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Children’s book apps: 2 review tools

I rely on professional journals to help me decide which books to buy.  But the book app market is an emerging new frontier for libraries.  As many of move our collections into interactive media-rich ereader/ebook/app book mode, where do we turn for advice?  And how do we select or help parents and teachers select the best book apps for young people?  The profession seems to be crying for curation of this content.

The ever reliable Kirkus Reviews (their motto is fighting bad books since 1933) responded with this wonderful categorized page of Editors’ Picks. Don’t miss their picks for the Best Children’s Books iPad Apps of 2010.  On the left frame are links to a long list of Kirkus iPad app book reviews with new title alerts.  Reviews include screenshots and often video.

In a February press release, Bob Carlton, Vice President and Publisher of Kirkus, discussed the discovery engine initiative:

We are reviewing children’s book apps with the same rigorous standards that have made Kirkus a trusted source for what’s new and best in books for more than 75 years. With the explosion of the iPad and other mobile devices, consumers are looking for a trusted source to provide this same curatorial service Kirkus has been providing for decades. In this case, it’s particularly helpful for parents who are trying to choose storybook apps that are best for their children.

The release goes on to describe the evaluative quality and features of the engine:

The coveted star is is assigned to apps & books of remarkable merit, as determined by the impartial editors of Kirkus Reviews. In addition to reviews, the discovery engine features app demonstrations and interviews with developers and authors. Although accessible online and from any mobile device, the Kirkus iPad category and discovery engine is optimized for use on the iPad to allow for seemless discovery and purchase of book apps. Parents will have the opportunity to hone their search by answering 5 quick questions about their child. Kirkus will then return a selection of book apps to match their child’s interest. The questions include gender, age, price range, visual interests, and interactive elements.

Not necessarily backed by the impressive weight of formal review media, new review sources like Digital Storytime, are also emerging to help navigate the new kids’ book app frontier.

Digital Storytime was co-founded by Carisa Kluver, who describes her approach to reviewing and assigning stars on this page.

The ratings at represent only my opinions and are not scientific. They do have meaning, however. My approach to evaluating a digital book is guided by each of the rating categories and then any additional information or explanation can be found in the written review.

Digital Storytime describes its review policy:

  1. We are never paid to cover any product.  Like most review sites, we do accept complimentary copies of the books we review, although we also download many during free promotions. We also buy many of the books we review.
  2. All our reviews are based on our experience and evaluation of the individual books themselves.  As a result, the views and opinions expressed here are purely ours.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the company that developed it.
  3. Our site was designed and created by a husband-wife team that also collaborates on App development (currently for the Android platform only).  Should we ever promote one of our own products, we promise to disclose that fact in the review.
  4. We promote family-friendly developers, in part because we believe that families care about who they are buying products from, especially for their children.  Because it matters to us, as parents, we take into consideration what we can find out about the companies, developers, authors and illustrators of the books we review.
  5. We are also members of Moms With Apps, a group of individual, independent, family-friendly developers who share best practices on making and marketing mobile apps.  This does not affect the content of our reviews in any way, but it may get an otherwise obscure title by a small developer reviewed sooner.
  6. We accept advertising and sponsorships on our site through an ad service.  That means we have no direct relationship with our advertisers, nor do we endorse their products beyond approving their ads as appropriate content to be seen on our family-friendly site.
  7. In place of some of our current ads, we are in the process of developing feature ad space that we will offer directly to family-friendly advertisers.  These ads would in no way influence the content of our reviews.
  8. Any promotions we give away to readers from app developers are offered as a service to our readers and in no way influence our reviews.
  9. Our daily free deals are picked by monitoring all of the free price drops for paid apps for kids in several categories. These are usually promotions by developers that we bring to our readers and cannot be guaranteed in anyway.

Please share other booky app review tools in your comments!

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Thank you for mentioning our book app review site. is run by myself (a mom & educator) and my husband (a dad and app developer/programmer). We appreciate your highlighting it for parents and educators as a resource! We have over 200 reviews with more everyday. I do all the reviews myself as well as handpick educational & book apps with free price drops on our daily deal page. I’m also happy to answer questions from readers looking for specific types of books, languages, topics, kinds of storytelling (non-linear, etc.) and can be reached at

    Kirkus Reviews is also an excellent resource. In addition, I would suggest the book app reviews at These are the only two sites I reference regularly for my own research, in fact. For general educational app research, I would also suggest which has educators providing detailed reviews of apps in their fields of interest & expertise.


    Carisa Kluver

  2. Carol Binkley says

    I have written a children’s short story in rhyme which is being illustrated and published by Xlibris Publishers. The are trying to convince me to publish not only in the printed format I have chosen, but also for iPad interactive reading. I am nervous about this format and am concerned about its popularity with children between the ages of four and ten. What is your view on this subject?

  3. Hello, i am developing children apps on iPad, i write stories and games, all based on reality and following montessori methods in learning.

    Game (Names Around Arabic) introduce the child to many themes and scenes like Beach, zoo, City, Park and five rooms in a Home like bathroom, TV room, kitchen, bedroom and closet … for those who would like to learn Arabic and its very easy and direct to use, you press on any object in the mentioned themes and we name it.
    The Guru Mady story Arabic & English, its talking about Mady who wants to grow up like a dinosaur .. we discuss sizes and show the human growth in a funny way ..

    other apps are coming by august, if you are interested i will share with you .. some of the stories like Dala & Tala in Eid Eve show the arabs traditions when celebrating Eid ..

    I would love to give you free codes to install my apps, and write a review about them.

    Appreciate your corporation,
    Helda Amro

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