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Apps for preschool and primary users

With all the traveling summer brings, it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to keep kids entertained in the backseat or on the plane. These interactive apps for preschool- and early elementary–aged users fit the bill nicely.

Animal SnApp: Farm, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, introduces six alliteratively named barnyard denizens in a matching puzzle. Correctly completing an animal initiates a story in rhymed couplets starring that character. Each of these interconnected tales set on the same farm is a small quest story. Though simple, the stories provide some surprises, as when Gobbly Goat snacks on strawberries, cream, and the bowl. They also offer reassurance about common childhood anxieties — missing toys will be found, lost children will be reunited with their parents, and a yummy snack and a nap are never far off. (Nosy Crow, 3–5 years)

In the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-type storybook app Sleepy Mole’s Moving Day, construction workers have intruded upon Mole’s burrow, making it too bright and too noisy to sleep. Users help Mole search for a new place to rest; with eight possible new homes and sixteen creatures to meet on his journey, the story is different every time. Melanie Matthews’s illustrations of Mole in his striped pajamas and cap — with the tiniest hint of bags under his eyes — very accurately capture the frustration of being unable to sleep. A dreamy music-box lullaby underscores the narration, making this a useful choice for bedtime. (Ginger Whale, 3–7 years).

Harry’s new pet monster Zub sits around, dripping green goo everywhere, in Even Monsters Get Sick. When Zub sneezes, Harry realizes his monster isn’t lazy and boring — he’s just sick. Zub’s gradual transformation from lethargic phlegm-monster to breakdancing best friend is humorous, and the narrative subtly assuages possible fears of visiting the doctor. Each page offers a variety of touchscreen interactions in the form of basic mazes, counting and memory games, hidden animations, and sound effects. With both “read to me” and “I can read” features, this app is well suited as a bridge book for emerging readers. (Busy Bee Studios, 3–7 years)

The educational Endless Alphabet invites young users to practice the alphabet, spelling, and vocabulary with a gaggle of friendly monsters. The monsters explicate various words’ meanings in brief, humorous animations. The personality-filled monsters and letters — all with individualized voices — are the stars here, but cut paper–looking illustrations, funny sound effects, and upbeat music make the app even more engaging. Plenty of unobtrusive repetition helps solidify connections between the words, their spelling, and their definitions. Automatic updates add new words and their corresponding animations weekly. (Callaway Digital Arts, 3–7 years)

From the August 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.



  1. Lesley Colabucci says:

    Endless Alphabet is one of my almost-5-year-olds favorite apps. And indeed it was great entertainment on a recent plane ride. Not too long ago, HB offered great evaluation advice in “what makes a good picture book app.” I’ve been using the article in my undergrad children’s literature classes to help us think about book aps versus just plain apps. I feel like my job is to help them celebrate and critique book apps but other kinds of learning games or tools would be covered elsewhere (say, literacy methods). I guess I’m wondering if the apps in this column will typically be book apps or is the goal just general app reviews?

  2. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    Hi Lesley,
    Thanks for your kind words! This particular post is part of our August 2013 newsletter, but we have an App Review of the Week feature ( primarily covering book apps. Occasionally we also review game/activity apps related to children’s books or literacy. Please let us know if you find book apps you’re especially excited about — we’re always looking for great apps/developers!

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