2014 Best of the Best: Top Five Book Apps for Engaging Older Readers

| September 2, 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 are breaking the list down into five separate categories, including this one – five apps to engage older readers (ages 8-12+). It includes non-linear storytelling, graphic novels, content creation and non-fiction.

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.

Top Five Best Children’s Book Apps for Older Readers 8-12+

1. Middle School Confidential 3: What’s Up with My Family?

The third title in the Middle School Confidential series is now available for the iPad. This remarkable series is a must read for tweens & teens and a ‘must download’ for parents, educators and other concerned adults who want the young people in their lives to manage the typical struggles of adolescence just a little bit better. This series is really unique, offering something rare in the App Store; it’s polished and well-crafted to the adult eye, but more importantly, teens will relate and enjoy the graphic novel format.

The print versions were published recently, 2008-2010. These are all fabulous books that I wouldn’t have hesitated to share with the middle-schoolers I counseled for over a 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.

Fox covers issues that range from over-protective parents to abandonment and loss deftly in this graphic novel for readers 10 and up, based on the print title from Free Spirit Publishing. The series has made the digital transition beautifully, with enhancements from developer Electric Eggplant. Each page is enriched with subtle background sounds and music that match the mood of the story perfectly, much like the music in a movie makes a scene come alive. A must-download for any digital library for 4th through 9th graders, this app series gives youth stories they can relate to with healthy messages about resolving problems, expressing feelings and understanding relationship issues.

See also: MSC 2: Real Friends vs The Other Kind and MSC 1: Be Confident in Who You Are

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2. My Incredible Body – Guide to Learn About the Human Body for Children – Educational Science App with Anatomy for Kids

What do my insides look like? How does my brain work? Why does my heart beat? What happens to my food after I swallow it? Children are naturally curious about their bodies, and if you are a parent, chances are you have been asked questions like these. My Incredible Body by Zybright, sister company of award winning developer Visible Body, answers all these questions and more by taking children on a journey inside the human body.

Through the use of beautiful, detailed, and medically correct 3D renderings of the human anatomy, children will be able to learn about their bodies like never before. They will be able to go on a self-guided tour or an app guided tour of the body and make virtual dissections. They will be able to go on virtual trips (rocket rides) that will take them inside the body to see, for example, where food, air, and blood travel. They will also be able to watch videos that show how each of the body systems work.

(Guest Review from TheiMums.com)

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3. Loose Strands

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 Fire and Goolgle-Play.

And don’t be alarmed at the number of pages; this is the perfect app for reluctant readers, because each time you read, the story takes a different path through a visual map that you can reference from the bookmark menu. And each ‘page’ of text is usually only a few sentences, presented in a large, easy-to-read font. A strand of hair emerges from the edge of each page and is lightly animated as the luscious locks spread toward the side of the screen that the reader needs to swipe for the next page turn. Roland, his parents and the friends he meets along the way help guide readers as they unravel this harrowing and hairy tale.

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4.Big Nate: Comix by U! HD

From Night & Day Studios comes a truly exceptional app for creativity. Fans of Lincoln Pierce’s “Big Nate” series will not be disappointed by this full-featured comic book creation app. My seven-year old is a recent fan of these stories, about a 6th grade boy and his friends. Familiar scenes from school and home draw young readers into this fun series, ideal for upper elementary school and early middle school readers, especially boys.

Parents and educators should know that this app does not include a lot of reading content, but is instead intended to inspire your young storytellers to create their own simple narratives in comic-book fashion. The app has a half dozen examples of the Big Nate comic strip included, along with links in-app to purchase eBook versions of the series via the iBookStore.

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5. Sound Uncovered

If you loved Color Uncovered, you won’t believe your ears when you hear that there is another stellar free title from San Francisco’s Exploratorium. This exceptional educational app series has everything a young scientist could want … tons of cool facts, stunning visuals and interactive features that let you experiment with your own ears.

While not narrated or enhanced with animation, this non-fiction app is a great addition to any digital library for children ages 8 and up. Adults will even find this app full of new insights and information about the science of sound. This title is also solidly made with simple page turn by swiping and nice navigation with a thumbnail page guide at the bottom of every screen (double tap to reveal).

Test your ear’s age by the frequency of sounds you can detect, listen to your words played backward on a fun in-app recorder and learn all about sound while playing with this interactive app. Headphones are recommended to conduct several of the experiments and be forewarned that this app can be loud (unlike Color Uncovered, which was completely silent). Almost as good as a trip to a science museum, this ‘must-download’ app is packed with amazing facts in an attractive digital package.

Also see: Color Uncovered

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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.