Hello, Baby Animals! - Shortstack Apps

screen480x480.jpeg

TitleHello, Baby Animals!

Developer:  Shortstack Apps

Compatibility: iPad // iOS 4.3

Size: 58.3 MB

Description:  Although most of my reviews of iOS apps have some music-related function, I'm willing to make an exception for well-designed, smart-looking apps for other kid-related purposes.  Hello, Baby Animals!, the latest app from the indie app developer Shortstack (led by founder Carolyn Merriman), fit that bill for me.

My chief initial interest in exploring the app was the fact that Austin-based illustrator and author Divya Srinivasan animated the app.  From a kindie perspective, you'll probably recognize Srinivasan's style as she's animated several videos for They Might Be Giants' kids music albums.

The app itself lends itself well to Srinivasan's eager-eyed, brightly-colored style.  It features 10 different baby animals, each on its own screen and given a simple interactive role.  In the case of the piglet above, the user can swap wigs for the pig; other screens include matching mittens for a kitten and having a baby fox (a "kit," as the app points out) his socks.  The user can choose to have an adult voice or child voice narrative the rhymes on each page, or turn it off.

This is a simple app, but it's well-designed, smart-looking (see above), and is perfectly targeted to, and constructed for, the preschool/kindergarten set.  I really liked it, and think it's worth the $2.99 (it would be worth more than that if it had simply been turned into a book), but if you're not sure, there's a free version with four of the full version's ten screens.  Lots of fun, and worth checking out.

Age Range: 2 through 5

Price: $2.99 / free (lite version)

Link: iTunes (full version) iTunes (free, lite version)

Note: I was offered a copy of the app for possible review.

The Phoenix Weekly Story Comic - David Fickling Comics

TitleThe Phoenix Weekly Story Comic

Developer:  David Fickling Comics (aka The Phoenix) / Panel Nine Software

Compatibility: iPad // iOS 5.0.1

Size: 176 MB

screen480x480.jpeg

Description:  Let's get this out of the way from the very start - I am not a comics reader.  Not opposed to them, mind you -- I take my kids to the comics shop down the street every spring for  Free Comic Book Day and do try to share the occasional graphic novel with my kids -- just have long since decided that in terms of my own cultural passions, it's just too far down my list for me to become an expert or anything like a fan.

The Phoenix is a weekly comic app that works through iOS' Newsstand; it's the electronic equivalent of hard-copy version sold in England.  I'd heard about it before as being a good all-ages comic, and when I saw that they were offering all of their back issues for $0.99 apiece through the end of January, I thought it was a good time to check it out.

Again, given my sparse comics background, it wouldn't be fair for me to really "review" the comics as I might with kids music, but I'll offer the following observations:

-- there's an excellent mix of comics here: funny and action-adventure, kindergarteners and the early middle-school years, elegant art to "funny pages."  There is even a book excerpt or story and games, jokes, and non-fiction.

-- for those serial comics, the "Something Cool!" button at the bottom of the app allows the reader to briefly catch up on the prior action

-- it's firmly independent - no TV-characters-in-training

-- the interface is simple, and simple to use

I really like The Phoenix, and while I doubt I'd be willing to pay the subscription price given our family's general mild interest in comics, if your family is more into comics and graphic novels, you will definitely want to explore this.  It's for those families who like magazines like Spider and Cricket but who want more visual pizzazz (and perhaps a little irreverence, too.

Age Range: 5 through 10

Price: Free for base app (includes one issue), individual issues $2.99 (through 1/31/14 just $0.99), subscriptions $8.99/one month, $46.99/six months, $89.99/twelve months

Link: iTunes