Appy Christmas

I wrote a few months ago about some of the groundbreaking children's book apps that are taking the whole reading experience in wonderful new directions. A brief visit to the app store over the weekend provided some great new examples for Christmas. There are countless cheapo retellings of A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas out there, but also some lovely adaptations of a few of my absolute favourite Children's stories.

I hadn't planned to write anything about The Snowman on the advent calendar, not because I dislike it (what's not to like about a Christmas title that tackles bereavement and still becomes such a Christmas institution), but because the arrival of the new animation meant it was already being amply covered elsewhere. But having downloaded the free Snowman app I changed my mind.

This isn't really a book app at all, more a tie in game of the cartoon. You take to the skies with the boy and his snowman, flying high above the streets and houses of Hastings and out into the beyond. Along the way you must collect snowflakes, trees and other snowmen before proceeding to the next part of the adventure. It has a repetitive, hypnotic quality that's perfect for the younger player. And with a soundtrack that's mercifully free of 'Walking in the air' you'll be happy for your children to play for hours without wanting to smother the thing in a snow drift.

Another app with a fine soundtrack is A Charlie Brown Christmas. In fact with the original music from the TV film by the great Vince Guaraldi present and correct you can enjoy my all time favourite Christmas music as you read. There's even the chance to connect with your inner Schroeder and play along on a tiny piano to 'Linus and Lucy.'

The app has a pleasingly retro feel to it, with the textured pages presented as if they've been ripped out of the first TV tie-in edition from 1965. The characters have retained the slightly rough look of the original that is absent from later, slicker depictions of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Schultz apparently vetoed a network request of correcting the buggy animation, and his wishes have happily been transferred over to the app version.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas continues the Dr Seuss domination of the Children's book app market. Their success is well deserved, presenting pretty much everything you'd want from a picture book app.

Practically everything respond to the touch; the different parts of the illustration announce themselves in bold letters, and you can tap the words as you go along – perfect for showing young readers how the rhyme system works. The story is read by a suitably characterful American voice, but if that's not quite to your taste you can turn it off or even re-record the entire thing yourself – though letting your children have a go may well turn out a new version of the story that features the words poo and loo rather more than Dr Seuss may have intended.


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