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Appropriate apps

These iOS app versions of beloved preschool favorites are great choices for promoting early digital literacy. They honor the original books in tone and structure but add a little extra oomph with thoughtfully selected interactive elements.

The Pat the Bunny app updates Dorothy Kunhardt’s lift-the-flap classic with new opportunities to play with Paul, Judy, and Bunny, presented in retro pastel illustrations. Clear directions offered by a cheery narrator and a map of the vignettes help pre-readers navigate the app. A simple coloring activity is included; some devices also support a function for users to record their own narration. (Random House/Smashing Ideas, Inc., 2–4 years)

Freight Train introduces components of a train from red caboose to black engine. Users explore the many-hued cars (each latches on with a satisfying clunk) to discover staff, stock, and freight to unload and reload. Once ready to go, the train whizzes past cityscapes and countryside, then out of sight, to the strains of a train-themed song. Donald Crews’s simple presentation of concepts works brilliantly in digital format. Also available in a Spanish-language version. (HarperCollins/Curious Puppy, 2–4 years)

The apps based on two of Byron Barton’s vehicle books, Planes and Boats, match the engaging simplicity of the print versions without distracting users with over-the-top interactivity. An enthusiastic narrator reads each text, and the sound effects — such as motor noises and workers’ banter — may be turned on or off. Tap a word or object in the illustrations to hear that word (e.g., cloud, people, plane) read; drag and drop the planes and boats to move them across the screen. (HarperCollins/Oceanhouse Media, 2–4 years)

In The Going to Bed Book, Sandra Boynton’s verse and cuddly characters are enhanced by soothing narration and gentle background music. The smart interactive elements, though, say “playtime” more than “bedtime”: users are able to scatter pajamas around the room, pop bubbles in the bathroom and fog up the device’s screen, and make the sleepy animal characters do their exercises before going off to dreamland. (Boynton Moo Media/Loud Crow Interactive, 2–4 years)

See more kids’ app reviews here.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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