Ebook/Book App Review - Animal SnApp Farm

App Developer: Nosy Crow
Category: Books * Farm Animals * Rhyming
Price:  $3.99 - Currently on sale for $ .99 until November 26, 2012
Source: App was provided for a review
Updated: November 7, 2012
Version: 1.0.1
Language: English
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Features: Matching Game with Embedded Stories; Read and Play; Read by Myself (with varying levels); Six rhymes narrated by children
Available for iPhone & iPad on iTunes.

Description from Nosy Crow:
Young readers swipe the screen to solve a simple visual puzzle. Then they tap to explore the adventures of Lucky Lamb, Portly Pig, Gobbly Goat, Higgly Hen, Diggedy Dog, Cuddly Cow and friends. With music, animations, and silly sound effects, the first app in the Animal SnApp series delivers hours of fun for children aged 2 and above. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. This app includes 6 separate stories.

What I like about this app:
Nosy Crow has several book apps that I have purchased and explored.  The Cinderella app and The Three Little Pigs app continue to be favorites of my six year old niece resulting in both maintaining a regular presence on my iPad.  When I was asked to review Animal SnApp Farm, I accepted hoping that this app would feature some of the things I have come to expect from Nosy Crow.

First, I love that Nosy Crow uses children to narrate the stories for their apps.  There are six rhymes featuring six of the farm animals and each is narrated by children. To select a story, the reader matches the top half and the bottom half of the animal by swiping the screen.

The story specifically tied to that animal then begins.  Second, there is a nice balance between text and interaction with each page of the story.  One of the reasons I tend to like this is that some book apps have so many interactive features that younger readers especially get lost in touching the screen to make things work that the story is ignored.  The arrow on the lower right hand corner will flash "blue" after the reader has explored all of the interactive components and it is time to turn the page but you can over ride this by tapping on the arrow twice. 

After about six pages, the story comes to an end and the reader is returned to the screen to swipe the animal parts and begin a new story.  By double clicking on the "home" icon, the reader is taken to the main screen where he or she can change a setting or move from Read & Play to Read by Myself.
Overall, I was pleased with the app and would share it with young children and recommend it to others looking for an animal related book app. 

What I would like to see in future versions:

* Option to turn off music during the Read by Myself feature
*  Help feature on the individual pages of the story in case a reader has a question
* More visible prompt feature if readers have missed an interactive feature

 Official Trailer:

Interview with Axel Scheffler:

For more information about Nosy Crow:
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Ebook/Book App Review - The Strange and Wonderful World of Ants

Title: The Strange and Wonderful World of Ants
App Developer: Amos Latteier, Illustrated by Melinda Matson
Version: 2.0 - April 3, 2011
Price: $1.99
Age Level: Ages 6 to 10
Available on iTunes
Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.
Language: English
Features Read to Me (Beginner Level) * Three Reading Levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)*Optional drag white dot to navigate*Swipe the page turn feature*Extras (Glossary, Questions, Ant Resources)
Settings: Music - Volume Control; Narrator - On/Off Button - Beginning Level Only
Category: Non-fiction, Educational
Website: antsapp.com

Additional Review that may be of interesthttp://digital-storytime.com/review.php?id=70

Description from iTunes:
Explore the amazing world of the ants! The Strange & Wonderful World of Ants is a beautifully designed, educational, and quirky children's iPad App. Its adjustable reading level making it appealing to a wide range of children and adults.

Thoughts on this book app:
This app is brilliant!  I have looked at dozens of apps and though I am not an app designer, I can often think of several suggestions or ideas for how to improve the app.  In the case of The Strange and Wonderful World of Ants by Amos Latteier, I truly don't have any suggestions.  The only request is can we have more non-fiction ebook apps like this one?

This app has three levels - beginner, intermediate, and advanced which allows a parent to share the book with a young child, or a beginning reader to navigate the book independently, or even an adult to enjoy the advanced level information.  From the beginning of the book, there is a very realistic appropriately sized ant named E.O. who helps provide additional information. 

Here is an example of the language used by E.O. at the various levels:

Beginner Level: "Hello, I am E.O. the ant.  I am here to tell you about ants. Ants are everywhere.  Take a look.  Where you can find us?"

Intermediate Level: "Hello, I am E.O. the ant.  I will try to help you understand us ants better. Where can you find ants? Take a look.  You can find us almost everywhere, in the grass, on trees, and between the cracks in the sidewalk."

Advanced Level: "Hello, I'm E.O. the ant.  My nest suggested that I be the ant ambassador to you humans in the hope that you'll understand us better.  Where can you find ants? There are probably some ants in your house right now.  Take a look.  You can find us almost everywhere, in the grass, on trees, and between the cracks in the sidewalk."

iPad Screen shot
The illustrations that accompany the text are large and very detailed.  E.O., the ant ambassador, moves like a real ant, one that seems to have gotten under your iPad screen and is trying to find a way out.  The music that accompanies the text is pleasant.  The swipe feature for turning the pages works well.  You are able to scroll through the pages with a dotted line along the bottom of the book page.  The resources at the end of the book allow the app to be used for discussion or to assist a child with research.   Truly a beautifully created and well-thought out book app.

If you are looking for educational apps to share with your own children or in a classroom setting, I would certainly recommend this app.  Additionally, the price is very right at $1.99.  If you only download one ebook app this month, you may want to consider this one.     

Ebook App Review: Cinderella

Title: Cinderella
App Developer: Nosy Crow,
Version: 1.0.2 - September 14, 2011
Price: $5.99
Age Level: 3 years old and up
Available on iTunes
Compatible with iPhone, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.
Features Read and Play * Read to Me * Read by Myself

I have been keeping an eye out for recommended book apps for children and when I saw this come up on a few lists, I had to check it out.  This is a common version of the Cinderella story with no unexpected twists and turns. 

I haven't had a chance to test this one out with a child, but I do look forward to sharing it with a few small friends.

Children have 3 options with this ebook app.

Read to Me-
The read feature provides both a visual and auditory reading experience.  The words are read aloud by the children narrators.  The pages turn automatically.  Children can use the blue arrow to move the story along or pull on a tab which allows them to select a scene.

Read and Play -
By clicking on this choice, the narrators read the story, but children have several places where they may click or interact with the pages.  A blue dot shows up on the center of a character and when you touch this the character has dialogue that s/he speaks.

Read by Myself -
When selecting this option, readers are given one of three choices - short, medium, or long - to indicate how long the text should appear.  However, even in short mode, it was present for a significant amount of time.  Additionally, the little blue dot that appears when a character has words to say is active in this mode. 

What I liked about this ebook app:
Illustrations - The illustrations were fun, bright, and entertaining.

Narrators - The story is narrated by children narrators which I really enjoyed.

Ease of use - Overall, the app was easy to use and figure out.

What I wish I could change about the ebook app:
Highlight text - For younger children having highlighted text is a benefit.  It provides them with a visual as to when the section has been read and can help them from turning the pages too quickly.

Delay at the beginning - There is a long delay from when you click on the app to when the book's main page appears.  During that time, the screen is completely black.  At first, I wasn't sure if it was frozen and I turned it off and then back on.  Since then I realized that I just need to be patient and it will eventually start.

Lack of consistent blue dots - Throughout the story a small blue dot will appear on a character.  If the reader touches it, the character will say a line of dialogue.  However, I found that often there is more dialogue than the blue dots would indicate.  If the blue dot is to be there, then it needs to be consistently present for every dialogue selection.  Also, touching the blue dot could make a character spin around or say a line of dialogue which seemed odd. 

Hints - Though there is a "help" button at the beginning, which gives tips for how to interact with the pages, there wasn't a hint button that directed readers to things that they might have missed.

Would I recommend it:
After playing with this app, I would recommend it.  Children who are already fans of Cinderella will love it.  

Here is the trailer for Cinderella:

Ebook Review: Pat the Bunny

Title: Pat the Bunny
Author: Dorothy Kunhardt
App Developer: Random House Digital, Inc.
Version: 1.1 - April 21, 2011
Price: $3.99
Age Level: Toddler, Pre-kindergarten
Available on iTunes
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.
Features Read * Paint
Settings: Music - On/Off Button; Narrator - On/Off Button; Record My Voice

When I first heard that Pat The Bunny had an ebook app, I wasn't sure how to react.  Hasn't everyone played with the actual book sometime as a toddler?  How can you take that sensory experience and turn it into an ebook app?  Would it lose something in the move to digital formatting? 

Though the original tactile features of touch are lost with this version, I will give credit to the app developers for maintaining the essence of the story and creating alternate pages that really work. Also, if you remember the original "mirror" in the book, you will love the ebook version.  Definitely one of my favorite pages in this version.

I haven't had a chance to test this one out with a toddler, but I do look forward to sharing it with a few small friends.  I will say that my 10 year old niece discovered this app during a recent car ride, and though she is not the targeted audience for the book, I noticed that she appeared to be enjoying the app. 

Children have 2 options with this ebook app.

Read - The read feature provides both a visual and auditory reading experience.  The words are highlighted as the narrator reads the text.  The written text prompts the reader to interact with the page. 

Paint - By clicking on the paint palette, the reader is taken to a black-line drawing of each page of the story and by just rubbing a figure across the picture, the color appears.  The reader is praised for "coloring the page". 

What I liked about this ebook app:
Simiplicity - Just the right amount of interactive items on each page.

Highlighted Words - Words go from a brown color to aqua color.

Ease of use - There was never a question as to what to do on each page or even how to turn the page.

Pacing and Prompts - As the child moves to to the next page, the line is read with a prompt as to what to do.  If the child does nothing, there is a verbal prompt as to what to do.  The page does not turn automatically allowing for children to go at their own pace.

Settings Buttons - There is an on/off switch for music and the narrator.  An additional feature allows you to record the story in your own voice.

What I wish I could change about the ebook app:
I really don't have much that I would want to change on this one.  The only possible suggestion - and I'm not sure I am convinced that I would want this - is having a paint palette to use for the paint section.  Given the age range of child for this ebook, the current format may just be right.

Would I recommend it:
Most definitely. This one makes my current top 5 list for Toddlers and Preschoolers.

Here is the trailer for Pat the Bunny:

Ebook Picture Book Apps

Until recently, I hadn't even seriously considered downloading a Children's book app.  And the thought of reviewing one was even further from my mind.  However, as friends shared about picture book apps that they were looking at, I decided to take the plunge and download a few.  After playing with a variety of picture ebook apps, I decided to share what I found here on my blog.

First up, Harold and the Purple Crayon.  The classic story gets a high tech make-over that still maintains its timeless attraction.    

Title: Harold and the Purple Crayon
Author: Crockett Johnson
App Developer: Trilogy Studios
Version: 1.2 - August 30, 2011
Price: $6.99
Age Level: Pre-K to First
Available on iTunes
Designed for both iPhone, iPod Touch 4th generation & iPad

Features: Touch Tale * Read to Me * Read Alone * Tutorial

Children have 3 options with this ebook app.

Read AloneRead Alone allows the child to read the story just as you would a book but using an electronic devise.  Purple arrows allow a child to move forward or backwards through the story just as you would in a book.  The home icon is always available and allows a child to exit the story at any point.  In this mode, there is no music to accompany the story.

Read to Me: The Read to Me feature does exactly this.  It reads the story to the child.  A friendly narrator reads through the story while the text goes from black to purple as the words are being read aloud.  Music accompanies this reading and can not be turned on or off.  As with the Read Alone feature, the home icon is available when a child wants to exit the story.  At each time, in any feature, when exiting the story, a pop up question asks the reader if they want to "return to the main menu".

Touch Tale: The Touch Tale feature allows children to interact with the story.  Similar to the Read to Me feature, the Touch Tale reads the story; however, the next page arrow does not pop up until the child has "finished" interacting with the page.  Typically this includes changing gray lines to purple through touch.  If there is more to the page a small arrow will blink towards the hint button to indicate that the child should do something else (i.e., touch an image and the word pops up or move a finger across the page and stars shoot across the sky).

What I liked about this ebook app:
* Simplicity - The story does not get lost or cluttered up with a lot of fancy features.
* Highlighted words - The changing of the words from black to purple to black again does help children follow along as the story is being read.
* Easy to use - Even without going through the Tutorial, this one was simple to use.  My 5 year old niece tested out the story and loved it.  She recognized the story as being one that she had heard/seen before which drew her in.  With minimal prompting and support, she was able to navigate through the ebook.

What I wish I could change about the ebook:
* Possibly include an on-off switch for the music.  Though the music isn't offensive, I can imagine on the fifth play through, I might just want to turn it off.  However, it is easy enough to just turn down the sound, if it becomes too annoying.
*Cost - Considering how simple this ebook app is compared to some others, I was surprised at the price tag of $6.99.  Though not outrageous, it was one of the higher priced ebook apps that I looked at and purchased recently.

Would I recommend this? 
Yes, highly.  I have to say that this was really one of my favorites out of all that I tried recently.