Mid-to-late May is always such a weird time of year for me. Mostly because it’s the calm before the storm. Many of the big projects that I worked on during the fall and winter are either finished or about to take a back seat, but the Summer Reading mayhem has yet to officially start. Yes there are school visits and library tours going on to get kids excited about Summer Reading, but even those don’t take up all of my time.
Therefore, for the past couple of days, I’ve been able to sit down and bring myself up-to-date on a few work-related things. One of those things that I’ve been researching is apps! I am one of the people in charge of keeping up with the newest and best children’s apps for the library, and I am sad to say that after my work with the Cybils finished earlier this year, apps took a backseat to things like the puppet show.
But now I am back to paying attention to the app world, and here are a few newish apps that I’m especially excited about:
David Wiesner’s Spot by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
iTunes – $4.99
David Wiesner has won the Caldecott Medal three times now, so it’s really not a big surprise that this app is amazing. In this app, children can explore various imaginative worlds by pinching and zooming into different scenes. Children can also tap to reveal hidden animations! And, as an extra bonus, you can also download a (FREE!) ebook: David Wiesner’s Spot: A Parent and Educator Guide! This e-book takes you behind the scenes of the app (Exclusive sketches! Learn about the origin and creative process!), and it also provides questions, activities, and story prompts! How fun!
Library Usage: I would most likely use this app with 3rd through 5th graders. It could be a great activity for a visiting class to do, and it could also work in a creative writing program!
Steam Train, Dream Train by Oceanhouse Media
iTunes – $3.99
Steam Train, Dream Train AND Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site are two of my favorite picture books to share in storytime, so of course I’m happy to see that they’ve both been turned into storybook apps! Like many of the best picture book apps, you can choose to have the narration on or off, it highlights words as you read along, and you can tap objects in the pictures to see the corresponding word. You also have the option of recording your voice while you read!
Library usage: I think the most obvious choice would be to use these apps in a storytime, either a traditional one or one that is solely focused on apps. I also like the idea of sharing both of these titles in an apps booklist.
Pretty Much Anything by Toca Boca
iTunes – $0.99 – $2.99
Any app reviewer will tell you that Toca Boca is one of the big names in the app development field. I admittedly have a love/hate relationship with the big name developers because, on the one hand they create so many wonderful apps! But on the other hand, I like to highlight well-done apps that aren’t necessarily from the big name developers. In the app world especially, it can sometimes seem like the big names get all the publicity, while the little guys fade into obscurity. With that said, Toca Boca, which is a big name, releases some amazing apps! Three recent-ish apps that I think will be a big hit with kids in a library setting include: Toca Nature, Toca Robot Lab, and Toca Hair Salon.
Library usage: I think all three of these apps will work well in a relaxed iPad free-play program. I would recommend Toca Nature to the pet enthusiasts, and maybe even some Minecraft fans. I’d point future engineers and robot fanatics towards Toca Robot Lab. And Toca Hair Salon is for anyone who wants to have some silly fun.
Dentist Bird by Literary Safari Inc.
iTunes – $1.99 (all proceeds go to charity)
Literary Safari contacted me months ago about this app, and I’ve been meaning to write about it, but obviously haven’t gotten around to it until now. (Which is a fail on my part.) (I should probably also mention that they are not paying me to review this app; they just asked me to take a look at it.) This app has received many accolades from sources such as School Library Journal, Children’s Technology Review, and Digital Storytime. Dentist Bird is based off of a West African folktale in which a bird helps heal a crocodile’s toothache. Not only do children get to hear the story of Dentist Bird, but they also get to help cure crocodile’s tooth ache by playing in-story games! A teacher’s guide and parent guide are also available along with this app for educational connections!
Library usage: This is another app that I would include on an apps booklist. It could also be great to include in a Día program that focuses on West Africa OR a folktale program that shares folktales from around the world.
Metamorphabet by Vectorpark.com
iTunes – $3.99
Alphabet apps are pretty much a dime a dozen these days. And, honestly, most alphabet apps are only so-so as far as quality is concerned. Metamorphabet, however, wins bonus points for: ease of use, creativity, and vocabulary. What other alphabet app would include the word, “amble,” as an example of the letter A? The best way to get a feel for this app would be to watch it in action, so here’s a video review by Shannon Briggs.
Library usage: Great for free-play programs, storytimes that are focusing on a particular letter, or wall-mounted iPads in the children’s department.