The Musings, Notes & Book/App reviews of a Children's Writer

Archive for the ‘e-books’ Category

Spooktacular-ish Book Apps

Boo! It’s that time of year when all things ghosts, goblins, monsters and mystery take center stage to celebrate Halloween!

Add to your kids’ spooky fun with these terrific stories from the The Book App Alliance Halloween Treats reading list!

October Book Apps – Halloween Treats.

Back to school with book apps

By now the children are all back to school across the country.

back-to-school

They’re getting settled in their new classes with new teachers, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There will be new challenges as they overcome the summer brain drain and start filling their minds with exciting new lessons.

A fun way of re-enforcing their newly acquired reading skills on the week-ends are digital book apps. The multi sensory experience brings the reader into the story and soon they’ll be begging for more. This is music to any parent’s ears because let’s face it, they’re so many distractions these days that reading isn’t always their first choice.

I had this experience with my reluctant reader and it inspired me to dive into the magical world of digital book apps.

kids-reading

The app store and Google play is flooded with apps so it’s sometimes difficult for parents to know where to start and what to download.

Digital Storytime is a renowned and trusted source in both the literary and app world and they have recently released their top 25 list of book apps. They shine a light on educational apps that can become hidden in the app store so that’s where I would start. In fact I read their app reviews when researching for my sons apps and when writing for kids. I was more than thrilled when Grendel’s Great Escape was listed in their top 25 best stories for 2013. It is an honor for it to be noticed and placed alongside these other amazing books.

It’s also perfect timing because September is ADHD awareness month and the main character was inspired by a child with ADHD. He’s messy, disorganized, adventurous and a whole lot of fun.

Martin's mess

Martin tackles the laundry monster

Download it and let me know what your kids think.

Digital Storytime’s Top 25 Best story books

Grendel’s Great Escape adventure story for iPad  Android

A visit with the Author Jonathan Ayre

Welcome to the first of the Interview Series where I’ll be picking the brains of some of the most creative people in the KidLit world.

I’ve recently discovered the Hatty the Tiger brand which has two amazing picture books and a book app. The stories are beautifully told with great messages such as good eating habits, strength of character and being different.

I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to chat with Jonathan Ayre.  Jonathan is the writer, illustrator and creator of this unique brand. The theme song “The Hatty Rap” is catchy and my son and  I absolutely love it. I’m sure your kids will love to see the  Hatty Rap video.

THE TIGER WHO WASN'T! COVER

HATTY & THE HARD BEANS! coverThe Tiger That Wasn't

App Store link   Android version on GOOGLE Play

Here’s what Jonathan had to share…..

Q: Tell us about yourself and the Hatty brand?

Jonathan: I’ve been a writer for most of my life through short stories, songs, screenplays and magazine articles, and my books about Hatty the tiger, grew out of stories I made up for my own young children. They’re six years-old now, and although as a family we are not vegetarians, they’ve grown up enjoying lots of different fruits and vegetables and I realize how lucky we are with this. Hatty became a vegetarian tiger because  in a world where ‘junk food’ is advertised so much, I hoped that if my children knew why fruit and veg were ‘cool’ and good to eat, it would help them to make better choices on their own. Being vegetarian, was also a way to make Hatty a more gentle tiger and take him away from the usually ferocious stereotype. Among a feast of wonderful books that are out there, I like to believe the Hatty stories have helped my own children to think ‘outside the (junk) box’!.

Q: What makes this brand unique?

Jonathan: Well, because Hatty is a vegetarian tiger it throws up a lot of other issues apart from just diet. There’s peer-pressure, fear and isolation involved, as well as important character issues like conviction, persistence, kindness and individuality. Hatty is not a ‘goody-goody’, and his behavior and ideas aren’t always the best, but he tries hard and has a lot of fun on the way to learning his lessons, and I’d say that this is the essence of the ‘brand’: A fun and unexpected way of educating children about  issues of diet, cooking and character.

Q: What age range would this brand appeal to?

Jonathan: 3-8 years-old would be the main age group to read the Hatty books, ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ and the sequel, ‘Hatty And The Hard Beans!’ Though I teach children up to 14 in writing and illustration workshops based on the books, I always read the books to the younger ones. Having said that, everyone likes to be read to, and because the books are written in fun, rhyming couplets, I often get requests on school visits to read to classes up to 10 years old.

Q: What sort of feedback have you received so far?

Jonathan: Quite honestly, the reviews for both books have been terrific – and the app which has only been out for a few weeks is just now starting to receive reviews. The direct feedback I get from parents and teachers on my school tours has been really positive and I get lots of letters from the children after my visits, with ideas for new Hatty adventures  or telling me their favorite parts of the books. Hatty really seems to resonate with many of them and I feel inspired by the discussions and the issues his character raises.

Q: What lead to the decision to create “The Tiger Who Wasn’t” into an app as opposed to an eBook? 

Jonathan: Actually, I did make an eBook of, ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ while I was making the app. The whole business is so relatively new that I wanted to see how each part works and the eBook was a small expense since I did the work myself. However, making an app is THE way to go – and I was never in any doubt that I would do it. From the first time I saw my children ‘playing’ with a book app and enjoying the feedback and interaction (with a great story of course) I realized that the future of electronic picture books would never be a straightforward eBook..

Q: Tell us about your app!  What is your favorite feature and what would you like to convey to the end-user? 

Jonathan: It was a lot of fun making the story come to life – literally – with tap animations, original music and sound fx. I’ve seen a lot of storybook apps where I’ve been impressed with the technical side of their presentation, but the essence of them, a good story, has been lost in a lot of bells and whistles. I would like to think that the solid heart of ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ is a really fun and touching story that young children can actively get involved with and learn from. It still makes me smile to see the joy and laughter that children get when they make the animals move or the skunk fart!! Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great games and activities included with the app also, like the Coloring Pages, Hatty’s Hide & Seek’, or ‘Hatty’s Avocado Roll (all 20 skill levels of it), but I like to think that these are unexpected and enjoyable features that complement the story. For me, the story remains the star part of the app and includes 3 different  ‘reading’ versions and text highlighting, together with the original music and fx.

Q: What’s been the most difficult part of creating an app? 

Jonathan: Raising the money to make it, was pretty tough! Thankfully, the books were very well received by the local school in Cyprus where I live, and having written, illustrated and published them myself, the children, teachers and parents here were fantastic. I had many sales through recommendations and word of mouth and, Ruth, the owner of a local bookstore, ‘The Moufflon Bookshop’, was incredibly helpful and supportive in helping me get the word out across the island. Apart from that, having raised the money, it was a question of how to get the most value for the consumer out of the ideas we had. The developers I finally chose, Dragonpencil of Savannah, Georgia, were brilliant here; guiding me through the process with their expertise and experience, and opening my eyes to new possibilities.

Q: Now that your app is published, were there any unexpected surprises during the process? 

Jonathan: It took 6 months to make the app from the day I signed my contract with Dragonpencil, the developers. There were many surprises which came from going through that process of drawing, animating, making the sound fx and seeing it all come to life. During the process I was wracking my brains as to how I would publicize it, and probably the biggest surprise is that this turned out to be a music video, ‘The Hatty Rap!’ The first person I sent this to, having posted it on my website and YouTube, was Karen Robertson(The Empress of App!). Her positive and immediate response was a big and wonderful surprise. Feedback from those who have earned your respect is a great feeling.

Q: Any words of advice for other writers who are thinking about creating apps? 

Jonathan: Trust your dreams, buy an iPad, research as much as possible before you start – and NEVER underestimate the intelligence of children! Apart from that, it’s vital you choose your developer carefully: A good one will help you realize your dream, while a bad one will cramp it or kill it. Generally – to be happy – work for the heights, but expect the lows! That way you’ll always be pleasantly surprised and never disappointed

Q: Between the book & the book app? Which has had better sales results & is that what you expected. 

Jonathan: The app has only just come out and is doing well so far, whereas my books have been out for a year. Apart from selling the books on Amazon etc, I also offer personally signed copies with free worldwide mailing direct from my website. It’s all PayPal, so customers know they are protected and they seem to like the signed copies. It’s more time investment for me and expense with mailing and packing, but in the end the revenue is the same for me as selling on Amazon, and it’s a more personal touch for customers. Dollar-wise my book revenue is still ahead because the app is brand new, but because sales are totally dependent on marketing and lucky breaks, every single sale  – whether it be a book or an app – means that someone else is enjoying my work and there’s no dollar figure for that feeling!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

Jonathan: Have fun. Making an app is a journey and giving it a deadline can be your best friend. It can rarely be perfect in your eyes, because you’re learning all the time. The important thing is to enjoy the process and give as much as you can. The smile on a child’s face when they first get their hands on your app is a thrill that never fades!

The Tiger That Wasn't

App: The Tiger Who Wasn’t

App Store link

Android version on GOOGLE Play

Music video (Gotta watch!)http://youtu.be/cgUOiJO5ywU

Hatty Books

website: www.hattybooks.com

Social Media links: FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hatty-the-Tiger/216463078458985

Reviewing a book or app in the iTunes app store

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Book and book app reviews are the nicest compliment and reward you can give a writer. It is a gift that keeps giving because it not only helps others to make their decision but it helps to boost visibility in search engines as well. There’s no doubt about it, user reviews carry a lot of weight and are usually a trustworthy source of advise in a market saturated with reading material.

Ok are you ready to write a review online in the iTunes app store? where do you start?

  1. Enter the iTunes app store  Image
  2. Locate the app by clicking on the category ex: books, games or entering the name in the search bar in the top right corner & click enter.
  3. Once you’ve found the app, click on the app’s name, the app information will open in a new window.
  4. To the right of the icon you’ll see the words “Ratings and Reviews”

below will be the option to “write a review” click on the words.

You’ll now be able to leave a rating by clicking on the 5 stars as well as filling out the review box.

There you have it. Now get ready…set….write!   (BTW leave one for me while you’re at it)

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Finding the app

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Leaving a review

Video Instructions

Gifting or sharing apps in the iTunes App store

I was recently asked by my mother, “Can I give an app as a gift?” Apparently a few of her friends wanted to give apps to their grand kids as gifts. My mom, who’s my biggest supporter has been introducing her peers to the wonderful world of book apps.

Leaving book reviews & gifting apps is proving to be a little tricky as they attempt to navigate the iTunes app store. The answer is “Yes!” and “You can do it!” In this post i’ll guide you thru the process of gifting apps. Watch out for my next post on how to leave app reviews.

It’s easy to do if you follow these simple steps. If you aren’t the lucky recipient of a direct click thru link to the app for  you’ll have to do a search first. example of link to a book app “Grendel’s Great Escape :https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/grendels-great-escape-hd/id585977954?mt=8

  1. Step : Enter the iTunes app store  Image
  2. Locate the app by clicking on the category ex:books, games or entering the name in the search bar in the top right corner & click enter.

4. Below the icon of the app, to the right of the price is an arrow with a drop down menu, this will give you the option to gift the app as well as sharing it by social media or e-mail. – Appy shopping.

Click here for —-> Video Directions 

iPad screenshot

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computer screen shot

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Any questions? write them below

Are free apps really free?

images-1 We all like free stuff, I know I do! But is anything worth having really free. When visiting the app store everyone bypasses the paid apps & zooms straight to the free app section …. but what are you really getting?

  1. Annoyingly frequent pop ups; In some apps these are so frequent it’s difficult to get to the game.
  2. In app purchases; the free-ness $0, is of course a lure to get you to down load & play for a while or read a few pages of a book at which point a purchase must be made to continue.
  3. External links to other sites selling you even more stuff.

My advise: Get the paid apps, they’re cheaper in the short run with one upfront minimal cost. usually $.99c – & $4.99 If the app’s for a child, then this is definitely your best & safest option as they’re… imgres

1. No Pop ups

2. No ads

3. No third-party prompts to take them to strange uncensored sites.

4. No child begging you to buy points, virtual stuff etc.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky & a paid app will go free or on sale as a promotion. If you like a game or book app, sign up on the developers site to get notified when good apps go free. If you’re still unsure about buying an app, read the reviews listed by other users, go to the developers site to get more info or one of the many app review sites listed below.

 

For examples of reviews & sites visit Blue sandpiper   Logo

 

Need more info or have anything to add? leave me a comment below, I love comments & questions.  

 

Here are some really good app review sites Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.05.17 PM Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.30.40 PM     Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.03.50 PM

Book Apps – Summer’s Boredom Busters

It’s the final stretch, the countdown has begun towards the end of another school year. Children excitedly anticipate the classroom parties & yearbooks are being signed. Summer camps have been scheduled, as well as planning vacations, theme-parks, local festivals & daily trips to the pool.

Battles are also being waged on how much holiday schoolwork or reading is fair. “What’s the point of summer holidays if I still have to do school work?” was my 3’rd graders response after i’d shown him a wonderful teacher recommended summer math curriculum website IXL.  Apparently I hadn’t gotten the memo that the ‘Summer holidays’ is their reward for making it thru the school year & it’s supposed to be work free!

The solution: Book apps! Children will love the interactivity, integrated gameplay features, animation & much more.

Book apps are fun on the go; take them on vacation, road trips, flights, long wait times & down time. 100% Guaranteed to squelch “Are we there yet?” chant or the “I’m bored” announcement.

Listed below in categories of Adventure, Summer assortment, Edutainment & Travel are the top 20+ excellent, well written children’s book apps which range in price from .99c – $4.99. Best of all, they’re free of distracting pop-up ads & in app purchase requests. Download them from the direct links below to your digital tablets & smart phones.

 Adventure

Grendel's Great EscapeGrendel’s Great Escape  available on iPad & Android tablets

With the swipe of a finger, Children can bring characters to life in this interactive storybook that they will enjoy reading over and over. With it’s wonderful illustrations, original music, sound effects, and numerous interactive elements to discover, your child will surely be immersed in this funny adventure story.

BOOK1ICONFEB2013 FinalTreasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island available on  iPad & iPhone

Help Treasure Kai find gold. How many chests will you have to open? One, three or all eight? This treasure hunt adventure is loads of fun for both boys and girls. Winner of “Best in Category” at the New Media Film Festival.

Treasure Kai 2 newiconbook2sampleNTreasure Kai and the Seven Cities of Gold  available on iPad & iPhone

Go back in time to help Treasure Kai race Francisco Coronado to find the Seven Lost Cities of the Gold in the new world. This sequel to “Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island” was one of only 20 apps to receive a 5-star review from Digital Storytime in 2012, this app is a unique reading adventure with gameplay integrated within the book app.

Ride w alienMy Ride With The Alien available on  iPad

This interactive children’s book app for the iPad that features educational activities designed to inspire children to learn more about the solar system.

 

The day I became a pirateThe Day I Became A Pirate available on iPad

This interactive children’s adventure book app is told in clever rhyme, and features activities on every page including an interactive treasure hunt and clue games. It’s about a boy who encounters a band of pirates needing his help to save a crew member. He has to muster his courage to save the day, and gets an unexpected surprise. This unique children story is both entertaining and inspirational, with strong themes of friendship, trust, courage and service.

POCC iconThe Prisoner of Carrot Castle – available on iPad

In the first book of the Veggie Chronicles series, The Prisoner of Carrot Castle, children discover that eating vegetables is what heroes do, that is, if they want to eat their way out of a wicked King’s clutches. Vivid colors, lively music, and fun interactive spots draw in the reader who quickly becomes invested in Aiden’s dilemma and help him along (tapping, sliding, tilting) in his adventure.

Penelope-icon-180x180Penelope the Purple Pirate – available on iPhone and iPad

Adventurous children whose imaginations know no bounds will find a kindred spirit in Penelope. Come along on her journey as her bedroom opens up into world of pirates, the open sea, buried treasure and trusted friends. Discussion questions, ideas for additional interaction for the pre-school classroom and home, and fun facts about the sea creatures in the story are included in the app.

App Icon magnificent trainThe Amazing Train  available on  iPad 

is a beautiful adventure story told through the eyes of four. It is an interactive, colorful and magical book app in which reality is infused with fantasy.The app uses technology to bring the enchanting world of India to children. The captivating colorful 3-D illustration and animations together with original music, authentic sounds, and rich interactivity, create an exciting Indian atmosphere through which the adventure comes to life.

Bill-The-Fish-Icon-Logo-512Bill the fish  available on  iPad

This wonderful book about Bill the fish explores the amazing world of life under the sea, where being different is celebrated as not only normal but beautiful. Today our precious children’s individuality is constantly threatened by the manufactured expectations portrayed in the media, sorely affecting self-esteem. Bill the fish, will teach your children that being different is what makes the world wonderful and like Bill, no matter how we look to others, we are happy, being ME.
Laloo

Laloo the Red Panda (iPad) is an interactive story app featuring an adorable red panda’s adventures in India. 20% of each purchase is donated to the Red Panda Network to assist with their conservation efforts and protection of the endangered red panda in the wild.

 

Summer Assortment

Luca lashes Luca Lashes available on iPhone &  iPad 

Prepare your own child for his or her first foray into the swimming pool with Luca Lashes has his First Swimming Lesson. As your child takes to the water and begins learning how to swim, Luca will show your little boy or girl that there’s no need to worry about the pool.

Slibby Slibby the snail –  available on iPhone iPad Mac

A funny and charming story about a little snail called Slibby who is helping his friends Ants to find their stolen food. While Slibby is searching for the food, YOU will have to help him by solving all kinds of quests! Will Slibby succeed? With your help – definitely!

Super Harry iconSuper Harry  iPad

Super Harry’s Rotten Luck is a funny and encouraging tale about how changing your actions can change your luck! Chosen as a TOP PICK by Smart Apps For Kids.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 6.05.52 PM

Henry! you’re late AGAIN!  available on iPhone & iPad

Do you have a big wolf waiting in your school if you arrive late? Henry does! Find out who it is and just what makes him late every single day.  Animation, narration, music and special sounds add to the humor and quirky illustrations in this app. Kids of all ages LOVE it!

Gerry.appstore_icon Gerry the Giraffe  available on iPhone and iPad

Gerry the Giraffe wants to join the volleyball team but they think he’s too small and not strong enough.  Upset because he isn’t invited to summer volleyball camp, he finally realizes what he has to do. Over the summer, while the team is away, something amazing happens from Gerry’s hard work. Common Core Standard Aligned Reading Activities incl.

Turkey who forgot to gobble The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble  available on iPhone and iPad

This app is a delightful way to talk to your children about friendship, working hard, perseverance and most of all that friends will be there when you need them. This app is available in both English and Spanish so you can practice with your children.

Twinkle TwinkleTwinkle, Twinkle, Nighty Night  available on iPhone and iPad

It’s nighttime and everyone in the house is fast asleep….except for some of the animal friends! They need our help! This peaceful and imaginative storybook app invites the reader to comfort their animal friends to go to sleep by making a wish upon a special twinkling star.

Edutainment

SmartySmarty Britches: Nouns Available on iPad  Free Curriculum/Reading Strategies/Project-Based Learning

This engaging educational app comes highly recommended.Travel to the deep South and discover NOUNS! Join a boy with a magical pair of Smarty Britches as he explores fascinating people, animals, places, things, and ideas.

Henrietta 125x125Henrietta is Hungry available on iPad

Henrietta is a daring and adventurous little cook who loves to try new foods. Join Henrietta as she sails the world searching for a scrumptious, stupendous dish! Includes CCS curriculum. Chosen as a TOP PICK by Fun Educational Apps.

Bud the bunnyBud The Bunny  available on iPad

Join Bud the Bunny and his best friend Bee for 30 pages filled with touch-activated animations, sound effects, and plenty of practice building B-word sentences. Listen to narration by Clare Kramer (Bring It On, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), or read on your own. Part of each sale goes to Kids Need To Read, a national nonprofit improving children’s literacy

Travel

Postcard

Bound Round   available on  iPad & iPhone

Bound Round Sydney is an interactive travel app for kids to help them earn a vote in family travel decisions.  With content created by kids, for kids, Bound Round Sydney uses stories, photos, videos and games to let kids uncover all the fun things to do there before they arrive.  The built-in travel journal and postcards lets them record their own adventures and then share them via email with family and friends.

Beware M TassaudsBeware Madame la Guillotine: A Revolutionary Tour of ParisiBook  iPhone, iPad & iPod touch

this School Library Journal Top 10 2011 App is a must have educational tourism app for all families of teens and tweens and student tour groups traveling to Paris

Tweens

512x512Brush of Truth is an interactive storybook app for kids 8-12. Written in second person, “your” voice, you choose how the action unfolds at critical points during the plot. Reach an ending, go back and make different choices to explore a new path. Brush of Truth is about two kids who find an enchanted paintbrush. It has 65 decision points and 20 possible endings. Available on iPad/iPod touch/iPhone, Kindle Fire, Android and Windows 7 devices.

coming soon sticker

Watch for the release of the ‘Monster Jam’ interactive app with ‘play with the band’ activities, games and animation.

IPad w App Covers MJA Rock & Roll story of a little monster with big dreams of being a Mon-Star. Visit  www.bluesandpiper.com for updates.

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