2014 Best of the Best: Top Five Book Apps – Classic Picture Books Re-imagined as Apps

| September 5, 2014 | 1 Comment

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 are breaking the list down into five separate categories, including this one – five apps based on beloved print books. All five are popular or classic titles that make a seamless transition to digital, with thoughtful storytelling and relevant enhancements.

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 – Classic Print to Digital Transitions


1. How Rocket Learned to Read

The 2010 New York Times bestselling title, How Rocket Learned to Read is one of those paper books that makes a great interactive app, especially with the thoughtful enhancements from Random House Kids. Not only is it lightly animated with nicely tailored interactive elements, but these additions rarely distract from what is essentially a beautifully constructed story.

Tapping the page causes Rocket’s tail to wag or his eyes to blink, but most enhancements focus on the young reader. Parents, teachers & librarians will appreciate the educational features, like tap-to-hear for individual words, along with highlighting word for word in time with the lovely narration by Hope Davis.

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2. Dear Zoo

Based on the classic 1982 Rod Campbell title, Dear Zoo is an adorable and beautifully enhanced book app that takes the very best of a traditional ‘lift-the-flap’ title in print and brings it to digital seamlessly. Children will enjoy this story, about a child who writes to the zoo to send a new pet, but each animal is not quite right for different reasons.

A fun matching game is also included, letting kids match the animals in the book to the words used to describe them – like “too scary” or “too big”. Eventually a perfect pet is sent to the youngster, one that is just right. Children will love exploring the sounds and features of each animal, including: Elephant, Giraffe, Lion, Camel, Snake, Monkey, Frog, and finally a Puppy.

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3. How I Became a Pirate

How I Became a Pirate is based on the print title of the same name, published in 2003 by Melinda Long with illustrations by Caldecott Honor-winner David Shannon (for the 1998 classic, No David!). With expert word craft, timing and overall storytelling genius, Long weaves a tale about young Jeremy, a boy on a beach trip with his family. Without a word to his distracted parents, Jeremy joins a band of pirates to help them bury treasure.

The adventure is wish-fulfillment at its very best for readers of all ages, as the boy teaches the pirates about soccer, learns to sail the stormy seas and even has a pirate pillow fight. It’s not surprising that this title received many accolades in print. The app version of this beloved story was developed by Oceanhouse Media and is interactive in a way that enhances early reading skills.

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4. The Boynton Collection

Each of these four books was originally published in print as a board book, in the 1980’s. The digital versions are easier to share, 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).

The books also features delightful narration by Billy J. Kramer, with highlighting word for word (or tap any word to hear it again). The collection includes: The Going to Bed Book, Moo, Baa, La La La!, Blue Hat, Green Hat, and Barnyard Dance!

Loud Crow apps are also extremely well made, with simple settings and easy, swipe-style page turning – an intuitive experience that makes you almost forget you are turning digital rather than real pages.

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5. Curious George and the Firefighters

Curious George and the Firefighters by TribalNova is a universal app for iOS which features George and the man with the yellow hat on a trip to the firehouse. In this adapted app for iOS, this animated story features three options, a “listen”, “read and talk” and then “theater”.

One of the features of the app is iReadWith which is designed to help with language development and help preschoolers learn to read using a shared reading activity which encourages readers to talk and participate using a prompt which encourages questions to help better understand the story as well as demonstrate understanding of the story by being an active versus passive participant.

(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.