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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

OK. It's time now for a bedtime story. So let's curl up and get out the iPad. Children's book apps are big sellers for the iPad. They include not only text, but also audio and games. And for tech writer and dad, Omar Gallaga, the apps are transforming bedtime.

OMAR GALLAGA: What do you want to read?

Ms. LILLY GALLAGA: Let's see what we have.

GALLAGA: Scoot over.

It's bedtime for my 3-year-old daughter, Lilly. She climbs into her little twin-size bed with Tinkerbell sheets covered with dolls and stuffed animals. We're about to choose tonight's bedtime stories as she gets settled in.

All right, do you want regular books tonight or iPad?

Ms. GALLAGA: IPad.

GALLAGA: In November, I started reviewing children's iPad apps for Kirkus Reviews. Lilly is my review partner. We've gone through 50 apps in two months. Like much of the Apple App Store, the quality of what's available runs the gamut from crude cash-ins with ugly illustrations, barely worth the 99-cent price tag, to lavish productions with top-notch voice talent and 3-D pages. The priciest can cost up to $10.

What's that one?

Ms. GALLAGA: "Alice in Wonderland."

GALLAGA: What's that?

Ms. GALLAGA: Teddy.

GALLAGA: What's this one?

Ms. GALLAGA: "Jack and the Beanstalk."

GALLAGA: Lilly doesn't know how to use the Internet or a computer mouse, but she can easily navigate the iPad's touch screen. Her small hands flip past pages of apps, and she taps a finger on the ones she wants.

(Soundbite of iPad app)

Unidentified Woman #1: (As Narrator) Once upon a time there was a man and a woman.

GALLAGA: Lilly is in her princess phase and is obsessed with not one but two apps that tell the tale of Rapunzel. The first is a straightforward storybook with narration, colorful, hand-drawn illustrations and numerous hidden sound effects and animations that you can activate by pressing parts of the screen.

(Soundbite of "Rapunzel" app)

(Soundbite of sound effect)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GALLAGA: The kitty goes meow.

GALLAGA: Yeah.

(Soundbite of sound effect)

Ms. GALLAGA: And then the duck goes ah, ah.

GALLAGA: The second is a pop-up book that asks the reader to complete small challenges before Rapunzel can meet and fall in love with her prince.

(Soundbite of "Rapunzel" app)

Unidentified Woman #2: Shake the trees by tapping them to collect some apples.

GALLAGA: She's not as crazy about some of the apps I've given high marks to, like PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit, where the characters don't just appear; they giggle and wiggle on virtual springs. Lilly pokes them to make them speak, or slides what look like tabs in a paper pop-up book to make Peter squeeze under a fence or to make Mr. McGregor chase the rabbit with a rake.

(Soundbite of "Jack and the Beanstalk" app)

Unidentified Man #1: (As Narrator) Once upon a time there was a young boy named Jack.

GALLAGA: The apps we both love tend to build upon traditional works to create something even better - like Ayars Animation's "Jack and the Beanstalk," a great app that features voice acting, hidden sound effects and original music.

(Soundbite of "Jack and the Beanstalk" app)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) I see my destiny before me.

GALLAGA: Cows moo, the golden harp plays a song, and the giant will sway on the beanstalk if Lilly tilts the iPad back and forth. Do it too much and the giant tells her: Will you stop that already?

(Soundbite of "Jack and the Beanstalk" app)

Unidentified Man #3: (As Giant) Will you stop that already? Hey, you, stop shaking my world.

GALLAGA: Some say that electronic books are creating a more passive reading experience, but Lilly frequently reads along with the narration, pokes at the iPad screen to interact with the stories and asks me to help her solve puzzles. When we read traditional paper books, whether it's "Goodnight Moon," or Mercer Mayer's "Little Critters" series, she's more apt to just lie down and listen.

(Soundbite of iPad app)

Unidentified Man #4: (As Narrator) ...all lived happily ever after.

GALLAGA: By the time we're done, we've read five stories and stayed up long past Lilly's bedtime.

Did we read five books tonight?

Ms. GALLAGA: Yes.

GALLAGA: We read a lot of books, huh?

Ms. GALLAGA: Yeah.

GALLAGA: Hugs and kisses.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Omar Gallaga is the tech culture reporter for the Austin American-Statesman. And on that story he got some special help from his well-read 3-year-old daughter Lilly.

You can read Omar's reviews of some of the iPad children's book apps at NPR.org.

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