February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Time For Bed: Story Apps To Put Them In the Mood | Touch and Go

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A child being tucked into bed, a cat creeping around a house, a raccoon scavenging through trash cans, and circus animals settling down for the night, are some of the sights and sounds seen and heard in these soothing story apps guaranteed to ease children into bedtime routines.

bean coverIn this nighttime-story-with-a-twist, a cat sporting a red collar snoozes when the sun is out, and awakens as the moon rises. Based on the Sarah Hines Stephens’s board book by the same title (HMH, 1998) and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines, Bean’s Night (appropro, iOS $1.99; Android, $0.99; Nook, $1.99; PreS-Gr 1) follows the playful, nocturnal creature as it chases a mouse about throughout the night. At story’s end, after an active evening, cat and mouse settle down to sleep, as daylight peeks through the window. The bold, flat illustrations feature midnight blue, pink, and splashes of green. Animations, including a switch of a tail, a twitch of whiskers, and animals that leap, scramble, and dive across the screen, will delight young children. The large-print text is highlighted as it is read in the “Read to Me” mode, but kindergarten and first grade students may choose to tackle this “just-right” text on their own (“Sun’s up. Bean sleeps. Night comes. Bean creeps.“). Digital versions of Bean’s Baby and Bean’s Games are also available.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Screen from "City Nights"  (Tidepool)

Screen from “City Nights” (Tidepool) Russell

In City Nights (Tidepool Publishing, iOS $2.99; PreS-Gr 1­), Christy Goerzen’s urban bedtime story, a young child is lulled to sleep by the joyful cacophony of a bustling city. Raccoons scavenge in trash cans, taxi horns honk, children run home from the playground, and adults mingle at a jazz club—all depicted through the vivid mixed-media collage artwork, subtle movements, and well-placed sound effects.

The app’s interactive features include animations triggered by a tap or a swipe; and as described in the text, users can make a skateboard roll or a shoe tap. The effect is engaging. As with most children’s book apps, users have two options. “Read to me” offers a soothing narration suitable for bedtime. As the story is read, the text is highlighted—a feature that somewhat awkwardly remains in the “read to myself” option, giving readers the impression that they are constrained by the narrator’s cadence. Though ethnic or cultural diversity aren’t explicitly identified, the main character, illustrated by Natalia Morley Russell, is tan-skinned, curly-haired, and gender-neutral, making it easy for all young readers to imagine themselves in the scenarios. Other figures in the story are shown only in silhouette, leaving it open to viewers to imagine what they look like. This app may spark discussion with young children about the city life and the various types of environments people inhabit, and will be a welcome addition to bedtime routines.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Screen from

Screen from “Nighty Night Circus” (Fox and Sheep GmbH) Wittlinger

Heidi Wittlinger and the Fox and Sheep team have run away to the big top in Nighty Night Circus ( $2.99; PreS), a bedtime activity following on the heels of their successful Nighty Night app. Like that production, Circus asks kids to put a cast of creatures to sleep by bidding them good night and turning off the lights.

The story starts with a short, narrated animation featuring an owl that follows the sound of a trumpeting elephant to a camp housing circus animals. A tap to each creature’s fanciful abode opens to a view of that animal (elephant, lion, rabbit, snake, and so on). Inside their homes, the creatures respond with a variety of actions when tapped. For example, the lion roars, rolls a ball about, perches on top of the toy, and lastly prances around his cabin. When viewers extinguish the lights inside the various homes, the animals lie down to the sound of the narrator’s voice (“Sleep well, dear lion.”). Once all the creatures are sound asleep another animated scene brings users back to the owl that opened the app, and encourages them to turn out their lights and say goodnight.

High-quality cartoon art and animations, a soothing narration, and simple interactions will provide children with a calming bedtime activity. A snowflake icon on the menu page can be switched on to add wintery seasonal decorations to the scenes. Also available on the menu is access to 16 language options (in addition to English) and a “More Apps” button that will take parents to a list of other Fox and Sheep offerings with clever protections against accidental purchases.—Brad Clark, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

Screen from " Not Without Bear" (appropro) Hines

Screen from ” Not Without Bear” (appropro) Hines

Not Without Bear (appropro, iOS, $2.99; Nook, $2.99; PreS), written and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines and based on the print book of the same title (Orchard, 2000), features a scenario that will be familiar to households with young children: revisiting the day’s activities in search of a missing lovey. Here viewers help Audrey and her mother as they look under couch cushions, in drawers, and through cupboards, until at last the stuffed animal is found and the girl and bear are tucked safely into bed. The appealing art is bold and bright, featuring animations and page turns that can easily be manipulated by small fingers. A narration, accompanied by a few sounds effects and musical interludes, enhance this simple but satisfying story.  Available in English, Spanish, and German.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated Touch and Go webpage.


Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com 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.

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