The 2012 CYBILS Literary Awards – Five iPad Book Apps to Make the Cut

| February 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

Cybils Literary Awards


For the second year in a row, I was honored to be chosen as a first round judge for Cybils, a literary award started over five years ago by book bloggers. According to the Cybils website, this award was begun to:

  • Reward the children’s and young adult authors (and illustrators, let’s not forget them) whose books combine the highest literary merit and “kid appeal.” What’s that mean? If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussel sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.
  • Foster a sense of community among bloggers who write about children’s and YA literature, highlight our best reviewers (and shamelessly promote their blogs) and provide a forum for the similarly obsessed.

Book apps have been around since the iPhone launched apps in 2008, although it wasn’t until the larger screen option with the iPad in 2010 that they really caught fire in the book blogging community. In 2011, book apps were considered for Cybils for the first time. In this second year, we had the opportunity to consider more than 80 book apps. Of these many fine nominated book apps, we could choose only a small number as finalists for 2012. There is just one category to consider everything from graphic novel apps aimed at tweens to picture book apps for toddlers (and everything else in-between, including fiction & non-fiction titles). Needless to say, it was very challenging to pick just five apps to move on to the final round.

Being a judge was very interesting and involved a lot of great discussions. The panel included the following judges this year:

Round 1:

Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books – @MaryAnnScheuer

Carisa Kluver, Digital Media Diet – @iPad_storytime

Lalitha Nataraj, Masala Reader – @librarian_lali

Cathy Potter, The Nonfiction Detectives – @cppotter

Lisa von Drasek, Early Word Kids – @lvondrasek

Paula Willey, Pink Me – @pwbalto

Round 2:

Alyson Beecher, KidLitFrenzy – @alybee930

Sara Bryce, Bryce Don’t Play – @PLSanders

Helen Dineen, CAppTivated Kids – @aitcheldee

Elisabeth LeBris, lebrisary – @elebris

Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen – @melissawiley

And without further ado, the winner is …


Dragon Brush 

After reading this title, you won’t have a hard time seeing why it has been so well-regarded by critics. The story has a distinctly Eastern in feel, but told in a way that is very accessible to a Western audience. The main character is a little rabbit boy named Bing-Wen who loves to paint. But his family is too poor to afford paper and pencils, so Bing-Wen draws in the sand.

One day he helps a peddlar woman and as a reward she gives him a magic paintbrush. When Bing-Wen tries it out, he discovers that everything he draws comes to life. When the lazy & arrogant Emperor finds out about Bing-Wen’s magic paintbrush, he orders him to paint a gold statue in his honor. When Bing-Wen refuses, he is thown in the dungeon until he thinks up an inventive way to foil the Emperor’s plans … [Read more]

An exceptional story with picture-perfect enhancements!

The following four book apps were also chosen from round one of judging as finalists this year:


Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night

The vision for the touch tablet and education is beautifully realized in this non-fiction app about a fascinating mammal that has been a source of human fear and fantasy for generations. Aimed at older elementary school aged children, this app about bats is accessible to pre-readers too, with great narration and easy navigation hints.

Older readers, including adults will be enchanted with the stunning visual and sound effects and may even learn a thing or two along the way. Young learners will expand their knowledge about the only mammals to fly, different species of bats and their various community habitats.

There is even a great section on how a bat’s skeleton compares to a human’s, including a cool diagram of what a human with wings might look like based on bat morphology. The combination of polished enhancements alongside reference material is a perfect blend to make learning nearly effortless simply because it is so engaging … [Read more]

Engaging, non-fiction education comes alive! 


Rounds: Franklin Frog

The “Rounds” series, by Nosy Crow, is their first foray into non-fiction literature and they have done such a brilliant job, it reads more like a storybook than a nonfiction piece. It is beyond a doubt simply darling, and what we like best is the completely calming aura that comes from combining soothing background music with the exceptional scenes from a kids-eye view of nature. What the children liked best were the circles to encourage interactivity. The all time favorite was freeing the tadpole from his egg. The book gracefully follows the life cycle of a frog with gorgeous illustrations which focus on circles. Every on-screen element is a circle or a portion of a circle including the symbol for interactivity.

This is the first of an innovative new series of multimedia, interactive life-science/non-fiction apps based on circular characters whose real life stories start where they end. Rounds: Franklin Frog follows the life cycle of a frog through three generations … [Read more] Courtesy TeachersWithApps

Meet Franklin … and many other frogs as they grow up!


Auryn HD – Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery

“Where do balloons go when you let them go free? It can happen by accident,” begins this whimsical book app, told in the first person by a young child who says enticingly, “It’s happened to me.” My little boy fell in love instantly with this story, identifying with the subject matter … what child hasn’t wondered what happens when you let go of a balloon?

With exquisite illustrations by Laura Cornell, this app is based on a print picture book authored by Jamie Lee Curtis and published in 2000. Auryn has taken this well-crafted story, and made it into a digital delight; it is filled with dozens of tappable interactive elements on every page, superb animation, and engaging games bundled into the storyline. The only time I would hesitate recommending this book would be for bedtime reading with very young children. It’s just way too much fun! There’s even a chance for the reader to use the microphone to ‘blow’ up a balloon … [Read more]

A whimsical story app packed with extras …


The Voyage of Ulysses

With pathos and romance, the Odyssey is at once a gripping story and a fascinating look at how people long ago lived their lives. In twenty-four screens, mirroring the traditional 24 books of theOdyssey, this book app tells the story of Ulysses’s ten-year travail on his way home from the Trojan War. Spellbinding, slightly accented narration continues while we explore the delights of each page–arrows that rain from the ramparts of Troy, Greek warriors creeping from the giant horse and setting Troy ablaze, text that spins into the whirlpool Charybdis. Understated art, music, and sound effects match the lyrical, timeless style of the text, while pull-up sidebars provide even more information. A truly engaging app that also succeeds in communicating the themes of loneliness and exile that make Homer’s epic emotionally arresting three thousand years later. [Courtesy Paula Willey, Pink Me]

What were your favorite book apps from 2012?

Click here for more information about submitting a book app to Cybils. Nominations begin October 1st.

Category: All About Apps, Top 10 Lists

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of, 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.