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Charlie Brown and Clement Moore

It seems like every app producer is having a holiday sale. I just received a note from Auryn/Auracle that all of their apps, including van Gogh and the Sunflowers, Edsel McFarlan’s Car, and the award-winning Teddy’s Day, are available at considerable savings through the end of the year.

To celebrate the holidays, Sesame Street’s update of Elmo Loves ABCs is on sale and the just released Elmo Calls is FREE through January 1, 2012.

If you are thinking about gifting an app, but aren’t quite sure how to do it, our friends at Moms With Apps offer some detailed instructions.

Our reviews today focus on two classic Christmas stories, one traditional, one modern.

Title: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charles M. Schulz 
Developed by:
Loud Crow Interactive, Peanuts Worldwide
iOS 3.2.2 or later; Android 2.1 or later

PreS-Gr 5-Fans of the movie won’t want to stop playing with this app come January! Narrated by Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown, the story adaptation includes the art, music, and dialogue clips from the cartoon that was first aired in 1965.

The opening screen lets readers choose to turn the narration on or off and adjust the background music volume. On every screen a red ribbon can be lowered for easy navigation to other pages. Most images have some sort of interaction, even if it’s just the ability to bounce the characters around. After readers have read or listened to the story once, they’re bound to go back and interact more deeply with the scenes to earn decorations, and perhaps, first place in the Neighborhood Lights and Display Contest. Clues are on the credits page, if needed, and additional decorations are for sale in an in-app store (four extra scenes are also available there for free).

With the narration on or off, readers can tap on a word to hear it voiced. The art is crisp and bright, with 3-dimensional touches. While the interactions aren’t always consistent (often, but not always, tapping a character will repeat or introduce additional dialogue from the film), many of them are amazing. Children can go caroling, play “Linus and Lucy” on Schroeder’s piano, and listen to Linus’s reminder of what Christmas is all about. While on the pricey side for an app, this is a well-done production that will be enjoyed many times over.Shelley Harris, Oak Park Public Library, IL

Title: The Night Before Christmas
Clement Moore
Jan Brett
Published by:
G. Putnam
Developed by:
Penguin Group
iOS, reguires 4.3 or later
PreS-Gr 5
-This production of Moore’s classic poem, based on Jan Brett’s book (Putnam, 1998), is read by Jim Dale with musical accompaniment by the Boston Pops Orchestra.

The opening screen of the app presents viewers with options to switch the sound, autoplay, and snowflake hunt on or off. It isn’t clear what the snowflake hunt is, and there doesn’t seem to be a reward for finding all of the snowflakes.

Brett’s illustrations, although beautiful, don’t translate well to the screen. The book’s double-page spreads are cut in half on the full screen and when they are reduced to be seen in whole, rich details are lost. In the latter mode, the print is too small to read. Some interactive elements need to be tapped, while others need to be swiped. The narration is especially brisk and the consequent quick page turns won’t allow children to interact at their leisure, which may prove frustrating.

Added information and visuals on the narrator, the author, and the Boston Pops are available within the app. In an appended video of the author, filmed at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA, Brett discusses her inspiration for the book’s setting “immortalized” in the work of Norman Rockwell. Although the app works as a companion to the story, children may want to stick with the book.—Andrea Lynn Pavlik, Huntington Public Library, Huntington, NY