Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Top Book Apps for Tweens & Teens - School Library Journal's list

I am excited that the School Library Journal has included several apps for tweens and teens. In today's post, I will round up the Best Apps for 2011 that have been recommended by the School Library Journal. While I have not had a chance to explore many of these, I wanted to share them with you.

The biggest trend that I see is how iPad apps can bring alive nonfiction, embedding a variety of photographs, images, video and live links that readers can explore while they're reading. I'm also very happy to see some apps for tweens and teens to continue using audio narration to pull in readers. I hope more include narration as an option on these longer texts too.

1. Touch Press apps such as Gems and Jewels, The Waste Land, and March of the Dinosaurs. My friend Paula Willey (of PinkMe) shared Gems and Jewels with us at KidLitCon, and it is a truly beautiful app. Kids and grownups alike will love exploring so many different facets of these stones and how they've been used through the ages. I haven't seen the others, but look forward to checking them out. The nonfiction apps are great for tweens and teens, either browsing on their own or maybe reading with a parent.

2. Paris AppTours: Beware Madame La Guillotine (Time Traveler Tours): I have not listened to this audio tour yet, but I'm absolutely fascinated! Here's the beginning of the review on SLJ's Touch and Go: "Drama of historical proportions, an awesome guide, and games and challenges, what more could a teen on vacation ask for? In Beware Madame La Guillotine (Time Traveler Tours, LLC) Sarah Towle offers iPhone and iPod users a tour through the streets of Paris with stops at the sites associated with the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Their guide? Charlotte Corday, the 24-year-old from Normandy who killed journalist and Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat in his bath in 1793." What fun!

3. Jack Kerouac's On The Road (Penguin / 1KStudios): I'm fascinated by the way this app combines the complete text with "a rich variety of print resources, video and audio recordings, and visuals culled from Viking's archives and the Kerouac estate." SLJ's review recommends it for grades 9 and up, and I can indeed imagine many high school students interested in this rich, multimedia approach to exploring Kerouac's work. Take a look at this preview video to get a sense of this rich resource.

4. Al Gore's Our Choice (Rodale) is a rich, multimedia app that examines the climate crisis that will engage teens and adults alike. Gore published Our Choice: How We Can Solve the Climate Crisis in 2009 as a young readers’ edition of An Inconvenient Truth (2007). This app, released in September 2011, updates these books, incorporating a variety of compelling information. As SLJ writes in its review, "A video introduction by the author sets the agenda, while a cogent text, video clips, fluid interactive graphics, and spectacular photos address our world's most pressing environmental issues." Learn more about this app at the Our Choice website. Watch this introduction by Gore to see the different types of multimedia included in this app:

Al Gore's Our Choice from Push Pop Press on Vimeo.

5. In Journey to the Exoplanets (Farrar/Scientific American), Edward Bell explores planets beyond our solar system, helping readers to understand the different types of planets in this region, as well as current scientific investigations. School Library Journal writes, "The app offers many cool options, including a regularly updated "Exoplanet Feed," animated explanations of key concepts, and gyroscopic views of these far-flung orbs." Audio narration helps bring the content this app to a middle school and younger teen audience. Readers will be fascinated by the rich illustrations, fascinating data and interactive gyroscope features. Here's a trailer for the Journey to the Exoplanets:

You can clearly see that nonfiction apps are leading the way for engaging tween and teen readers. I would love to hear from readers whose older children have explored any of these apps. At times I wonder if kids will want to sit and read the content, or if they will be distracted by the bells and whistles. The key is finding an app that stimulates a reader's interest, making them want to learn more. And then making that reading accessible and interesting.

Thanks very much to Daryl Grabarek, the editor at the School Library Journal's blog Touch and Go, for a fascinating, well-rounded list of the Best Apps of 2011. If you are interested in this topic, definitely follow Touch and Go for their thoughtful, interesting regular reviews of book apps for a wide range of children.

©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. Dear Mary Ann,

    Thank you so much for this most enthusiastic write up of Top Book Apps for Teens and Tweens!

    I'm thrilled and honored that my interactive storyapp, Beware Mme la Guillotine, is included in this list. And I would be delighted to offer you a promo code for a free download, so you can experience Charlotte's story too. Please send me an email and I'll forward your code without delay.

    Holiday best to you and everyone at Great Kid Books!

  2. Hi, Mary Ann.

    I, too, am very pleased to see your enthusiasm about nonfiction and the way that it comes to life on the iPad. For the past year I've been publishing both original digital photo essay eBooks and republishing some of my classic nonfiction kids' books that had been allowed to go out of print. The response has been great, because as you said, this content is ideal for the iPad.

    I would like to offer you a free download code so that you can sample my interactive eBook/app, WHY DO PUPPIES DO THAT? Please email me ( so that I may send you a code.

    Thanks again for a great article, and happy holidays!

    Seymour Simon