Friday, March 16, 2012

Betsy Bird's Top Picture Books Poll and Apps

I love lists. Making them, marking things off of them, threatening to put my children on them. Lists for top movies and songs are always helpful when I'm feeling indecisive about what to play. And lists for books are precious for addled brains like my own when I'm at the library or bookstore and feeling overwhelmed by all my choices.

So when Betsy Bird announced a new poll on her Fuse #8 blog for top picture books and chapter books, I was very excited. It's fun to consider what stories stand the test of time, and what new authors and books are essential to any bookshelf. And for dotMomming, I want to know if the best books for kids are becoming available in digital format.

The current poll repeats the enormous feat Betsy pulled off in 2009. Here are the top 10 picture books that made the list then:
  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)
  2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947) 
  3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1979)
  4. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)
  5. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (2003)
  6. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941)
  7. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1955)
  8. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (1939)
  9. Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag (1928)
  10. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (2004)
Way back in 2009, the iPad was only a glimmer in Apple's eye. It wasn't released until April 2010, so the idea of enhanced picture books was still a ways off. But what about now? How many of these top picture books can you download in the App Store today?

Where the Wild Things Are? Nope. And judging by Maurice Sendak's feelings about e-books, it would take a lot of convincing to bring about an app.

Goodnight Moon? What you find in app format is not the picture book. Very Hungry Caterpillar? Here's the first of these top 10 books to appear in the App Store, though it's not the picture book but rather a math game featuring the adorable caterpillar and Eric Carle's lovely fruit. The Snowy Day? Nope.

Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus arrived in app format in October 2011 as Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App! (Disney, $6.99). Rather than provide the same content as the paper book, Willems' app lets young readers create their own pigeon stories again and again. Willems is clearly committed to traditional reading and ventured into digital books reluctantly, describing e-books in USAToday, "With all their bells and whistles and word jumbles and assorted narrative killers, after we turn them on, they don't need us."

Make Way for Ducklings app? Nope. Harold and the Purple Crayon (Trilogy Studios, $6.99) is available in a lovely app format that made the CYBILS app finalist list this year. Madeline? Nope. Millions of Cats? Nope. Knuffle Bunny? Not yet, but there might be hope.

"I didn't want to be some reactionary luddite," Willems says in the USAToday interview. "I'm not saying everything electronic is evil."

Check out the rules for nominating your picks for the top 100 picture books and chapter books on the Fuse#8 blog and then email your favorites to Betsy Bird at The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Eastern on April 15, 2012.


  1. I'm discouraged by authors who don't even accept new new technologies, let alone embrace them. To me it represents the opposite of a flexible, open mind, which is a quality that great writing for young people requires. My young-adult kids are casually dismissive of Luddites, however, because they have that luxury. They point out that their generation will soon take over, and this sort of attitude will decline naturally as the older generations retire.

  2. Sometimes I think buyers (parents or grandparents) want to buy the exact thing they had as a kid or for their kids, e.g., the Pat the Bunny book rather than the app. It's a nostalgia thing. The same buyers might be more open to an app for a new book.

  3. Herve Tullet's clever picture book "Press Here" is an example of a bound book that "reads" like an app. There's pressing, shaking, tilting - lots of interactive play in this imaginative paper&spine treat.

    Like the aforementioned Luddites, I am just starting to learn the lingo (and fingo?) of apps. I suspect I will pick up much more as I watch my first grandbaby grow up with all things "i".

  4. I find this very interesting. Harold and the Purple Crayon app is fabulous. I wouldn't be surprised if all of the publishers behind the top 10 picture books came on board. Why? Because in the sea of apps, it's natural for parents to choose the familiar. Who wouldn't want an app of Goodnight Moon?

  5. Natalie WeinsteinMarch 20, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    My lucky daughter just got a Kindle Fire for her 10th birthday. So now I am just starting to see what the Austin Public Library has to offer. I am so psyched about this.

  6. Hi dot.Momming! I thought perhaps you and your readers might be interested in my new picture book, which won 3rd runner up in the MeeGenius Author Challenge. It was published last Friday:

    I just found your blog and am enjoying your articles.

    Kelly Ehasz