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

Posts tagged ‘App Reviews’

You just never know

As the year comes to a close I reflect on the friendships and relationships made this past year. The writing and teaching field has the most supportive people I’ve ever met and I’ve met a lot of people. They’re always willing to share information, opportunities and advice which is always valuable.

I recently met Monica Babaian in a twitter chat Story app chat that meets on Sundays at 8pm central. She’s a Tech savvy Librarian and i’m a Digital Author/aspiring Art Teacher. We even live in the same state but our paths might never have crossed had it not been for this chat. Her site is a great resource for parents and teachers which I plan on visiting often. The result of our meeting was an amazing app review with educational tie-ins and resources. It’s a great way to end the year and  as I look forward to the New Year, my resolution is to keep looking forward because you just never know where the next friend, opportunity or great idea will come from.

The review below was re-blogged from:

Storybook App: Grendel’s Great Escape by Michelle Anaya

Grendel’s Great Escape is a storybook app for both iPad and Android by children’s author and creator of Blue Sandpiper Imprints, Michelle Anaya (@bluesandpiper).

Grendel’s Great Escape is about a boy named Martin, who takes his pet ferret, Grendel, to school for show and tell. But when it’s Martin’s turn to present for show and tell, Grendel is missing! The entire school turns into a chaotic mess as Martin and his friends try to find Grendel while avoiding the wrath of the school’s principal, Mr. B.

What I really like about this storybook app is that it includes a long list of ferret facts at the end of the story. The storybook app also has its own curriculum for helping students develop reading strategies, which teachers and school librarians will find handy. For those teachers and school librarians who are allowed to have animals in their classrooms and libraries, a pet ferret would be a great way to make text-to-self connections with Grendel’s Great Escape.

Grendel’s Great Escape includes two screens of ferret facts!

Another possible way to use Grendel’s Great Escape in the classroom or library is to extend the storybook and reading strategies lesson into a science unit from Discovery Education (@DiscoveryEd), which has a couple of videos on ferrets and animal habitats. Yet another way – let students use online databases and encyclopedias to create their own list of ferret facts. Activities like these help students create text-to-world connections.

The storybook integrates interactive features throughout the book, including one page in which the reader can squirt ketchup or mustard all over the screen — something kids will surely enjoy. Readers have the option to turn the narration and music on or off. Blue Sandpiper Imprints recommends this storybook app for ages 4 and up. The Android version of Grendel’s Great Escape is $2.99, and the iPad version is $3.99.

For more information about Grendel’s Great Escape and other fun storybook apps from Blue Sandpiper, please visit their website.



December Picture book of the month

This post is a little late this month but life happens. It’s been hectic to say the least with work, family and getting ready for the holidays etc.

Author Visit with 1st gradersIt’s always a nice surprise to stumble across a really good Christmas story. A few days ago I walked into an elementary school library for a story-time visit with a group of the cutest first graders. There it was laying precariously on the top of a stack of returns, just waiting to be discovered.






Snowmen at Christmas by Carolyn Buehner is happy little tale that’s cleverly told in rhyme and asks an interesting question. How do snowmen celebrate? I had to find out, so I read it to the children and satisfied my curiosity and theirs. This book is a real treat and I highly recommend adding it to your holiday reading list.


Excerpt: One Christmas eve, I made a snowman, very fat and jolly. I dressed him up in red and green and trimmed his hat with holly. I saw his arms trembling as if he couldn’t wait. It made me start to wonder, how do snowmen celebrate?.

These snowmen really do Christmas in a big way. You’ll find out just how much while enjoying a great holiday read with your family.

In the spotlight! Author Alexis Purcell

In the spotlight this month is Author Alexis Purcell.

cd9d1ad84d5a57c5b34eaa365e22f4bb_otfm_1d3aAlexis’s success is an inspiration to indie authors and book app developers everywhere and we are thrilled for her.

This Thanksgiving, Alexis will have a lot to be thankful for.  All her hard work and perseverance is paying off.

The book app community  and the Book App Alliance will be joining her on an App-Watch of The Turkey Who Forgot to Gobble’s meteoric rise up the iTunes paid book apps chart. If you’ve read this story you’ll agree that this couldn’t be happening to a nicer Turkey.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 7.54.46 PMWhen called upon, Alexis was happy to share a little about her journey as a writer and app developer.

In Alexis’s words:  I began the journey of creating children’s book apps in 2012.  It was just me, lots of research on the computer, and my new found friend at the time, Karen Robertson.  With Karen’s occasional guidance and her reference books as my guide, I guess you can say “the rest is history”.  (Reference books: “The Top 5 Things You MUST Know about Creating Book Apps for Kids!”, “How to Market a Book App”, and “7 Secrets of Book App Marketing.

So, fast forward to today: Have you ever had a day where you are reassured that pursuing your dream was the right choice? Today was that day for me when I saw that my app of “The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble” was ranked #3 in the Apple iTunes paid book apps and has consistently remained in the top 10 in November.  This is more than I ever would have imagined as I am not part of a company with deep pockets yet I find myself up there with the big guys like Dora and Disney….who knew??

Cover page-app

Dreams do come true!  I feel very blessed and am grateful for the opportunity to bring joy to children, and to those who are young at heart.

Alexis Purcell – Award winning author of:

The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble,

Twinkle Twinkle Nighty Night, and

Twinkle Twinkle Hear My Prayers (early 2014)


Link to the app store for The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble


Back to school with book apps

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


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.


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

Reviewing a book or app in the iTunes app store


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)


Finding the app


Leaving a review

Video Instructions

Video Review for Monster Jam

This Summer has been a busy one with the launch of my new Monster Jam children’s app and the soon to be published Picture book. It’s been a fun ride developing this epic Rock & Roll story with my musical sons, the amazing illustrator Vic Guiza, and the good folks at Dragon Pencil book publishing & App builders.

As the band takes center stage, the reviews are coming in. Some good & others amazing. Many of us are visual people who love to be entertained so I find u-tube video review/demo’s to be very effective in reaching the intended audience.

As always I want to know what you think. Please let me know if you find this review informative & effective.


Gotta watch: Here is an awesome video demo by Crazy Mike 

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

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