I’m looking at the slew of new apps on our iPad, and it occurs to me that I have been lax in my app review duties of late, so I’m doing another round-up of storybook apps from three of our favorite storybook app developers. I’ve checked with Reina, my four year-old co-reviewer, and she assures me that in these six stories, there is something for every kind of kid; even grown up ones.
We start off with two recent releases from PicPocket Books. The first is Pete and Pillar: the Big Rain, written and illustrated by Jeffery Stoddard. Pete and Pillar are two unusual friends; a red diesel truck (Pete) and a yellow bulldozer (Pillar). The story covers important themes about friendship, helping others, sacrifice, and trust, but it also looks at the impact of prejudices when other trucks tell Pete to stay away from Pillar and when other dozers warn Pillar about Pete’s kind. It is a great story for boys and girls alike, though I suspect will have more appeal with the average boy. Pete and Pillar is available for the iPhone and iPad at iTunes.
Your next PicPocket adventure is Boy Dumplings by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by James Yamasaki. Set in old Beijing, this ghost story is all the more enjoyable for its familiar setting and delightful illustrations. Boy Dumplings has the feel of a traditional Chinese story, but it is actually the creation of the author who, while making dumplings with her son one night, thought that if she were a ghost, she would love to eat dumplings made with a chubby-cheeked boy like him. Instead, she wrote a delightful tale of a hungry garbage-eating ghost who captures a boy to eat, only to be fooled into trying to make boy dumplings following the boy’s own special recipe. As a special bonus, there is a boy-free dumpling recipe at the end. Boy Dumplings is available for the iPhone and iPad at iTunes.
Next up are two new tales from developer Auryn. Coming in this month as Reina’s favorite storybook app is Dr. Duncan Dog on Duty, written by Lisa Dunn-Dern and wonderfully illustrated by Andrea Yomtob. This true story recounts the life and work of Duncan the dog and the family that cares for him. Mild-mannered pet during the week, on weekends, Duncan gets cleaned up and ready to aid others by visiting the cancer ward in the children’s hospital’s where he spends time with sick children. Chelsea, the daughter in the family, narrates the story and provides great insight into this dog’s life of service and her own family’s contribution too. If your child loves dogs like my child does, he or she will love Dr. Duncan Dog; available on iTunes here.
My favorite storybook app these days is Auryn’s next title, Van Gogh and the Sunflowers, written by Laurence Anholt. This is by far and away, the most stunning storybook that I have seen to date. The illustrations are marvelous and pop out like 3D pop-up interactive images. The story itself is insightful into the origins of Van Gogh’s work and is a highly entertaining way of learning about this luminary of the art world and his magnificent works. The app itself has added features that allow the child (or parents) to re-paint each page and to reconstruct the mechanical workings of each illustration via a puzzle. Honestly, you have to see it to understand, and it is worth buying this app even if you don’t have children. My only regret is that there is no way to turn off the timer in the puzzles as the time limit is frustrating for younger children and the puzzles are a challenge even for dads like me. This jaw-dropping storybook is available on iTunes for the iPad here.
Finally, there are two titles from Callaway Digital Arts. Thomas & Friends: Day of the Diesels is where we learn just what sets steam trains apart from diesel locomotives in the familiar world of Thomas the Train. Familiar to many, but personally this was my first full Thomas & Friends story. As near as I can tell, the illustrations are true to the TV show and pages are loaded with interactive surprises. If you child is a fan of Thomas, then your child will enjoy this app. Besides the storybook, there is a music video, coloring pages, jigsaw puzzles, and a memory game, so this is really more than simply a storybook app. Alas, my own child still harbors no love for Thomas, so this one I had to read alone, however I will save it for some kids who I know will appreciate it. Day of the Diesels is available on iTunes.
The last storybook app from Callaway is Angelina’s New Ballet Teacher from the famed Angelina Ballerina series. When I first saw this app, I was surprised by the illustrations as they are clearly done with a computer and are not the classic illustrations that Reina and I are accustomed to from the storybooks illustrated by Helen Craig and the original TV series they inspired. Realizing that Angelina has regrettably gone the way of Winnie the Pooh and a great many others, I tried to put my regrets aside and judge her on her newfound sleek merits, but I couldn’t. I much prefer the delicate hand-drawn original. However, my daughter enjoyed the story and quickly set about trying to memorize the included music video clips from the updated TV series. Again Callaway has done a decent job of putting this app together with extra puzzles and coloring pages that any young fan of the books or TV series will no doubt enjoy, but it is less impressive than the Thomas app or other offerings from Callaway, such as Miss Spiders Tea Party. Angelina’s New Ballet Teacher is available here on iTunes.