iPad Best of the Best – 50 Essential Children’s Book Apps (Part 2: Preschoolers)

| July 26, 2012 | 8 Comments

Children’s book apps have been around now for over two years and we have seen a lot of wonderful titles at Digital-Storytime.com over this time. What follows is the second of a four-part series, listing the best 50 iPad books for kids, broken down by age. You can see our first list (for toddlers) here: http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=1645.

This list is of apps that are appropriate for kids aged three to five, although many are also quite enjoyable for children a bit younger and older than this range. We’ve selected the very best titles we’ve found for preschoolers in 2012. We have not included any of the titles that made our list in 2011, so please also check out: iPad Best of the Best – 25 Essential Children’s Book Apps. At the end of this ‘top 10 for preschoolers’ list, we have a special list of top FREE apps for safety awareness. ♥

1. Harold and the Purple Crayon

Screen Shot of Harold and the Purple Crayon

A classic comes to life without losing any of its original charm …

The classic story of a little boy and his purple crayon comes to life in this book app in a way that enhances the original 1955 print title without losing any of its brilliance. Over 50 years later, this story still captures the creativity and imagination of childhood with simple line drawings and slowly paced text. As a digital offering, the story comes to life even more, giving a whole new generation of children the magical feeling that comes with anticipating what Harold will draw next. Read more …

2. Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1 & #2 – Oceanhouse Media

Screen Shot of Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1

The first digital Seuss collection for young readers ..

Collection #1:

This is the digital version of the print collection available from Random House. It includes the following digital titles, all fully reviewed:

The Cat in the HatFox in Sox1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue FishMr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?The Foot Book


Screen Shot of Dr. Seuss Beginner Books Collection #2

The best Seuss for learner readers, all in one app!

Collection #2: This is the digital version of the print collection available from Random House. It includes the following digital titles:

Green Eggs & HamDr. Seuss’s ABCsThe Cat in the Hat Comes BackThere’s a Wocket in My PocketHop on Pop

In print, these book collections have been favorites of parents, teachers & young readers for many years. All 10 of these titles in collections #1 & #2 are among the Seuss books that stick to sight words for the benefit of ‘learner readers’. Read more …

3. It’s a Small World

Screen Shot of It's A Small World

The best souvenir of a trip to Disney … relive the magic!

“It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears …” begins the iconic Disney ride, which turned 45 years old in 2011. This app celebrates the ride, captures the magic and provides youngsters with the best souvenir of (or alternative to) a Disney trip that money can buy. These lyrics will be stuck in your head after playing with this app, much like they are after a trip through the famous attraction. But you will also get the same Disney magic in this beautifully made app. The app is not only solidly made (something true of all Disney apps), but also has a unique interface that makes the app stand out. Read more …

4. Where Do Balloons Go?

Screen Shot of Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery

A story app packed with extras …

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 …

5. Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App!

Screen Shot of Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!

Mo Willems’ Pigeon is an instant digital classic …

The ever-popular Mo Willems’ Pigeon is back and he wants to take over your iPad (or iPhone/iPod)! 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 …

6. Wild About Books

Screen Shot of Wild About Books

Become Wild About Books in the Digital Age!

From Random House Books, this is an exceptional title about a librarian who accidentally drives the bookmobile into the zoo. Determined to inspire a love of reading in her patrons, regardless of their species, Ms. McGrew finds titles for every last animal and even teaches them about how to care for books properly. This whimsical storyline is one that kids will love and identify with too, since young children are often as hard on their books as any monkey in the zoo! Wild About Books was first published in print in 2004. Author Judy Sierra dedicated the book to Dr. Seuss and it was published on what would have been his 100th birthday. Read more …

7. Leonard

Screen Shot of Leonard

Making friends is sometimes as easy as building one first …

From the developers behind the 5-Star book app, Will & Kate: A Love Story, comes another hit. Attention to detail, polished enhancements, and top notch pacing make anything by Ink Robin a must-download app. This title treats readers to a story about a little boy with a BIG imagination. Leonard wants to make friends, but after moving to the country he discovers that it is harder than ever to find anyone to play with. He (and his blue cat) have many whimsical adventures before Leonard decides to build a friend instead (robot lovers will enjoy this plot twist). Read more …

8. Toy Story Showtime

Screen Shot of Toy Story Showtime!

A tremendous learning app disguised as fun …

Unless your child lives under a rock, they’ve probably fallen in love with the movie, characters and storyline behind the Toy Story series.

This new digital title is based on a new plot not in any of the movies, but told originally in a print title published in the summer of 2011. The toys are having a talent show in this tale, and Buzz is hoping to impress Jessie with his performance. But will he think up a talent in time? As a digital title, this one is very solidly made with nice settings; easy-to-read text highlights as narrated and several great extras in the form of games extend the storytelling. Read more …

9. Hairy Maclary of Donaldson’s Dairy

Screen Shot of Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy

A classic comes to life in this QBook!

Hairy Maclary is a cute terrier mutt who stars in a series of popular books by New Zealand author, Lynley Dodd. This title is the first in the series, published in print in 1983.

The story is told in rhyming verse and has a very simple plot, about Hairy Maclary and his doggie friends on a ‘trot’ around town. While the story is simple, the combination of expressive words, delightful illustrations and polished narration in this app edition, nears digital perfection.  Read more …

10. Another Monster at the End of This Book

Screen Shot of Another Monster at the End of This Book...Starring Grover & Elmo!

A sequel to A Monster At the End of This Book brings Elmo on board!

This is one sequel that is as fun as the original. The Monster at the End of This Book is a childhood classic, originally published in 1971. This title came out in 2000 in print, telling a similar story. This time we have not only Grover, but now Elmo too, speaking directly to the reader about ‘the monster’ at the end of this book. Elmo is excited to get to the end, but Grover is still wary (he’s forgotten his embarassment from the earlier title, apparently). This is a stunning title for animations and engagement of the reader in the story. The story literally won’t move forward without the child tapping to destroy the barriers Grover puts up trying to prevent the turning of each page. Read more …

11. A Frog Thing

Screen Shot of A Frog Thing

Flying isn’t a ‘frog thing’ … or is it?

Based on the very popular 2006 print title by Eric Drachman, A Frog Thingis the kind of storybook that makes for an instant classic. It’s about a frog named Frank who wants to fly, despite being told that flying isn’t a ‘frog thing’. Eventually Frank gets his wish in a creative way that is both satisfying and surprising. Ultimately, this app does well because it features a well-crafted story and expressive original illustrations. It is also narrated beautifully with great timing, emphasizing the nice pacing of the print edition. Read more …

12. Slice of Bread Goes to the Beach

Screen Shot of Slice of Bread goes to the Beach

A slice of bread makes a whole-grain friend!

This is another phenomenal book app from Jelly Biscuits, makers of Food Fight!Like their previous book app by Glenn Melenhorst, this title is fun but also cognizant of the adult reading alongside the child. With subtle humor, a tale unfolds about an anthropomorphized slice of bread who drives a toaster-mobile and likes to hunt for treasure by digging in the sand at the beach. He’s hoping to find the match to his latest find – a single red sandal, the right one.  Read more …


Two FREE* book apps for preschoolers with a focus on safety awareness:

1. Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim

Screen Shot of Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim

Learn about swimming safety in a fun way!

This lightly interactive story app is based on the 2002 print title by the same name. Vetted by water safety experts, Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim is a wonderful way to teach young children about water safety. Emphasizing the need to wear a life vest, have an adult watching you and ultimately to learn to swim, this title presents drowning-prevention in a fun way that children will enjoy. Includes lovely water-color illustrations, wonderful extra dialogue, slight animations and sound effects. Read more …

2. Little Bird’s Internet Security Adventure

Little Bird Screen Shot

Excellent advice from a little bird!

This educational title is a must-download for little ones learning about Internet safety. Little Bird is on her way to wish her grandma a happy birthday over the computer. With the help of her parents, Little Bird has learned how to be safe while online so she shares her tips with several of her animal friends on her way home. Topics include how to deal with pop-ups, requests for personal information, on-line bullies and spam websites, as well as the constant refrain, “tell your parents” or “ask your parents”. This app is a perfect way to introduce the topic of Internet security or reinforce a conversation you’ve already started with children eight and under. You can also download a free copy of this digital book as a simple .pdf from AVG’s website. Read more …

*These apps were free when this post was published and had a history of being free for many months, however, only the developer of an app can control pricing – please check iTunes prior to downloading for the most recent price information.

Of course, we recommend that screen time for young children be limited and ideally, a shared experience with an adult caregiver … what are your favorite apps to explore with children under age five?

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.