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Entries in Book (12)

Cinderella 3D iPad Book - Kids Will Love This

When we saw the above trailer for Cinderella for iPad by Developers Nosy Crow we knew we would have to try it out for ourselves (or rather, we had a certain little Princess who would love to try it out).

We were given the chance to see a pre-release copy of the app and we handed the iPad over to our more discerning 6 and 3 year old testers to see what they thought.

Beautiful Animation and Voices

The book is beautifully illustrated and presented, the animation is colourful and appealing with a classic pop-up book look that comes in large part from the stunning 3D illustrations.

You really just want to sit and take in the artwork, whilst the kids will find themselves drawn to the character animations with their retro, yet modern, feel.  The characters are really well voiced too, with the child voice actors fitting very nicely with the warm and friendly feel of the book.

Packed full of Interactivity

Unfortunately for my little boy, he didn't really get a look-in on this book as his older (and really rather bossy) Sister claimed the Cinderella app for herself and she is in love with it. It has become her main bedtime story.

In fact, when I removed it temporarily from my iPad to make room for a very large music app I was testing, she got quite upset. Fortunately, the Cinderella app is Universal, so you can put it on your iPhone/iPod Touch too.

Much of my Daughter's adoration of the Cinderella app comes from the plentiful interactive elements within the book. These aid the telling of the story so that your little ones will feel much more immersed in the story and its progress. The sheer range of interactive elements also makes the app ideal for repeated viewings.

Favourites here were the garden scene (lots to discover and do) and the dance scene at the Ball (with the choice of dance music).

A Special Feature

For those using an iPad 2 there is a very special interactive feature that the kids will love. Using the camera they can actually appear in the story themselves (see the mirror in the screenshot below) with the story's characters even saying "Who's that in the mirror?", a very nice touch that literally makes your kids a part of the story. 

Final Thoughts

We were really impressed by Cinderella for iPad, but more importantly the target audience in our household loved the app and keep coming back to it. That makes it a hit for us.

At $7.99 (£5.99) in the App Store, Cinderella for iPad is about the same price as a well illustrated children's print book. It is definitely one of the most enjoyable, beautiful and engaging iPad picture books we have seen.

If you have kids who use your iPad and like the story of Cinderella (who doesn't), we think it will enchant any little Princess (or Prince for that matter), keeping them entertained for many hours.

As always, if you get this app, let us know what you and your little ones think in the comments below.

Thomas Needs Rescuing on your iPad

Callaway Digital Arts bring us a new Thomas and Friends story with the Misty Island Rescue app. This lovely story brings the most recent in a very popular series (especially with the iPad Creative kids) to the iPad with the style and quality that we have already seen in other Callaway titles.

App Highlights

We liked the style of animation that features on every page. It feels in keeping with the book itself because it is the illustrations that you would see in the paper version that are animated, so it really feels like the book is coming alive. You can see what we mean in the video below.

Whilst each page does have an animated element to it (usually drifting mist if nothing else), not every page has interactivity. Callaway have added a yellow glow effect on elements you can interact with when the page opens.

Unfortunately this didn't stop our little testers stabbing at every bit of the page they thought should react to them and they found this a bit frustrating.

Clever Narration

The narration is very good and great quality, but if the kids get impatient (as they do) and start touching the interactive bits of the page, the narration cleverly pauses. It can then be resumed by clicking on the white circular arrow underneath the text.

It would help if this resume arrow was a bit more obvious because we missed it the first few times we used the app to be honest, maybe a different colour on the white background or using the yellow glow effect.

Fun and Games

There are some other features included in the app to keep little ones busy including Jigsaw puzzles, join the dots, games and colouring pages, all of which the kids loved. There is also a video featuring the Misty Island theme song.

We think that Thomas and Friends Misty Island Rescue is a well illustrated, carefully animated and visually appealing iPad book that will provide Thomas fans with plenty of value. If you have little Thomas fans using your iPad we recommend you check out the video and App Store link below.

Thomas and Friends Misty Island Rescue is available on the App Store for $4.99 (£2.99).

Discover Music History with 'On the way to Woodstock' iPad App

On the way to Woodstock is the new reference/coffee-table iPad book from 955 Dreams, the developers of the History of Jazz, which became one of our favourites earlier this year.

Ws 01 Landscape
Much of what we said about the History of Jazz in our review applies to the Woodstock app, it utilises a similar UI, integrating with YouTube and iTunes in the same way.

If you take the time to read through these extra pages it adds a whole new level of understanding of the topic and this is where the reference value and depth of this app make it a unique experience.

For those too young to remember this era and/or with a passion for music and its history, it is a fascinating read!

Being such an interactive experience, it is difficult to explain exactly how the app works in words, so we made this video for you. We hope you enjoy it and if you have had a chance to try 'On the way to Woodstock' be sure to let us know what you think of the app.

Review: New iPad only KidsMag is Gorgeous, Fun and Great Value

Any Parent, Uncle, Auntie or Grandparent will know that keeping young children entertained is a full-time job. Fortunately for us then the iPad, with its bright colourful screen and touch interface, attracts Children like bees round a honey pot (not always a good thing of course).

New monthly mag

Already well versed in creating brilliant apps to entertain little ones, Portegno Apps has brought out a new iPad only app KidsMag.

This monthly book-style app includes lots of educational based activities led by Brother and Sister characters, Teo and Bianca. The activities echo the kind that you would get in paper magazines, you know, the ones the kids nag you to buy every time you visit a shop. The price is about the same, or even less, than the 'analogue' version.

What do the kids think?

The iPad Creative kids like this app a lot. As the app has an educational bent to it some of the commentary is a little long for kids impatient to see everything but most of the activities really captured their imagination. Things like dressing up the Fire Fighter characters and for my three year old Son the Fire Engine noises. My just-turned-Six Daughter enjoyed the 'spot the difference' and 'find the things that don't belong' style activities.

The Farm activities are fun and the animal noises made the kids chuckle too. There is even a musical caterpillar page called 'Springtime Music Maker', that has a xylophone type of sound board plus some drums and bass guitar concealed around the picture, that the kids loved finding out about.

KidsMag Musical Caterpillar

They liked the narrated stories too. These pop up the words so your kids can read along. The writing and narration are clear and very well pitched for the age group.

KidsMag Story

You can access different versions of a lot of the activities by shaking the iPad (gently!), for example the 'match the shape' puzzles can be changed for a new set of puzzle pieces, and the kids had their favourites they wanted to use.

Overall they were thoroughly entertained by KidsMag and they will no doubt be asking for it again when they get their iPad ration later today.

Language learning

There are three pages at the end of the magazine that are designed to help your kids learn Spanish, by naming parts of a house, learning some Spanish verbs and Spanish words for things seen in this issue of the magazine. This is a nice teaching technique providing relevance and context, especially on repeated viewings, "What's that in Spanish?".

KidsMag Spanish

Whilst the Spanish language is not taught very much at school here in the UK, it is still nice for children to start learning another language at a young age. In the UK children are more often taught German and French at school, but with programmes like Dora the Explorer being shown on kids' TV, Spanish is becoming more common and personally, it is preferable as it can be more useful.

What about the cost?

We found that the kids seem to be more willing to play with the iPad app and spend longer doing so than with the paper magazines we buy them. These paper versions can cost anything up to £3.50 (~$5.70) each and we have to buy two of them to stop fighting!

KidsMag cost us just £1.79 ($2.99). The website does say $3.99 so the price may increase, but even so, the quality of narration, voice acting, animation and range of activities, easily makes up for that price. Plus the entertainment value of using 'Daddy's iPad' means the kids can't argue over who owns the magazine because it is not theirs to fight over. We just need to referee the iPad session!

Future issues and Publishing model

Portegno's publishing model interests us too. It is not a monthly subscription model but, like other magazines, they plan to make this a monthly issue, so it will be interesting to see how the sales go after the first issueand importantly if they can deliver fresh, new and entertaining content month after month.

In our experience kids will drop something like this as soon as they get bored, so it is a tough job they have on their hands. The next issue looks like fun though, with a Space theme and more Spanish learning so we'll see.

Advertising in a paid app?

We were disappointed to see 2 whole page ads for other Portenago apps in the mag. As much as we like their apps, having paid already for this app we don't like having to scroll past an ad page quickly before a little finger jabs the app store button, which they always seem to find.

We could be being a bit harsh here, it is not offensive, there is even some interactivity built-in to the ads, such as the 'iWash My Dogs' page shown below where you can click on each of the 4 washing stages and see the cartoon dog change.

But because the add pages look just like one of the magazine pages, skipping past them upsets the kids as they think they are missing out on something and that just annoyed us to be honest. This might not bother you at all but we thought we should mention it just in case. 

We know that a print mag will have adverts throughout, but somehow we don't expect to see them in paid for apps, and kids can't automatically buy things from printed pages, yet...

It's a small annoyance really, taken on balance we still think KidsMag is a great app.

Final Thoughts and Video

If you have little ones to entertain, especially around 5 years old and under, we think KidsMag is well worth the money. It is packed with bright, colourful and fun activities that include good educational value.

Kids will keep coming back to the activities to explore all the different variations and we think you will easily get a great deal of entertainment value out of this app.

The first edition of KidsMag is available in the app store now. you can see what to expect from the video below. A full description and feature list can be found on Portegno's site.

Quick Look: The Monster At The End Of This Book

A quick look at the iPad interactive version of the classic Sesame Street book 'The Monster At The End Of This Book', developed by Callaway Digital Arts and which has recently been updated.

Grover

We have not mentioned this app before now because, frankly, it was a bit disappointing and crashed repeatedly on the same page every time we read it through with the iPad Creative kids.

This caused no end of annoyance and frustration for little kids and big kids alike.

That changed though with the recent upgrade to version 1.2 a few weeks ago and now we feel we can recommend the app for your little ones, with a few caveats.

Fun and Interactive

The app has some great voice acting by Grover and really makes our kids giggle as his sense of panic heightens the closer you get to the end of the book. The interactive elements are fun too, encouraging you to move the story along by breaking down the various obstacles that Grover puts in the way to try and stop you turning the page, something which the kids really liked.

The text is highlighted as it is read by Grover and the synchronisation of this with the voice narration has greatly improved in the new version. The illustrations are as per the original book and are animated in keeping with the feel of the paper version.

A Bit Slow

Although there have been some major improvements in speed and crash prevention in this version, the animations still take a relatively long time to load whilst you stare at a blank page. It is only a matter of maybe 6 seconds or so at worst, but it feels a lot longer when you are waiting and is still long enough to annoy, especially impatient youngsters.

Some of the interactions can be a bit slow to respond too with our little testers touching the screen repeatedly when it didn't respond quickly enough meaning that by the time the app caught up, the wall (in this case) had already collapsed.

We have to say, this didn't happen every time (we have taken the Developers' advice and restarted our iPad after install) but occasionally these issues did still pop up.

Overall

All things considered though, we liked the app and, more importantly, our little ones like it and keep going back to it, a sure sign that something has been done well enough to appeal to its target audience.

The Monster At The End Of This Book is available for $3.99 (£2.39) on the app store.

If you have tried this app on your iPad and would like to add your thoughts please leave us a comment below.

The History of Jazz Sets The Bar

The History of Jazz app is a sumptuous, beautiful and thoroughly engrossing experience that has fired up our innate interest in this rich and sometimes enigmatic musical art form. We tell you why we liked it and what makes it one of the best iPad interactive books we have seen so far.

The History of Jazz developed by 955 Dreams (a three person team made up of two coders and a UI designer) really ups the ante on the iPad 'coffee book' front, but it is so much more than that.

History of Jazz does feel like a quality, heavyweight coffee book in that it has gorgeous visuals and an extraordinary amount of depth to it's content. When you are turning the pages of a book though it is easy to lose the thread and this app has a clever navigation aid to help you here.

UI Design

Along the bottom of the screen is a piano-keys inspired 'dancing' timeline which enables you to jump around between different Genres and time periods within Jazz's History.

Particular care has been taken with this UI to create a lively and colourful interface that just begs you to interact with it impelling you to explore, and this we did. We found it easy to lose several hours digging deeper in to the multi-layered interface, watching videos we had never seen before about people we had only vague knowledge of and we loved it. 

There are some great videos in this app, some real rarities, but this brings us on to an interesting point. All of the videos and most of the text used in this app are sourced from YouTube and Wikipedia respectively. So you could ask "Why am I being charged $9.99 for information I could find myself?".

Well, yes you could probably find a lot of this content yourself but really, would you want to? And how long is that going to take you? We would much rather view this content in a wonderfully curated interactive 'book', with the context of Genre and History integrated carefully and set out for us all in one place.

Unlike a printed book though, revisions and updates will not cost you the total purchase price again, the Developers are keen to add new content in the future. This is one of the key advantages of digital content publishing.

iTunes Integration

Each musician's profile has a link to more videos, 'Essential Songs' and 'Essential Albums'. Clicking one of these two links pops up a window inside the app with iTunes audio previews for each of the available tracks. From here you can click on the Purchase link and you are taken into the iTunes store, which is useful.


One Thing Missing

But what we really wanted from this app (and it is something that we are teased about in the app instructions) is the one thing that is missing. We would dearly love to be able to play artist tracks in the background whilst exploring and browsing the app.

There are obvious Copyright issues with this request and it is possibly why this feature is missing, but it would be just perfect to have this functionality and it would enhance the experience so much more.

We would also love to have this background music feature available whilst playing the Slideshow that is built in to the app, which is a very nice feature for when your iPad is idle. We hope the Developers can sort something out so that this feature can be added.

The Price of Development

The History of Jazz is admittedly one of the more pricey iPad apps but how much would that still image, not-at-all-interactive and importantly (given the subject) silent paper book cost you? Probably upwards of three times as much for a hardcover full colour edition.

This app really plays to the iPad's interactive strengths by using audio, video and the touch interface to involve you and aid your exploration so that there is more to discover each time you visit the app.

The level of research coupled with the development of the look and feel of the app is also a major factor in the added value that the book brings. Robert Scoble did an interview with the development team and there are some interesting insights in his half hour-ish video, if you would like to know more about the creative and technical processes behind this app you should definitely watch it.

Although it may be near the top tier for this kind of niche, interactive book app, we think it is a fair price, especially when compared to the cost of a printed book of this stature. 

Final Thoughts

As we said at the outset, this app has really captured our interest and we find ourselves dipping back into the History of Jazz while we are sat with iPad in hand, looking to relax and chill out of an evening. It is the best feeling, interactive book app we have yet seen on our iPads and for its educational value and immersive experience we can highly recommend it, even if you have just a passing interest in the Jazz medium.

History of Jazz is available now, currently at version 1.0.4, for $9.99 (£5.99) in the app store. A demo of most of the screens and features can be seen in the video below.

As always, if you have any comments about the History of Jazz, let us know in the comments.

 

How to Make an Interactive iPad Book

We mentioned yesterday how much we liked to see the Creative process in action, which is why we have been fascinated to watch the journey behind the production of new Interactive iPad book Astrojammies from Demibooks.

As well as creating a gorgeous and truly interactive storybook, Demibooks and author/illustrator Stacey Williams-Ng have shared the creative development process of making the app with us via a blog and videos as they went along.

About the App

Astrojammies for iPad tells the story of young boy, Jimmy, who believes that his pyjamas are magical and make him an astronaut who can fly off into outer space (actually a very normal fantasy for many of us as we grew up). The illustrations are sumptuously coloured and make the book very attractive and pleasing to the eye.

Here is a bit about the app from the iTunes description:

"..this story includes a dreamlike original music score by Steve Dixon, professional narration and amazing special effects. Readers can launch a rocket, squish and poke a planet made entirely of goo, and help Jimmy escape the jaws of a hungry space baboon... all with the tap of a finger! These interactive features help advance the story and enhance reading comprehension."

There is a 'read to me' mode as usual but you can turn this off so that you can read it yourself, or your kids can, if you let them have a go. The interactive elements have been designed to be engaging, but importantly great effort has gone in to making these elements a progressive part of the story, and this leads us on to...

The Process

What Demibooks and Stacey Williams-Ng have done to make this project stand out for us is to share their progress towards launch of the app in a series of blog posts and videos discussing some of the thinking behind decisions being made, how they tested the app with their target group (children), what this taught them, how they responded to it and its impact on the development of the app.

The posts also cover how the illustrations were developed and animated with some interesting learning points for the team.

The whole process is summarised in the video below, but if you want a really interesting read and further insight into the creative process behind Astrojammies then we would highly recommend reading through the 9 posts on Demibooks' website, we have really enjoyed it.

If you or your kids have tried out the Astrojammies app we would love to know what you think, let us know in the comments below.

Peter Rabbit Pop-up Digital Book

The problem with paper pop-up books in our experience is that they can easily be damaged by over-eager little hands and, whilst that may also be true of the iPad, we think that the future is in digital books, if not in small part for their durability. The latest iPad interactive digital book to catch our eye is PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Loudcrow Interactive.

This is a 50 page digital book that uses the original books' beautiful illustrations and has some really nice features that we feel will definitely appeal to children (and the young at heart). These include pull-tabs, spin wheels and 'spring-mounted elements' plus a classical piano score which is complemented by realistic ambient sounds.

This is apparently the first in a series of the 'PopOut!' digital books from Loudcrow Interactive so we can expect more of the same quality apps in the future.

The best way to understand the interactive features of this app are to watch the video.

PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit is available on the US app store for $4.99 (not available in the UK store at the time of posting).

Main Features:

  • Touch and drag objects to make them “spring” to life or tilt to watch them slide and move
  • Objects that literally PopOut!™ of the page to delight you and your family
  • Beautiful vocal performance, music, and sound effects will immerse you in the story
  • "Read to Me" with word highlighting to help improve reading skills
  • Or read it yourself and hear individual words spoken with the tap of a finger
  • Over 50 pages of authentic text and illustrations with realistic page turning interactions just like the original hardcover book

Mika's Adventure - More Gorgeous iPad Interactivity

Mika's Adventure is the new interactive book/app from German multi-media company zuuka! under their actionboox brand. This is a beautifully illustrated story app that has some really nice interactive features to involve young readers such as hidden items that have to be uncovered by using the touchscreen, puzzles that uncover further parts of the story and challenges that engage the reader and help them to tell the story.

 The description sounds like just the thing to get young readers interested too:

“A dream is about to come true for Mika: For the first time in his life, he sets out to accompany his granny on one of her expeditions. On the day of their first joint exploration, the two have discovered a forest no one knew about to date. They anchor their airship– the Albatross – in the top branches of the highest trees and make their slow descent into the emerald green thick brush.”

Mika's Adventure is a bit pricey we think compared to other interactive books we have seen at $9.99 (£5.99) but it does look like a fun and immersive experience for younger readers (and the adults in their lives) and is available now in the app store

If you try this out we would like to know what you think, leave us a comment below.

War of the Worlds re-imagined

The classic H. G. Wells book War of the Worlds has been re-imagined as an interactive eBook and it looks really impressive.

We like to see this kind of innovation and creativity in publishing on the iPad and the mix of eBook with more interactive, almost gaming, elements make this a compelling app. We think it will definitely appeal to the target 'youth' audience who can get physically involved in the story through the iPad's touch interface, even starting the Martian invasion themselves as part of the interaction.

The key features (from the Press Release) include: 

  • 27 interactive, visually stunning pages integrated with text from the original 1898 publication
  • Intuitive design allows readers to touch-swipe the Martians Cylinders towards Earth and begin the invasion 
  • Features real-time motion graphics as readers gesture or tilt iPad through the Red Weeds
  • Touch interactive elements throughout the story that allow reader to act as Martian or Human
  • Aim the Tripod’s heat-ray to disintegrate fleeing people and artillery-men
  • Create ominous lightening storms, tap the crow to eat the dead Martian and throw the Canisters to emit the thick deadly, Black Smoke 

War of the Worlds is available now in the US app store (not available in the UK at the time of writing) for an 'Introductory' price of $3.99.