Showing posts with label book apps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book apps. Show all posts

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Newsela: Engaging news stories for kids, with adjustable reading levels (ages 8-14)

Splashy news headlines can grab our attention, but it's crucial that we engage kids with deeper thinking about current events. Whether it's prompting dinner-table discussions or classroom debates, current events provide so many avenues for kids to question, think and discover. One of my favorite sources is Newsela. Here are my top 5 reasons why I recommend Newsela for kids, teachers and families:

1. Engaging content, easy to search

Newsela consistently engages kids with its content. They have a terrific sense of what kids will be interested in and yet they never underestimate kids' ability to think about big issues. They balance fun articles (Jedi lightsaber exercise class) with hard-hitting news (Flint, Michigan water pollution crisis). And they use great photos to draw kids in.

It's easy to search for specific topics or browse general interest areas--and this encourages kids to figure out what interests them, to discover the news that matters. I also love that there's a dedicated site for elementary kids, recognizing that some articles are better for younger kids than others.
screenshot of "latest news" from Newsela 1.22.15
2. Adjustable reading levels for every article

Kids can select the right reading level for them, adjusting the article with an easy click. Nonfiction is harder for many kids to read, especially current events about topics that are new to them. Newsela lets kids read an article at an easier level, with simpler sentences and less complicated vocabulary. They can read, change the level and re-read the same article. Kids with different reading levels can read and discuss the same article but at a level just right for each kid.
Kids can easily adjust the reading level
3. Easy ways to personalize & save content

We all like personalizing our reading experience. Kids sign up for free Newsela accounts--at school, I recommend that they use their school Google account to automatically sign in.  Newsela lets readers mark which articles they like and recommends other articles on a similar subject.

Teachers love the annotation features. Kids can highlight and annotate articles, saving their thoughts for later. This makes it great for prompting deeper thinking, discussions and further writing about articles. This feature promotes active reading, helping kids focus on main ideas and engage with the material. It's so easy to use that I have found kids enjoy it.
annotations made with a 5th grade class
4. Quizzes help kids check understanding

While I am not a fan of multiple-choice quizzes, I actually think these quizzes help kids check their understanding of the article. They also let kids practice taking this type of quiz in a low-stress environment. This helps them practice just the sorts of questions that will be on state tests, but helps them keep a growth mindset--noticing how they get better as they practice more.

5. Text sets encourage kids to broaden thinking

I love the way that Newsela editors are creating text sets to encourage kids to read more broadly. Some recent examples include text sets on animal ethics, bullying, and pollution. Teachers will especially like the PRO/CON text set to support students' persuasive writing.

Newsela App

And now, it's even easier to use at home with your mobile device--Newsela has just released its app for iPads and iPhones. See this Newsela blog article for more information. I've only just started testing this, but I like it already. It's easy to check the most recent news, and it's also easy to search for specific topics. I love the way readers can easily change the reading level on the app -- very well designed.
If you're looking for a way to engage kids with the news, definitely check out Newsela. I'd recommend the Newsela Elementary site for grades 3-5, and the regular site for grades 6 and up. I have only used the free site, and I hope that it continues to provide robust access for general free users.

We use both the free and PRO site in our school district. My daughter's 6th grade teacher uses the PRO subscription site and really likes the additional data he gathers. For families and many classrooms, the free site is a terrific resource. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Love, The App -- winner of the BolognaRagazzi Digital Awards, 2014

Today, I'd like to share a guest review by Emily S., age 10, also known as my youngest daughter. This week, she read Love, The App, winner of the 2014 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award for fiction.
Love, The App
developed by NiƱo Studio
based on the book by Gian Berto Vanni
ages 6-12
review by Emily S., age 10
I just read the book app Love and I think that it is amazing. Why I think that because I love how the company that made the app have a lot of interactive features but not too much interactive items that the reader wouldn’t get distracted from the book.

This book app is about a girl who gets taken to an orphanage because her parents left and she has no relatives. And when she goes to the orphanage none of the other kids play with her just because she is ugly. But one day the manager of the orphanage almost kicks her out of the orphanage.
She didn't have any relatives.
I also really like the layout of this book app especially because of the transitions. Why I love the transitions of this book app is because you have to figure out how to turn the page, you don’t just swipe your finger and it turns the the page, you have to tap certain objects or you have to swipe the flaps in.

I think that the moral of the story is that even if someone looks different it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a kind heart or that they don’t deserve friends. And that you should always treat people the way you want to be treated.

In conclusion I think Love is a great book app because it is a great story,it has interactive features, and it has a great moral too. This book app is great for all ages (even grownups!). Why this book is for all ages is because it is heartfelt, interactive, and it has a great story structure.

Do you want to learn more? Watch this video trailer:

Thanks, Emily! I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this. It's especially interesting how much you enjoyed having to "figure out how to turn the page". I agree that the moral of the story really shines through in this story.

The review copy of the app came from our home library. We purchased it after reading about the BolognaRagazzi Digital Awards in the excellent journal Children's Technology Review.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

eBooks through public libraries: Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 3)

Do you like reading ebooks? Did you know you can borrow them for free from your public library? Our local public libraries are expanding their digital collections, and it’s getting easier and easier to load these onto your own mobile device.

This is a constantly changing field. My best advice is to check out your local library’s website and to ask your librarian for advice. Here’s a sampling from our local public libraries in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Public Library offers digital books for kids and adults through their Axis 360 and Overdrive platforms. Over 3,000 children’s fiction titles are available through Axis 360, many with text-to-speech capabilities. Overdrive features digital audiobooks and ebooks. SFPL has over 2,500 children’s fiction titles in their Overdrive collection. Any California resident may apply for a library card from SFPL and check out digital books.

Oakland Public Library also offers digital media, including ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and music, which library cardholders can download. The Oakland Library has over 1,500 fiction titles for children through Overdrive, which can be read on a Kindle, iPad, Nook, mobile phone and computer. Oakland card holders can also download three songs a week using the Freegal site, which provides access to Sony Music songs.

The Marin County Free Library has an ebook collection through a variety of platforms available for Marin County residents. Overdrive and the 3M Cloud Library are the main sources for downloadable ebooks, but they also have some interactive titles through Axis 360. Marin’s Overdrive account has 800 fiction titles for children and nearly 3,000 for adults.

Need help? Check out the tutorials on the San Francisco Public Library website. These online presentations provide specific information for Kindle, iPad, Android and Nooks. I found them helpful as they led me through the specific steps, one slide at a time. Here's their tutorial on using Overdrive on the iPad:

If you are finding the selection at your local library limited, do try other public libraries in your state. All California libraries will issue a library card to any California resident, whether or not they live in the local area. Other libraries offer digital library membership for a small fee.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 17, 2014

Reading ebooks together: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 2)

Kindle kids, via Eric Rice, Flikr
Parents are beginning to explore digital reading opportunities with their kids. Everyone has different tastes. The real trick, in my opinion, is to figure out what fits you and your family. Engage in this conversation together. Try different things out. Talk with your kids about what they like. Above all, read together in lots of different ways.

One mom I know keeps a digital book loaded on her phone so she can read aloud to her kids when they’re stuck waiting for an appointment. Digital audiobooks keep your place saved for each time you come back to your book, often syncing between devices as well.

Many children who are beginning to read like increasing the font size on ebooks. One avid young reader said,
“I like it when I can’t see how many pages I have left, especially when I’m reading a really long book.”
A heavy print book can seem intimidating. Reluctant readers find reading on a digital device appealing because their “just right” book looks just the same as everyone else’s book. The built-in dictionary, speech-to-text and audiobook syncing abilities of digital books can be a huge advantage to children struggling to read.

Explore your public library collection of ebooks; these collections are growing every month! You can download books to your smartphone, computer or tablet. Explore your library website or ask for help. I’ve found that the user interfaces of sites like Overdrive and Axis360 are continually improving.

Reading together, via Robyn Jay, Flickr
Consider interactive book apps, especially ones that integrate audio narration, word highlighting and interactive features. Some of my favorites apps available on the iTunes App Store for young children are Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night, Cinderella and Jack & the Beanstalk by Nosy Crow, and The Monster at the End of This Book.

As you read together, talk about what you find interesting, how the story is coming to life in your imagination, what it makes you wonder about.

Read all the parts of this series, Using ebooks and digital media with young children. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 1)

Mobile devices are infiltrating our daily lives. Kids know how smart phones, tablets and computers are ever-present, taking their parents out of the moment as they check email, sports scores or traffic conditions. Parents often wonder if their children have too much screen time, but I would argue that’s the wrong question.

Kobe drawing, via Marcus Kwan, Flickr
As parents, our main job is to help our children develop skills and mindsets they need to engage with the world in productive, satisfying ways. We want our children to actively participate in their world. This is the lens through which I look at digital experiences.
  • How can I help my children discover engaging, interesting experiences online and offline? 
  • How can digital devices add to the mix, helping my children learn and grow?
At the heart of this, parents need to remember that our interactions with our young children are what lead to learning. Whether it’s reading a book, playing a video game or listening to music, we use media as a springboard for learning when we do these activities with our children and talk about what we’re doing.

As Michael Robb, director of the education and research at the Fred Rogers Center says,
“Learning is most likely to occur when children are having warm, language-rich interaction with their adult caregivers.”
eBooks, video games and digital media provide many opportunities for active, engaging experiences, but they can also be used as electronic babysitting. When you’re looking at using media with children, always ask yourself whether it’s encouraging active, imaginative engagement and interactions with adults or peers.

This week, I'd like to explore different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, February 7, 2014

Barefoot World Atlas updates: new packs added! (ages 5-10)

I've raved before about Barefoot World Atlas -- the spinning globe that brings a traditional atlas into a new realm for young kids. Well, Touch Press has wowed me again, with five fantastic extension packs. If you haven't tried out this app, please take a look!
Barefoot World Atlas
app developed by
TouchPress and Barefoot Books
available at iTunes App Store
ages 5-10
Young children have a difficult time envisioning the large extent of our world. It's so hard to see how the separate parts relate to the whole. This app lets kids physically spin the globe, zooming in and out, and then learning a specific region. It's tactile and visual -- and kids love it!

The original app presented a select amount of information that Nick Crane's original book contained -- at times, it seemed a bit limited to me. Now they've added five extension packs that enable kids to explore their different interests on a global level. Each is available as an in-app purchase. Normally, I really dislike this approach, but it seems to be very appropriate here. Families purchase the basic app for about $5, and then they can choose a specific area to purchase for an additional $1.99.
Extension packs for Barefoot World Atlas
Barefoot World Atlas
Extension Packs
available now:
Great Cities
North America
International Football
World Art
coming soon:
Cut & Create
Dinosaur Planet
Wacky & Wonderful
Animal Planet
I want to highlight three strengths of these packs:
  1. The format (choosing which pack to explore) helps focus a child, providing more content without overwhelming them. Less is more, especially when it comes to visually arranging information.
  2. The content is truly multinational, covering all the continents. I especially loved the art extension pack, which includes items ranging from a Mayan pottery vessel to a central Africa Bronze plaque to an early 20th century Russian painting.
  3. The Great Cities pack includes several pictures for each location, adding more information without cluttering the interface. These photos lead to great conversations and "ah ha!" moments for kids!
Take a look a this short video from Touch Press demonstrating the World Art pack:

The review copy of this app came from our school library collection, thanks to a generous grant by the Berkeley Public School Fund. I so appreciate their support, as we look for new and exciting ways to engage our students. Please support your local schools fund!

Review ©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 3, 2014

#cslacon14: Best Apps for Teaching & Learning

This week, school librarians from all over California are gathering in San Diego to share about ways to engage students, develop critical thinking and promote literacy. I'm excited to present the AASL Best Apps for Teaching & Learning.
Please share this with anyone you know who's going to the CSLA conference this weekend. Here are the details:
AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning
California School Librarians Conference
San Diego, CA
Saturday, February 8th
8:00am - 9:15am
Ventana Room
I'll be presenting with a great team of school librarians from Northern California:
  • Allyson Bogie, Portola Middle School, West Contra Costa Unified
  • Trevor Calvert, Marin Academy
  • Brian Thomas, Saint Mary's College High School, Oakland Diocese
  • Adoria Williams, Jefferson Elementary School, Berkeley Unified
Hope to see you there! Follow the conference hashtag #csla14 and the Best Apps hashtag #aaslbestapps to see what people are saying.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wee You-Things, a fun book app with great positive spirit (ages 3-6)

Each of us is special. Everyone contributes their own unique gifts to the group. Celebrate our individuality. These are all values I try to share with my own children and my students. Normally, I don't like "message books", but I have to say that Wee You-Things shares its message in such a joyful, kid-friendly way that it brings kids back to it again and again.
Wee You-Things
developed by Wee Society
2013 Cybils Book App Finalist
ages 3-6
In Wee You-Things, a colorful parade of friends celebrates their own special quirks. Ruth has a purple tooth, Royce has a tiny voice and Lamar has a crooked scar a la Harry Potter. Thoroughly silly, these monsters will bring certainly keep preschoolers giggling. As the story says, "You-Things mean that no one in the world is the same."
Every picture is cleverly animated to show off the special You-Things. The bold, colorful patterns, sound effects and rhyming prose are spot on. Some are silly and fanciful, and might be more likely to lead to teasing -- like Brad having two dads. I just love how it includes all sorts of differences.

At the end kids get a chance to create their own You to join the parade of friends. It's a perfect way to let kids know looking or sounding different is okay and these "you things" are what make you special.

If you like Todd Parr's books celebrating diversity, you'll love Wee You-Things. It would make a great addition to a home, preschool or library story time.

The review copy of this app was provided by the developer, as part of the Cybils awards process. The Cybils winners will be announced on February 14th. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 9, 2014

To This Day, by Shane Koyczan -- powerful book app for teens (12-18)

Intense. Gripping. You could hear a pin drop.

Those aren't words you typically hear when kids describe book apps, a medium known more for its flashy interactive elements. But that's exactly how they react to the powerful spoken word poem To This Day, by Shane Koyczan, that's been turned into an amazing app. If you have a teen, definitely share this with them.
To This Day
written by Shane Koyczan
developed by Moving Tales, Inc.
2013 Cybils Book Apps finalist
ages 12-18
Shane Koyczan
In To This Day, Koyczan writes of his experience dealing with violence, bullying and harassment in school in a searingly honest way. The app takes Koyczan's performance and adds animation and artwork created by multiple artists, making the anti-bullying message even stronger.

At first I wondered whether the app provided a different experience than watching the video. Only after reading, listening and watching the app a few times did I realize the true extent of the differences. Every time you open the app, different animated clips run with the individual stanzas of the poem. This keeps the reader engaged, thinking about how the artwork develops and extends the meaning of the words.

The animations, crowd-sourced from over 80 different artists, resonate with the material because they communicate the sense that people of all stripes and hues experience problems of bullying. The variety of the illustrations helps take Koyczan's very personal poem and make the message more universal on a visual and visceral level.

Koyczan makes sure readers know that words can hurt more than sticks and stones, but that in the end we all must walk the balancing act in our lives, believing in our own beauty.
“My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways.” says poet Shane Koyczan. “I wrote To This Day, a spoken word poem, to further explore the profound and lasting impact that bullying can have on an individual.”
I also love sharing this poem in a book app format because it allows the reader to experience Koyczan's powerful performance, but to bring some of the reading qualities to it. On the app, you can easily reread a stanza if you want it to sink in a bit more. If you're watching the video, you lose control of the pacing and let the poem wash over and sink in.

Please, please -- find a quiet moment. Listen and read this poem yourself. Think about how it resonates with your experiences, or friends you know. And then find someone else to share it with.

To This Day is a finalist in the 2013 Cybils Book Apps Award. The final winner will be announced February 14th. The review copy came from my personal library. But since this is currently free, I strongly believe this is a must-have app for all teens and anyone who's survived high school.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

MirrorWorld app, by Cornelia Funke: exploring a fantasy world with transmedia (ages 10 - 16)

I've long been fascinated by the way authors use different types of media to tell stories, whether it's the written word, audiobooks, films or plays. So it's natural that I've been drawn to apps that combine multimedia approaches to tell stories. But I've been truly amazed by MirrorWorld, an app written by best-selling fantasy author Cornelia Funke to build and extend a fantasy world from her new series of novels. This app is a wonderful example of transmedia storytelling, where authors use a variety of media to tell different aspects of the story.
written by Cornelia Funke
developed by Mirada Studios
2013 Cybils Book Apps finalist
ages 10 - 16
iTunes App Store
The first thing you'll notice about MirrorWorld is the way it invites you to explore the fantasy world from Reckless and Fearless in a nonlinear way. Once you push through the mirror, you find yourself in the Ogre's Tavern. It's a bizarre place, with a severed arm wrapped in chains, a witch's brew, a treasure hunter's gold coins, and more. Wander through the tavern and choose what you want to read, or use the table of contents to read and watch in a more organized fashion.

These sixteen short independent chapters expand Funke’s fantasy world with original content, seamless integrating beautiful illustrations, audio narration, music, and animation. Whether documenting animated fencing instructions or telling how Jacob Reckless first met the treasure hunter Albert Chanute, this app is both an intriguing introduction for those new to the world and exciting backstory for fans who want more. Check out this trailer for a sense of the app:

MirrorWorld’s art direction is perfectly on tone with the dark and beautiful content. The art is at once sophisticated and simple, never overpowering the story. In "A Bad Substitute Father", readers can either "view the spectacle" and watch a shadow play while listening to Funke read the chapter aloud, or they can read the story themselves. This reinforces the book qualities of this app, while exploring the multimedia opportunities presented by the iPad's interactive features to let readers explore this world.

This app truly grows the reader's sense of this fantasy world, instead of defining it the way so many movies do. Funke and Mirada help readers discover the way they like to imagine this world, whether it's through a shadow play, a narrated story, or a picture book fairy tale. Funke's writing is beautiful, and her narration is lyrical. I really felt like I was glimpsing into her imagination.

I must say that I have not read the MirrorWorld novels, though I am now drawn to them. That's the fascinating thing about transmedia -- each element can be enjoyed independently or as part of a whole.

For a fuller discussion of transmedia, check out this post by Sarah Towle: Transmedia and Crossmedia -- One and the Same?

The review copy of this app was provided by the developer, as part of the Cybils awards process. The Cybils winners will be announced on February 14th. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Disney Animated: amazing multimedia nonfiction book app (ages 9 and up)

Disney's animated movies have enchanted families for generations. Now, this richly layered multimedia book app takes readers behind the scenes to see all the different aspects that go into creating animated feature films.

Disney Animated
developed by Disney / Touch Press
2013 Cybils Book App finalist
Apple's iPad App of the Year for 2013
ages 9 and up
iTunes App Store
Read about the original development of animation, watch Walt Disney talk about where story ideas come from, zoom in to look at a detailed storyboard from 101 Dalmatians drawn by legendary illustrator Bill Peet. Readers can zoom into look at the detailed drawings and captions, to see how the artists envisioned the story as it developed.

Storyboard for 101 Dalmatians, from Disney Animated

It's absolutely fascinating peeling back the layers of classic animated as well as computer generated (CG) films, seeing how a scene develops from the initial story sketch to rough drawings or computer models, to final colored animation. With the scene from Chicken Little, you can see how the animators matched the drawings to the recorded dialog.

clip from Chicken Little, showing CG animation process
Picture boards for the Wreck-It Ralph characters in the Sugar Rush game show the visual inspirations, including pictures of marble cake swirls and butterscotch candies. Interactive elements let readers stop animated clips, progressing frame by frame, swipe through a timeline with every Walt Disney Animation Studio feature film, and manipulate Vanellope, a CG character from Wreck-It Ralph. A book could never let readers see these animated layers in action!

This book app lets readers progress at their own pace, diving into sections they're interested in. It's a perfect blend of book, animation and interactive features, all designed to help readers explore the many facets of animation.

Yes, this app builds on the appeal of Disney movies. Yes, it starts out with that sweeping music and view of the Magic Kingdom. But from the first page, it's brings you into discovering the art and technique that goes into making these movies. Every time I read it, I'm amazed at the ingenuity of Disney and his colleagues as well as the collaborative effort that animated films require.

For an in-depth look at this app, check out this video review by the Children's Technology Review. CTR is one of the journals I subscribe to for excellent assessment of apps and games for kids.

The Cybils winners will be announced on February 14th. The review code was provided by Disney Studios as part of the Cybils process. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Endless Alphabet: fresh & fun book app! (ages 3-7)

Cybils book app finalist Endless Alphabet combines all the great features of picture book apps: interesting content, fun animation, clear narration, and engaging interactive features -- all designed with the kid audience in mind. The result is a real winner for young kids, an app that they'll choose to go back to again and again!
Endless Alphabet
developed by Originator
2013 Cybils finalist
iTunes or Google Play
ages 3 - 7
Combining unique words with clever illustrations, adding silly animated monsters and unforgettable sounds, Endless Alphabet is a book app kids will return to again and again. Filled with words ranging from alarm to hilarious to musician, this is no ordinary alphabet book.

Endless Alphabet

Readers start by dragging letters to spell out the word, reinforcing simple letter-sound associations. Then, they hear how to pronounce the word, learn the meaning of the word, and watch a short, very silly enactment of the word. This fun trailer will give you a sense of the app:

Developed by the same team that brought us Sesame Street's Monster at the End of This Book app, Endless Alphabet is perfectly designed for its age group. Kids can choose whether to move from word to word or to repeat a word as many times as they choose. The app draws kids in at each step, but all the interactive features build on the primary focus of learning vocabulary and letter awareness.

If you like this, you'll also enjoy Originator's newest app: Endless Reader, designed to help kids acquire sight words essential to early reading.

Check out all the 2013 Cybils finalists in the book apps category! Many thanks to Paula Willey of PinkMe for nominating this delightful, wacky must-have app!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Announcing the Cybils Awards: Book Apps and more!

I am super-excited to announce the finalists in the Cybils Book App award. This week, I'll be sharing more about each of these apps. These book apps combine the best literary and technical qualities with big kid appeal. They draw children and teens back to them again and again, engaging kids in different ways with each reading.
Disney Animated
written by Disney
developed by Touch Press
Disney Animated is a richly layered multimedia book app that takes readers behind the scenes to see all the different aspects that go into creating animated feature films. It's a combination of movie magic, coffee table book, and museum visit rolled into one.
Endless Alphabet
written and developed by Originator, Inc.
iTunes or Google Play
Endless Alphabet is a superb, interactive, picture dictionary app for kids from preschool through early grade school. Combining unique words with clever illustrations and animation, adding silly monsters and unforgettable sounds
written by Cornelia Funke
developed by Mirada Studios
MirrorWorld is a companion app to Cornelia Funke’s fantasy novels Reckless and Fearless. Whether documenting animated fencing instructions or telling how Jacob Reckless first met the treasure hunter Albert Chanute, this app is both an intriguing introduction for those new to the world and exciting backstory for fans who want more.
To This Day
written by Shane Koyczan
developed by Moving Tales, Inc.
Shane Koyczan's spoken word poem To This Day shares his experience dealing with violence, bullying and harassment in school in a searingly honest way. The app takes Koyczan's live performance and adds animation and artwork created by multiple artists, making the anti-bullying message even stronger.
Wee You-Things
written and developed by Wee Society LLC
Wee You-Things is joyful celebration of what makes each of us unique. This charming book app simply introduces a colorful parade of friends each with his or her own quirk, but in doing so it conveys a message we all need to hear.

Over the last two months, a team of five bloggers has been diligently reading and evaluating nearly 70 nominated book apps. We bring to our task a wide range of experiences: teachers, parents, librarians. We have noticed the app market is certainly developing; we read many excellent apps, and our final decisions were difficult, indeed. We considered the quality of writing, illustration, narration and interactive design. Each needs to contribute in order to draw kids into these multimedia reading experiences.

Head over to the Cybils Awards to check out all the finalists, from books for early readers to young adult fiction. I love the way these awards celebrate the best of children's literature with a real sense of what appeals to kids. Each year, I seek out these books to share with my own students and they are big hits.

Enjoy exploring all these new book apps. I will be delving into more depth on these apps throughout the next week.

Many thanks to the Cybils book app team: Jen Vincent, Aaron Maurer, Jill Goodman and Jackie Parker. You each brought so much to our discussions.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, October 25, 2013

Midnight Feast: an eerily creepy book app from Slap Happy Larry (ages 9 - 14)

Creepy stories are in high demand in our library, and engaging book apps for older readers are a real treat. I loved reading Slap Happy Larry's Midnight Feast this week - perfect for tweens and teens looking for a spooky tale.
Midnight Feast
by Lynley Stace
developed by Slap Happy Larry
available on
iTune App Store
nominated for Cybils 2013
ages 9 - 14
Roya lives in a world where her dreams blend with reality, and hunger is a constant part of life. She yearns for so much -- to be part of the adult world, to be part of her dream world. This story captures that yearning and longing that can be such a part of adolescence.

In the beginning, Roya struggles falling to sleep. "It's not that she was scared of the dark, exactly. Things were slightly more complicated than that." The artwork, narration and music create a sleepy, melancholy mood, but one that right away hints at something darker to come. If you select the option "Scary Sauce," dark haunting hands reach out from under the bed.

Stace develops this blend between worlds so you're never sure whether what she's seeing is solidly true or part of her active imagination. The interactive elements are layered enough to allow the story to shine through, but also to draw the reader back for repeated readings. At times, Roya's imaginary world literally interprets common sayings (her parents actually laugh their heads off), while at others she drifts into a surreal dream state.

When a black cat suggests to her that "Midnight's no place for a girl," Roya wonders, "Is midnight a place?" Roya begins dreaming of a midnight place, where there is dancing, revelry, and -- of course, a Midnight Feast. I love the way that Roya's dreams combine surreal elements--cats wearing fancy dress clothes--along with colorful dreamscapes that take her away from her dreary world.

I wholly agree with the Kirkus Review of Midnight Feast:
The sum of striking visuals, smartly restrained audio cues, subtle voice acting, unobtrusive narration and navigation, and always-relevant iPad interactive elements is more resonant than overwhelming. Younger readers may be confused and spooked by some of the story’s content; there’s an option to eliminate the “scary sauce” in the story (cleverly represented by a ketchup bottle).

Beautiful, haunting and completely original, Roya’s tale is a 12-course meal of intelligent storytelling.
Teens might be interested in reading this and comparing it with the bookapp rendition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell Tale Heart. For teachers interested in experimenting with a layered, multimedia book app, definitely check out Slap Happy Larry's reading guide and activities.

The review copy came from our home app collection.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books