Stories of the Sea

A few months ago, I discovered the brilliant children’s book blog Playing By the Book written by Zoe Toft. Every month, Zoe hosts a thematic round-up of bloggers’ book reviews under the title “I’m Looking for a Book About…”  This month, it’s the turn of the seaside, beaches and oceans. I highly recommend you head over to Playing by the Book to check out the links to reviews of traditional books. Meanwhile, here are some book app suggestions on this month’s theme:

The Little MermaidThe Little Mermaid by Auryn Apps

This is a beautifully put together book and one of the few apps I would consider using with my children as a bedtime story. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale is perfectly complemented by Lisbeth Zwerger’s timeless fairytale illustrations. Despite my reservations about how a four-year-old would deal with the long pages of text, the narration kept Mr Tall enthralled.  The book is enhanced by watery effects which you can swish around the screen, and the atmosphere created is very serene and dreamlike.

Compatible with iPad, available from priced at £2.49/$3.99 at time of writing.

Bartleby's Book of Buttons Vol IIBartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol II : The Button at the Bottom of the Sea by Monster Costume Inc

What child doesn’t like buttons and switches? The Bartleby series of book apps taps perfectly into that obsession, and in Volume II Bartleby heads out to sea with his friend Sally to check out the origins of a mysterious button Captain Kinkade has found. The Bartleby adventures have something reminiscent of Tin Tin about them and it’s great fun to solve the problems to move the story on. Older children can do this themselves, while younger ones might need some hints from a grown-up. The only niggle is that if you have an enthusiastic child pressing all the buttons you can miss sections of the story, as it moves on before the narration finishes. We also enjoyed Volume I of this series, and Volume III is in the pipeline.

Compatible with iPhone 3GS/4/4S, iPod touch (3rd -4th generation) and iPad. Available from priced at £1.99/$2.99 at time of writing.

Over in the oceanOver in the Ocean in a Coral Reef by Dawn Publications

This book is one of those that doesn’t jump out at you at first, but is a real grower. It is a counting book from 1-10 using sea creatures, with both spoken and sung narration (we preferred the song). The baby creatures can be animated by pressing them. The polymer clay illustrations by Jeanette Canyon are the star of the show, both intricate and beautiful. Two nice extras are a Hide and Seek page where you can spot all the baby animals at the end of the story, and Fact pages about each of the creatures featured.

Compatible with iPad. Available from priced at £2.49/$3.99 at time of writing.

Peekaboo OceanPeekaboo Ocean by Touch & Learn

This is the equivalent of a board book with only one word on each page, and is perfect for 1-2 year olds. It is bright and simple, as you touch the screen to discover who lives under the ocean. All the creatures can be tapped to make them move. Great fun to share. There is a free version with four creatures, which is worth downloading first to see if you like it, as the full version with all eleven is a little on the expensive side for what you get.

Available from priced at £1.49/$1.99 at time of writing or Lite version (free) from

F:shF:sh by Brandwidth

This is a fun story about Plip the fish and his friends, who decide to investigate a dark hole in the ocean floor. Mr Tall and Little Miss Chatterbox enjoyed the characters and illustrations, as well as the nice touches such as personalising the book and helping the characters at one point by using the microphone. However the narration is very quiet (too quiet if there is any other background noise), it can be difficult to navigate and attention to detail is a little lacking. There are discrepancies between the text and narration, and a lack of punctuation in the text. For the price, however, it is worth considering.

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Available from priced at £0.69/$0.99  at time of writing.

Hush Little BeachcomberHush Little Beachcomber by Kane Miller Books

This story is an interesting reworking of the Mockingbird song, following a day of activities at the beach. It has the feel of a traditional paper book with lovely illustrations, but the sung story gets very repetitive and in my view it doesn’t really work as well when spoken.

Compatible with iPad. Available from priced at £1.99/$2.99 at time of writing.

Finally, one app I wasn’t able to test was The Magic Bus: Oceans by Scholastic, recommended to me by two separate people on Twitter, @MaryAnnScheuer and @Pollylwh. Unfortunately having checked with Scholastic, it is not available in the UK at the moment. If you are in the US, you can download it from priced at $7.99 at time of writing.

All pictures are screen shots from my iPad 2.

Do you have a favourite book app about the seaside or oceans? I’d love to hear your suggestions below.