narrow streets, people milling about, bicyclists and street vendors. Yet the whole book feels modern in its own way. If you tap the menu bar below any page, you can even see the whole book laid out, page against page.  Look closely and you will see that it connects into a complete picture of the musician’s walk through this lively little village. This is not just a book for children, either. Read more …

Food Fight! – An Interactive Book by Glenn Melenhorst by Jelly Biscuits

Food Fight! - An Interactive Book by Glenn MelenhorstTim is a little boy that loves to eat only sausages and Sammy is a little sausage (living on a planet far away) that loves to eat little boys. Both have parents trying to push vegetables. Then their worlds collide when Sammy comes to earth in a rocket. The boys have a stand off and finally both decide to give up their favorite food. But what will the two enemies-turned-friends eat now? Brussels sprouts, of course! Food Fight! is a phenomenal book app that is as funny as it is fun to play with. It has high-quality computer animation and vivid illustrations that really enhance the reading experience. Read more …

A Present for Milo: A Touch-and-Surprise Storybook by Ruckus Media

A Present for MiloA Present for Milo is one of the best books I’ve come across for children under age 6. The words in the book are very simple and the illustrations tell the story as much as the text. Milo is a cat, chasing a mouse in the book, but it never feels like a dangerous chase. In fact, they seem to be having the time of their lives! The reader gets to be part of this adventure, triggering whimsical ‘reactions’ from the two charming characters, as well as bringing other items in the pictures to life with seemingly endless possibilities. This delightful interactivity is enhanced by animation that doesn’t steal the show. Read more …

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Oceanhouse Media

Five Little Monkeys

This is a perfect digital version of “Five Little Monkeys” a beloved tale by legions of kids and their parents. It is an adorably illustrated classic from the print version by Eileen Christelow. This book series consistently gets 5 stars from Amazon.com reviews and includes games, audio books, board books and every spin-off product you can imagine. As an ebook app for young children, this one has a well-deserved place at the top of the charts. The 5 little monkeys go through their nighttime routine, including jumping on the bed until … they fall off the bed and bump their heads. I’m sure you saw that coming. But mama didn’t! Read more …

The Little Mermaid – Auryn by Auryn Apps

The Little Mermaid - AurynThis digital book version of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson is based on the well-crafted translation by Anthea Bell with the breath-taking and ethereal illustrations of Lisbeth Zwerger. Anderson originally wrote the tale as a ballet in 1837. This picture book version was published in 1984 to rave reviews. It follows the original tale very closely, with no happy ending. The storytelling makes up for any disappointment, though. This digital presentation takes an otherwise gorgeous print book and brings it to life. The story is told both underwater and above on land, with pages of the former that look and feel like they are actually submerged in the sea. Read more …


March 2011:

The Penelope Rose HD by MoBaD Games

The Penelope Rose“A very long time ago, when fish could fly and pixies in pointy hats were hiding everywhere, roses had no color at all,” begins this captivating fairy story. The Penelope Rose is like no other fairy story you’ve read, though. It feels like a classic tale while also breathing life into an otherwise flat screen. The developers, Mobad Games, created a 3D effect that transports the reader into another world, simply by tilting the device. This mythical land is also the perfect setting for this magic – giving the impression that you have a window into another world in your hands. Read more …

April 2011:

The Strange & Wonderful World of Ants by Amos Latteier

The Strange & Wonderful World of AntsWhen I first reviewed this book, upon opening the app, I immediately thought, “Wow!” This is the only book I have ever seen with an Adjustable Reading Level. You can set the book to beginner, intermediate or advanced.  The first page, if set to beginner, says “An ant”. If set to intermediate, “Behold an ANT!” appears. For advanced, it says, “Behold an ANT! A heroic representative of the family Formicidae.” Here’s a book that could actually grow with your child as they move up reading levels. The illustrations are also phenomenal, with several layers of the image appearing and fading out for a really amazing effect. Read more …

The Going to Bed Book – Sandra Boynton by Loud Crow Interactive

The Going to Bed Book - Sandra BoyntonThe Going to Bed Book is a perfect bedtime read. While it is interactive with subtle ‘pop-up’ style animations, it is short and accompanied by relaxing piano music that is ideal for settling down at nighttime. There are also delightful touches, like water faucets that turn on and off, bubbles that float across the page to be popped with a tap, and even a foam that covers the screen after they brush their teeth (you wipe it away with your fingers). The features added are just enough to make the book engaging without overstimulating a child or overshadowing the storytelling. Read more …

Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential Graphic Novel by Electric Eggplant

Be ConfidentThe print version of this series was published recently, 2008-2010. I only wish Annie Fox had written these fabulous books when I was a middle school counselor earlier in the decade. The series is just that exceptional. It’s fun, hip and something youth will relate to. It’s also packed with great stories that will guide them to feel better about themselves, think more deeply about problems and understand how to be a friend not only to others but to themselves. As a digital book this one is well made, nicely augmented with music and hits just the right note for this age group with its graphic novel style. You can tilt the device for either landscape or portrait and with a simple double tap the view changes & enlarges to read frame-by-frame. This is a very cool feature and includes nice sound effects that are more like a sound track, nicely crafted to match the emotion or activity in each scene. There is an additional page describing each of the teens in detail. Read more …

Nighty Night! HD by Shape Minds and Moving Images

Nighty NightNighty Night! begins with, “Night falls. The moon is high. All the people are ready to sleep as they turn off the lights. But wait! Look at the farmhouse. There are still some lights on. The animals are sleepy, too. Do you want to turn off the lights?” A peaceful farm appears, where you can tap on any one of seven lit areas on the page. The next scene shows an animal still awake (with a light switch nearby). Tap the switch (each light & switch is different) and the animal settles into sleep, closing their eyes. After all the animals have been put to bed, there is just one person still up – a little boy (and the reader). Read more …

Will & Kate: A Love Story by Ink Robin

Will & Kate“Once upon a time in a delightful country called England, there lived a young prince,” begins Will & Kate: A Love Story. This is a truly modern fairy tale that takes full advantage of a modern medium. It is nicely interactive, narrated and lightly animated in a way that captures the sweet story of the royal “it” couple perfectly. The illustrator’s style, with several scenes of paper cut-outs on a photo-background, is especially charming. The well-crafted story enhances this whimsy. When we meet the ‘terribly pretty’ young Catherine, a sheep near her eats a bouquet of flowers right out of her hand, startling both little Kate & the reader in a delightful way. Read more …

May 2011:

Fierce Grey Mouse by Tizio Publishing

Fierce Grey Mouse HDPrepare yourself for one very cute mouse story. This book opens with a little grey mouse removing the word ‘little’ to put the word ‘fierce’ in its place for the title page. The letters are like cut-outs from magazine copy, giving the book a whimsical quality. The illustrations are hand-drawn and color-drenched, creating the perfect backdrop to the story. Every page is also filled with small but delightful animated elements triggered by tapping on the characters. Little grey mouse wants to be fierce. So he lifts weights, practices pouncing and perfects his roar. Read more …

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure by Egmont Books

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG AdventureSir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure is an amazing digital offering, adapted from a 2009 award winning print title for readers age 4-8. It features small animated touches and fun interactivity. The real treat, though, can be found in Stephenson’s gorgeous illustrations and story, narrated engagingly by Michael Maloney. In print, this book was shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book award and a winner of the Practical Pre-School Bronze medal. Read more …

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Moonbot Studios

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was a short animated film released to critical acclaim in 2010. The gorgeous film comes to life in this digital book app in a way that might even top the film’s reception. It’s just that amazing, giving the reader an immersive experience that makes other book apps with ‘Wow’ factor pale by comparison. Developers should be warned that the team at Moonbot Studios has just raised the bar. The story follows the adventures of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a rather sad little fellow who experiences great tragedy before re-discovering the magical world of books. Every page of his adventure is imminently touchable, even the storm that carries his greyscale world away. Read more …

June 2011:

Angelina Ballerina’s New Ballet Teacher by Callaway Digital Arts

Angelina Ballerina's New Ballet TeacherAngelina Ballerina is an adorable mouse who loves to dance, appearing for the first time in 1983 in a series of 20 books by Katherine Holabird and Helen Craig. This app is based on the TV series that began in 2009 on PBS and was digitally animated, making for a perfect ‘transmedia’ presentation as an interactive digital book. Each page of this well-produced app has stunning animation that is triggered by the tap of a finger, letting children bring their favorite characters to life in a way that is breathtaking within the otherwise still page. In this story, Angelina gets a new ballet teacher, Miss Mimi, and learns a lot about opening herself up to new ideas about dance. Read more …

July 2011:

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! – Dr. Seuss by Oceanhouse Media

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! is a wonderful Seuss tribute to the endless possibilities of our imaginations. It was first published in print in 1975 and is filled with make-believe places, animals and past-times, all rhyming, of course. As a digital offering, this one is refreshing, with the addition of meaningful interactivity and light animation to enhance the storyline. Each page has dozens of question marks that invite little fingers to tap. After tapping the “?” the picture changes, moving the storyline along in a delightful way that reinforces reading comprehension. Sometimes images appear or disappear, move slightly and even change colors. Read more …

The Truly Great Noodle by Grids Interactive

The Truly Great NoodleThis is a tremendous iPad book app from a new developer, Grids Interactive. It is the simple but hilarious story of a little boy named Nate, who is attempting to eat one long noodle that has wound its way around town. This noodle gets into some pretty dirty places, including winding through a cat box & the stall of a farting pig. Nate himself also burps and turns green, but the off-color humor hits just the right note of gross for its target audience; my little boy loved this book and the noodle that just seemed to go on and on. The interactivity is top notch, with dozens of elements on every page that respond to a tap. The animations are humorous & irreverent although not necessarily tied to the storyline. Read more …

Hildegard Sings by One Hundred Robots

Hildegard SingsHildegard Sings is an exceptional adaptation of a print title, enhancing an otherwise well-written and engaging children’s book in ways that add to the story without losing a thing in the digital translation. The interactive enhancements are thoughtful and tied nicely to the storyline, adding to both the reader’s enjoyment and reading comprehension. Even the audio is pitch perfect, offering high quality music, narration and sound effects. Thomas Wharton published Hildegard Sings in 1991. This out of print title comes to life on the iPad, with interactive animations on every page. You can feed Hildegard, move the curtain up & down, help deliver the surprise to the stage and even open the box with contents that help restore Hildegard’s voice. Read more …

August 2011:

Moo, Baa, La, La, La – Sandra Boynton by Loud Crow Interactive

Moo, Baa, La, La, LaMoo, Baa, La, La, La is one of my favorite of the Boynton book apps. In this cute title, you can tap the characters to hear authentic animal noises. That is, except for the three pigs on the second page, who sing, “La La La”. The print book, published in 1982, was also a chart topper. This app has a similar style to the other Boynton book apps, with lots of touchable elements that bounce slightly like a true pop-up book (and come alive with the addition of snorts, quacks and oinks). There are also surprising touches with little hints along the way. On the page with the dogs and cats, for instance, if you pull back slightly on any of the animals, they will spring forward and run off the page. Read more …

Roxie’s Doors by OCG Studios

Roxie's DoorsBased 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. 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 every flap, making this a book that keeps kids very engaged. Read more …

September 2011:

Cinderella – Nosy Crow Animated Picture Book by Nosy Crow

CinderellaCinderella captivates readers of all ages and brings even more interactivity to the classic tale of a girl, her fairy godmother & a mysterious glass slipper. You can help Cinderella tidy the house, dress the mean step-sisters for the ball, and even pick the pumpkin to be turned into a carriage. Like their previous app, Nosy Crow has not forgotten a single detail in this delightful title, featuring adorable child actors for the voices of all the characters. You can scroll to see more of each page, with fun activities that include hunting for a cute little bird that hides in every scene. Read more …

StoryBox by Bayard Magazines

StoryBoxAre you looking for the digital equivalent of a children’s magazine – the kind with activities, stories, games and more? Well, look no farther! Storybox is a new children’s digital magazine based on the print publication of the same name. This is a wonderful selection of activities & stories to occupy a child. The app contains a full storybook with narration and animation, two cute comics (one a wordless “Polo” story), games and two short fact books about science and animals. There is only one edition of Storybox currently available, but it is definitely worth a download. Read more …

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories – Dr. Seuss by Oceanhouse Media

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories - Dr. SeussThe Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories is a wonderful collection of seven stories originally published for RedBook in 1950-1951. They are exceptional and will enchant both young readers and older ones alike. How exciting to experience a whole new series of Seuss stories, simultaneously available in both print and digital! These rare stories were discovered by Seuss scholar Charles D. Cohen and have been referred to as ‘the literary equivalent of buried treasure’. They also have an expanded palette of colors that goes beyond what was originally available when the magazine editions were printed. These stories capture some of the earliest themes that would continue to run through many of Dr. Seuss’s future titles. Read more …

October 2011:

Bobo Explores Light by Game Collage

Bobo Explores LightBobo is a cute little robot that guides readers 6+ through a fascinating series of over 100 pages of facts, videos, physics demonstrations and interactive goodies relating to the science and history of the study of light. The app is thorough, educationally sound and deeply engaging. It is a non-fiction title with over 20 topic pages that open up three additional windows with so much content it will take you well over an hour to get through it all … but you won’t notice the time because this is such an absorbing book. The beauty of this app is that it can be used in so many ways. You can explore the pages one by one, or jump to a topic you’re interested in or are currently studying. Read more …

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

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

Bartleby is back! My little one lovedVol. 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. 2is a book-game hybrid that children (and many adults) will find deeply entertaining. Read more …

Lulu in Australia by Zanzibook

Lulu in AustraliaLulu is a little French girl who goes on adventures around the world with her cat, Zazou. This story is about their first trip in the series … to Australia. The book is lightly animated and full of delightful interactivity that makes the reader a part of the story. Almost every page has elements to tap that move the story along or provide additional dialogue and information about the part of the world they are exploring. The app is well made with lots of features, including a map that allows you to explore the story of their Australian travels in a non-linear way. This book also features lots of interesting dialogue that goes beyond the text of the story. Read more …

November 2011:

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! by Disney Digital Books

Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!

The ever-popular Mo Willems’ Pigeon is back and he wants to take over your iPad! Based on the series of print books published since 2003, this app is sure to become a favorite in any house with children under 6. It features customizable story sequences that will enchant fans of Willems’ work instantly. He had me at ‘hello’, literally (or ‘hi’ to be completely accurate). Readers can select one of three choices under the ‘create your own story’ icon or start by following a great how-to video (starring Willems himself) that helps you draw your own pigeon (which appears later in all the stories). Read more …


And that’s our year in review! It’s been an amazing first year for our site and for many of the new developers on this list. Expect both Kindle Fire & Nook Color versions of our site for cross-over hits in the new year. And who knows how many apps will make our 5-star list in 2012 …

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Category: 100+ Reviews ... What I've Learned So Far, 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.

Comments (3)

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  1. Thanks for calling out your best choices Carissa! I just picked up your Angelina Ballerina recommendation for our girls (they spotted it over my shoulder when I was reading this post!)

    We have a few of these titles and really enjoy them as well – Bobo, Cinderella, and Bartleby in particular!

  2. Tymur says:

    Hi! Nice post!
    I’m fairy-tales writer from Ukraine. I have many nice books. But now I want to find company who can help me create interactive books. Can anybody help me?

    Tymur Kobzar

  3. Hillary says:

    My daughter loves Toy Store Delivery Truck, Singing City, FlySmacker, Guess Who Silly Shadows and Baby Tap and Learn.

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