You can never have enough books for a child, and if you own a smart phone or tablet computer, you can never have enough storybooks apps for the little ones. Here are six stories about mice, dogs, pandas, mermaids, a fairy, and a grandma that we’ve recently come across and that your children will enjoy.
The Three Pandas by Valerie Mih and developed by See Here Studios in association with Pandas International is one app that will make you feel good about owning it, as 10 percent of proceeds are donated to Pandas International (stunning photos of pandas on their website). The tale puts a panda spin on the story of Goldilocks and Three Bears. Although photos are used to illustrate the book, kids can tickle the pandas and Mei Mei to make them move. If your children love pandas, they will love this story. A huge plus to the Beijing crowd is the choice of English or Chinese text and narration and there is also an option to record your own voice for each page to personalize the narration. There are no external links on the title page, though there is one to an info page about pandas with links to Pandas International’s website, a review link, and email. The Three Pandas is available for the iPad or iPhone here for $2.99 and is suitable for kids ages 3 and up.
Mousey Howsee and the Rescuers was written by Jurga Sakalauskaite and Donatas Malinauskas, illustrated by Andrius Sliog, and developed by Realverus. On the one hand, it is difficult to say what this storybook app is about as the story changes depending on the time of day that you read it and depending on the season too. Frankly, I’d welcome spring right now to see what the story will be like; that and I’m tired of the cold weather. It’s a clever concept and I’d like to see more storybooks taking advantage of this kind of content possibilities with smart devices. There are lots of little interactive bits for small fingers to find and every few pages there is a brief video clip embedded in the story. After enjoying the storybook, there is also a game where kids can find the changes made to five of the story’s pictures. My biggest complaint about the app is the lack of volume or a mute control for the background music. There are also links on the homepage for social media (Facebook and email) that can take young children out of the app and frustrate their experience. Overall, it is a worthy storybook that teaches a good lesson about listening to others and thinking about safety first when it comes to recreational activities. Mousey Howsee is available for free at the App Store with in-app purchase for full content. Rated for ages 4 and up.
Alpo Finds Alma by Jukka Lemmetty is one of the latest titles developed by Tapisodes. In this latest adventure for Alpo, he gets hurt and his friend, Jimmy, takes him around to various animals at the zoo to try and get some help. Sean Connelly expertly narrates the story and conjures up delightful character voices. I really enjoy the quality that Tapisodes puts into their apps and that everything is kid friendly. For starters, there are no links on the homepage, though if you look carefully, you can find a hidden map detailing Alpo and Alma’s adventure. Personally, I would like to see text highlighting when the story is being narrated for a child, but for now, Alpo lacks that function. Alpo Finds Alma is available at the App Store or for Android for $2.99 and is rated 4+. I highly recommend anything else Tapisodes has made too.
For older children, The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger is a must-have storybook. It is no surprise that it won the Silver Medal 2011 Parent’s Choice Award. Once again, the publishing powerhouse Auryn has created another winner. The illustrations are beautiful, but the use of a touch feature that creates the movement of water when interacting with the screen makes the images really come alive; even the text appears to be submerged in water. This is the classic tale from Hans Christian Anderson, so there is no softening of the story and at times the text is rather graphic in the portrayal of violence, compared to modern children’s tales, so parents should definitely read through it once before handing it over to junior to make sure it is appropriate for little ones (my daughter would have to skip the last third of the story). Still, for those tired of the Disneyfication of classic tales (guilty), this is a great interpretation of the original. Auryn has also made the story available in a Mandarin version here for $0.99. You can download the lite version of The Little Mermaid at the App Store here for free to try it out before you purchase. I’d rate this one 5 and up.
Another great tale from Auryn is Miko, Mom, Wake Up and Play! by Brigitte Weninger and Stephanie Roehe. This is one of a series of Miko books, six in all, which are now available in app form thanks to Auryn. Auryn is always looking at ways to differentiate themselves from other developers and with the Miko stories, you not only can create your own recordings of the text, but parents and kids can also completely rewrite the text too. With straightforward, easy to use controls accessed from the title page, you can create a whole new story to the delight (or disappointment in my case) of your child. For those not familiar with the tale, Miko is a little mouse who awakes early and must occupy himself until his mom wakes up. It is a familiar experience for most parents, though in our home, Reina is not apt to let us sleep like Miko does for his mom. In this storybook, and all the other Miko titles, when you touch an item in the story, the name of it appears and is pronounced by the child narrator. There are no external links on the home page. Miko is available from the App Store for $0.99 and I think it is suitable for any age.
Our final story is Sarah, the Little Fairy: Grandma Gets Lost written by Marga M. Garriga, illustrated by Vanessa Linares, and developed by Sanoen. In this story, Sarah and her family are preparing their home for Grandma to come live with them. Her grandma has Alzheimer’s disease, so the family works hard to make the environment safe and comfortable for Grandma. All goes well until one day, Grandma cannot be found anywhere and they all must try to find her. Along the way, the story illustrates how Alzheimer’s damages the brain’s memory and Sarah realizes where her grandmother must be. Readers can choose between English, Spanish, French, German and Catalan. On the title page there are external links to Facebook, Twitter, and Email, so that can be a problem for smaller kids. There are easy-to-use controls at the bottom of each page to turn the background music and/or narration on and off (thank you very much), a link to the home page, and a clever twist on the standard memory game using the sound of musical instruments rather than pictures. At the end of the story, there is even a brief quiz to test readers’ memory of the information they have learned. Sarah, the Little Fairy: Grandma Gets Lost is available at the App Store and for the Kindle for $2.99 and is rated by the publisher for ages to 5-9.