The apps recommended below were developed within the last two years. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.
A Present for Milo by Mike Austin (Ruckus Mobile Media)
Kitten Milo chases a mouse until they reach—surprise!—a birthday party. Clever interactive elements and crisp sound effects accentuate the cleanly drawn pictures and simple text.
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (Boynton Moo Media/Loud Crow Interactive)
This adaptation honors the original board book while adding just the right amount of pizzazz with smart interactivity, Billy J. Kramer’s soothing narration, and gentle background music.
Spot the Dot by David A. Carter (Ruckus Mobile Media)
In this concept-learning app, users search for colored dots hidden in increasingly complex, kaleidoscopic screens of bright shapes.
Freight Train by Donald Crews (Curious Puppy)
Like the book, this app offers a simple, logical presentation of concepts; users explore many-hued train cars (each with a different purpose) to reveal cargo, staff, and stock.
Peekaboo Forest by Charley Harper (Night & Day Studios)
Part concept book, part game, this app reconfigures wildlife artist Harper’s work into a series of seasonal forest settings. Touch a peeking-out tail or ear to reveal a forest creature and its name.
Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (Random/Smashing Ideas, Inc.)
Inspired by the lift-the-flap classic, this app for offers new opportunities to play with Paul, Judy, and Bunny. Perky, clear instructions help pre-readers navigate the retro-illustrated activities.
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone; illus. by Michael Smollin (Callaway Digital Arts/Sesame Workshop)
Grover, attempting to contain the “monster” lurking at story’s end, tempts readers to explore. The frantically animated muppet, spot-on narration, and humorous sound effects add to the fun.
Cinderella: A 3-D Fairy Tale (Nosy Crow)
The familiar tale is enhanced with cheeky humor, child narrators, and thoughtful interactivity. A friendly robin suggests interactive opportunities, plays hide-and-seek, and offers commentary.
The Three Little Pigs: A 3-D Fairy Tale (Nosy Crow)
This retelling is faithful to the traditional tale while adding a few original touches. The interactive features are clever, and the narration by child readers refreshingly unaffected.
Pop-Out! The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (Loud Crow Interactive)
Potter’s original text and illustrations are re-imagined as a digital pop-up book, with characters animated by tabs and wheels. Interactivity contrasts cheekily with gentle narration and music.
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra; illus. by Marc Brown (Random/Smashing Ideas, Inc.)
Witty rhyming text (with lots of interactive opportunities) tells how a bookmobile librarian got a zoo hooked on reading. Apparent three-dimensionality of the scenery and animals adds bounce.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! by Mo Willems (Hyperion/Small Planet Digital)
Users fill in gaps in a Mad Lib–like narrative to create their own Pigeon stories. Record your own plot points and play them back, save stories to revisit, and follow a Pigeon-drawing tutorial.
When I Grow Up by Al Yankovic; illus. by Wes Hargis (Bean Creative)
Billy discusses his many (mostly improbable) career options. Weird Al’s own excellent narration enhances the text; interactive opportunities include games based on Billy’s potential professions.
Shake & Make! by Ed Emberley (Night & Day Studios)
Shake your device to break a simple image by artist Emberley into its component shapes, then recreate it by repositioning the pieces. A nice introduction to Emberley’s geometric illustrations.
Big Nate: Comix by U! by Lincoln Peirce (HarperCollins and Night & Day Studios)
Customize familiar characters (each in several poses and two sizes), templates, settings, props and speech-balloon options to create original Big Nate comics; then save and share.
Roxie’s A-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure by Roxie Munro (OCG Studios)
Sixteen screens make up a gigantic maze through cities, farms, and wilderness full of tiny, animated vignettes. Along the way, users search for hidden numbers, letters, and objects.
Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral (Penguin)
This “enhanced ebook” tells the story of piano prodigy Gloria “Glory” Fleming’s disappearance through interactive photos, video clips, drawings, music, sound effects, internet chats, and ephemera.