2012 Finalists: Book Apps

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night
written by Mary Kay Carson; created by Ellen Jacob
developed by Bookerella and Story Worldwide
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

With an effective blend of traditional nonfiction features and innovative interactive elements, Bats! offers young readers many opportunities to learn about these furry nocturnal fliers. Children will enjoy learning about the physical features, behaviors and habitats of bats through clear text, photographs, captions, diagrams and maps. Readers tap diagrams to make wings flap, tilt the iPad to steer a bat in flight, spin the “Wheel of Bats,” and search for hidden bats in various habitats. The vivid animation of bats flying in the night sky coupled with sound effects from nature (bat wings flapping, wind howling, water babbling, and bats screeching) give readers the sense they are watching live bats in the wild. Children will have a ball learning about science in this high quality nonfiction app.

— Cathy Potter, The Nonfiction Detectives

Dragon Brush
created by John Solimine and Andy Hullinger
developed by Small Planet Digital
Nominated by: Aurora Celeste

What would you paint if you had a magic paintbrush? An old woman gives young Bing-Wen a magic paintbrush made from a dragon’s whiskers in this imaginative original story. Bing-Wen uses the paintbrush to paint a chicken to provide food for his family, a tree to grow fruit for the village, and a comical dragon that isn’t very fierce. Children will enjoy wiping their fingers across the screen to reveal intricate paintings that come to life. Readers will cheer when the clever Bing-Wen outwits the greedy emperor and teaches him a lesson. Soft guitar music, effective narration, kid-friendly illustrations, and bits of added humor bring a whimsical feeling to this app. A dragon, a greedy emperor, hidden inkpots, and artwork that comes to life…this is an app with kid appeal, for sure!

— Cathy Potter, The Nonfiction Detectives

Rounds: Franklin Frog

written by Emma Tranter
illustrated by Barry Tranter
developed by Nosy Crow Apps
Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Young children love learning about the world around them. This app does a beautiful job introducing preschoolers and kindergartners to real facts about frogs, with information about their habitat, feeding and metamorphosis through an appealing story about Franklin Frog and his offspring. The app draws children into the story, as they guide the frogs with their fingers. Children make the frogs jump, swim, catch flies, avoid predators, find a place to hibernate, croak to attract a mate and more. This app always feels like an exploration of how a frog lives, and never feels like a game. With both a charming story and clear nonfiction information, this app is accessible and engaging for young children.

— Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

The Voyage of Ulysses
developed by Elastico Srl
Nominated by: Viktor Sjöberg

With pathos and romance, the Odyssey is at once a gripping story and a fascinating look at how people long ago lived their lives. In twenty-four screens, mirroring the traditional 24 books of the Odyssey, this book app tells the story of Ulysses’s ten-year travail on his way home from the Trojan War. Spellbinding, slightly accented narration continues while we explore the delights of each page–arrows that rain from the ramparts of Troy, Greek warriors creeping from the giant horse and setting Troy ablaze, text that spins into the whirlpool Charybdis. Understated art, music, and sound effects match the lyrical, timeless style of the text, while pull-up sidebars provide even more information. A truly engaging app that also succeeds in communicating the themes of loneliness and exile that make Homer’s epic emotionally arresting three thousand years later.

— Paula Willey, Pink Me

Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery
written by Jamie Lee Curtis
illustrated by Laura Cornell
developed by Auryn, Inc
Nominated by: Teresa Garcia

“Where do balloons go when you let them go free? It can happen by accident,” begins this whimsical book app, told in the first person by a young child who says enticingly, “It’s happened to me.” 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. Just don’t read it before bedtime–it’s way too much fun!

— Carisa Kluver, The Digital Media Diet