March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Tale of Two Apps: Classic Picture Books into Digital

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


Adapting any children’s classic to a new format is tricky. Purists will scream it’s not the original; others will be delighted to discover a new way to enjoy an old favorite, or, when it’s been out-of-print for a while, appreciate the opportunity to have access to the story once again. The good news is, we aren’t being asked to choose between formats.

Dorothy Kunhardt’s Pat the Bunny (Random House Digital) and Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon (Trilogy Studios) are examples digital stories that can stand side-by-side with their print counterparts. Pat the Bunny offers a non-linear version of the tale, with delightful, age-appropriate interactivity built in. No scratchy Daddy’s face to feel here, but children can use their fingers to move a sled, pop bubbles, or paint.

For generations, children have wanted to borrow Harold’s crayon and reproduce his meandering lines on the page; in the app they are actually encouraged to do it. And when this boy sets sail on the ocean, children watch as waves rock his boat and seagulls fly overhead.

Like these digital versions, the Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon can be appreciated as an app. Is it the same as the print? No. Will preschoolers be able to enjoy both? Most likely.


On Goodnight Moon’s (Loud Crow Interactive; PreS-K; $4.99 iOS, $2.99 Android) opening screen, a copy of the book appears against pastel bed covers, a plush stuffed rabbit, and some not-too-subtle advertising for add-on purchases (Goodnight Moon ABC and Goodnight Moon 123). A tap to the jacket and the book opens as the background becomes a deep-blue sky filled with twinkling stars. A double-page spread of the story covers only half the screen, so images and text are somewhat reduced in size.

The digital version retains the rich palette of Clement Hurd’s original illustrations, and there are loads of enchanting animations, sound effects, and interactive elements: flickering flames in the bedroom fireplace, a cow that jumps over the moon, a giggling rabbit, stars that dissolve on touch, and the opportunity to inscribe the book with child’s name and/or photo. But there are also features and games that may not be intuitive, or of interest to kids: a mouse hunt, a sticker collection (more for purchase), and a spy glass that enlarges only a small portion of an image or text while obscuring the rest of it.

The narration is evenly paced and soothing, and a gentle piano tune plays throughout (the volume is adjustable). To advance the text, a long swipe is best; a short one may trigger more interactivity, which can frustrate children.

Parents are likely to be turned off by the add-ons (though the pitch can be locked down), but kids who love this story will enjoy seeing it on the screen with animation. While the interactivity will engage them, the extras are just that.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

The next app is classic Don Freeman.

In Don Freeman’s 1973 picture book, Flash the Dash (Children’s Press), readers meet a lazy dachshund and his partner, Sashay. At first, it’s Sashay who does odd jobs about town to keep them in treats and liverwurst, but eventually she convinces her reluctant mate to do his share. Flash finds a job as a telegram delivery dog, “gets his wiggle on,” and enjoys his work (and smart-looking cap). Due to his speed, he earns his nickname.

However, as the seasons change and spring arrives, the dachshund begins to ignore his duties and is soon found napping in fields and under trees. During one sleepy detour, a telegram floats away. A woman discovers it, notes it is addressed to Flash, and reads it to him. When Flash learns Sashay has had puppies, he gets “the message.”

In the app version (Auryn, Inc. $3.99; PreS–Gr 2) children can read the story or listen to the mellow narration. “Auto Play” allows for a hands-off experience as the text is read karaoke-style (each word is highlighted in red as it’s spoken), with automatic page turns. Children can also choose to customize the narration by recording their own version of the story. Items on the page such as tree and sidewalk are named when tapped in all operating modes.

Freeman’s original gold-toned illustrations are bright, clear, and appealing. This out-of-print picture book will be enjoyed by a new generation in digital. A free, “lite” version is available to sample.—Morgan Doane, Kent District Library, East Grand Rapids, MI

Extra Helping header

This article was featured in our free Extra Helping enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a week.

Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.