iPad Best of the Best – 50 Essential Children’s Book Apps (Part 4: Tweens)

| September 2, 2012 | 5 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 forth and final post in 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.

Our second list (for preschoolers) is here: http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=1683.

And our third list (for ages six to nine) is here: http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=1714.

This list is of apps that are appropriate for kids aged nine to twelve, often considered ‘tweens’ , although many are also quite enjoyable for children a bit younger and older than this range (including adults). We’ve selected the very best titles we’ve found for tweens 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.

1. Middle School Confidential 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind

Screen Shot of Middle School Confidential 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind

An engaging & therapeutic read for tweens & teens!

The next title in the Middle School Confidential series is finally 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. Read more …

2. Bobo Explores Light

Screen Shot of Bobo Explores Light

A wonderful exploration of science with the cutest little robot!

Bobo 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. Read more …

3. Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night

Screen Shot of Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night

Engaging, non-fiction education comes alive!

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. Read more …

4. Babel, the King – EPIC animated storybook

Screen Shot for Babel, the King - EPIC animated storybook

What does one need to be king?

Babel, The Cat Who Would Be King is a stunning new book from EPIC, where ‘every pixel counts’ (and it shows). Told in English or French, this must-download app weaves a tale about an ambitious cat, a sly caged bird and a castle built to touch the sky. Full of political intrigue, plot twists and charming characters, this beautifully illustrated title is one of the most unusual and enjoyable apps to come across my screen in a long time. It even features subtle literary allusions (especially to the biblical Tower of Babel) in a way that will have both adults and children riveted from the first page to the last.

The story, music and polished production values for all the animation and interactivity, make this a truly exceptional title. Read more …

5. The Artifacts

Screen Shot of The Artifacts

A unique picture book engaging for older readers …

“Once there was a boy who loved to collect,” begins this unique digital book. Asaf is an enigma to his family, amassing so many objects that it borders on hoarding. When the family prepares to move to a new house, his parents get rid of everything Asaf has collected, everything he loves. This begins a new chapter for the young man, one of collecting dreams, ideas and knowledge. When the family arrives in their new home, Asaf’s mother & father tell him, “This is your new bedroom. Keep it tidy.” This act of parental misunderstanding and betrayal is experienced by Asaf in scenes that perfectly convey the darkness and rebellion of adolescence … with handwritten words appearing all over the page, wherever the reader taps in Asaf’s new, empty room. The previous space was occupied by things, but the new space is just as crowded, this time with words like, “Deprivation, Desolation, Destitution, Devastation.”  Read more … 

6. A Heart Pumping Adventure HD

Screen Shot for A Heart Pumping Adventure

Take a ride through the bloodstream with Pearl & Merrin …

“A Heart Pumping Adventure” is from the Human Body Detectives (HBD) series, created by Heather Manley, a Naturopath and mom. She designed this series to educate kids in a fun way about their bodies. In the first story, “The Lucky Escape“, two sisters end up taking a detailed trip into the digestive system to find out what’s wrong with their baby brother. In the 2nd title, “Battle With the Bugs“, the girls do their detective work inside the body of their little cousin, whose immune system is working hard to battle a virus. In this final chapter of the 3-book set, the girls adventure takes them inside their father’s bloodstream to learn about heart-healthy fats. Read more …

7. Smithsonian Collection

Screen Shot of Otter on His Own

Watch an otter pup grow up and leave home …

Several excellent titles from Oceanhouse Media’s Smithsonian Collection – a series based on popular non-fiction print titles about the natural world are available for young readers.

This book series fills a great need for digital book apps with non-fiction educational content. The books selected so far have been well vetted as print titles, making it easy as parents & educators to select these digital books with confidence. This title covers the lives of sea otters, their pups, hunting and general facts about the predators and prey in the bay. Each title in this series takes the original print images and pans over them in a nice, semi-animated style. Read more …

8. X is for X-Ray

Screen Shot of X is for X-Ray

A unique title for readers of all ages …

With titles for older readers like The ElementsThe WastelandThe Solar SystemMarch of the Dinosaurs and more, Touch Press has a reputation for innovative apps that take exploration to a whole new level. X is for X-Ray is no exception, showcasing the ABCs in a unique way that goes beyond the usual alliteration found in alphabet books. It’s truly a book that a child could enjoy at 4 and again at 14 for totally different reasons. What is remarkable about this book app, though, is the way one feels while exploring it … it elicits the same response a glossy coffee-table book might in print. Read more …

9. The Waterhole

Screen Shot of The Waterhole by Graeme Base

A beautiful book with hidden object games included.

Based on the 2001 print title, this fascinating app brings Graeme Base’s tale about animals gathering at a waterhole to life. Filled with games and an interactive storybook, this app is sure to please young and old alike.

It isn’t quite the same as the art-book style print title, but children will pour over this digital version to find the hidden creatures in this stellar counting book all the same. The images are gorgeous in this app. Read more …

10. Auryn – van Gogh and the Sunflowers

Screen Shot of Auryn – Van Gogh and the Sunflowers

A classic tale about accepting those that are different …

Van Gogh and the Sunflowers is an extraordinary app with unique interactivity. The characters in this book, based on a gorgeous print title published in 2007, are all in motion. Characters in the story run, work and paint in scenes that can also be viewed (just tap the settings button) with their inner-workings exposed. You can see the mechanism behind the motion in a way that is very similar to Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book – a very cool effect.

The book is about a boy named Camille who lives in a village where sunflowers grow wild. One day a strange man arrives in town and begins to paint. Camille’s family befriends the poor traveler, Vincent van Gogh, and watches him paint portraits of the whole family. When Camille shows off the portrait of himself, the children at school tease him and then van Gogh himself is driven out of town. Camille’s father reassures the crushed boy that someday people “will learn to love Vincent’s paintings.” Read more … 

11. The Jungle Book, adapted for the iPad 

Screen Shot of The Jungle Book, adapted for the iPad

Two books in one based on the original novel.

This is an exceptional production of the original version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, including a picture book version that is abbreviated to just 30 pages. This app also includes the full novel (over 200 pages) although this version is not narrated. This title was written in the late 1800′s and has not been interpreted in this version to be more accessible to a modern audience, so the language will be especially challenging for young readers under the age of 10. It is, however, a great resource for classroom use, especially with the word-by-word narration of the shorter version of this classic story.

For school use when studying this classic, I highly recommend this slightly animated & interactive version to engage kids. Read more …

12. My House by Marianne Dubuc

Screen Shot of My House

Meander along with a child’s imagination to the stars and back again …

This new release from Winged Chariot brings Marianne Dubuc’s delightful print title published in 2010 to the iPad. It’s not so much a story as a journey, told in either English or French. One’s whole world as a child centers around the home, and in this title the reader is taken on an imaginative trip from the hill where a little house stands all the way into deep space and back again. Told with simple elegance and perfectly timed narration, this title exemplifies how a story can be lightly enhanced with just the slightest amount of interactivity and still create an immersive digital reading experience.  Read more …

13. Boquitas: The Hunt for the Chupacabras

Screen Shot of Boquitas: The Hunt for the Chupacabras

A mystery erupts in a ordinary place … Diva is missing!

This is a well-crafted storybook app about a family living with a pet chicken named Diva. After criticizing her sister’s pet, Candela discovers that Cari’s beloved chicken is missing! Could the legendary Chupacabra have gotten to her first? Even Abuela believes in the monster, so when the two sister and their brother Beto venture into the woods to save Diva, many surprises are in store. This title features great animation, interactivity and music … but it is not narrated. Available in both English and Spanish within the same app, it is still a great read to share with children or have them read by themselves. With lots of suspense, cartoon-like animations and an engaging storyline, this title is sure to be a hit with young readers.  Read more …

14. Flight of the Pamplemousse

Screen Shot of Flight of the Pamplemousse

An exceptional trip through a young boy’s dream world …

Flight of the Pamplemousse is an original iPad tale told in rhyming verse about a boy who dreams about a mythical creature called the “Pamplemousse”. He overhears a story half in French that includes a reference to grapefruit or ‘pamplemousse’ while he is falling asleep, causing him to imagine a fanatastic adventure with a giant Moose-like creature with wings. This night-time dreaming adventure features beautiful, although almost hypnotic, narration in a crisp British accent. Read more …


Two Top FREE* recommendations: 

Cool to Be Clever

Screen Shot of Cool to be Clever: Edson Hendricks

Discover the genius and anti-bullying message of Edson Hendricks!

Based on the print title, published in 2011, this book app is an inspirational read for kids ages 8 and up. It is absolutely packed with top notch educational content, presented in an intuitive app that is polished and engaging. Text can be read or listened to, although the reading level is roughly for ages 8-12+. The print title retails for nearly $20, so this app is also an exceptional value. Older readers, including adults, will enjoy the history, science and inspirational messages found in this digital book. Read more …


Color Uncovered

Screen Shot of Color Uncovered

Not every trip to the Exploratorium can be in person!

“WE WELCOME HUE” begins this unbelievably cool, free app from San Francisco’s Exploratorium. This exceptional educational app has  everything a young scientist could want in an app … tons of cool facts, stunning visuals and interactive features that let you experiment with your own eyes.

While not narrated or involving any sound or 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 color. The app is also solidly made with simple page turn by swiping and nice navigation with a page guide at the bottom of every screen. Find out why Monet was like a honeybee (hint: he could see ultraviolet light), why red dye might be more exotic than you thought and why farmed Salmon are grey. Read more …

Also, an important tip for finding digital books for older readers: Look into the iBooks app, when setting up digital reading for kids over age 10 in particular … there is no substitute in the interactive app category for the print categories of chapter books and middle grade fiction, let alone Young Adult (YA) fiction, once kids get to be proficient readers. Book apps fill a real need and can be exceptional for certain topics & stories, great ways to motivate reluctant readers, etc. but they are just one part of the digital feast waiting for your young reader.

*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 children be carefully monitored. We also encourage adult caregivers to read books (and book apps) with their child(ren) as a shared experience. What are your favorite apps to explore with tweens, or kids aged 9-12?

Category: 100+ Reviews ... What I've Learned So Far, All About Apps, iPads in Education

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.