Storybook Maker App Review
App Name: Storybook Maker
Mom’s Rating: 5/5
Kids’ Rating: 5/5
Recommended Grades/Ages: Grades 1-6
Skills Developed: Creative Writing, Report Writing, Book Creation, Oral Narration, Storytelling, Storybooks, Word Processing
Available On/Price: iPad – $3.99
Reviewed on: iPad
Storybook Maker lets your child create, share, and read storybooks on the iPad using a fully featured word processing app for children. Using a straight forward, easy to use interface children from pre-readers and writers through to confident readers and budding authors can create their own stories through the written word, audio narration, hand drawn artwork, or even photographs, or a wide range of stickers that are provided in the app.
New books are created with the touch of a single button, the book name is entered, and your child is guided through the formatting of a new story. The first page of the book serves as the title page. A variety of templates are provided for different layouts – blank pages that encourage free-form placement of text and objects, pages focused on photographs either taken on the spot or from your device library, and varying combinations of text and object page layouts. There are 12 pre-designed layout options to choose from.
In any of the layouts the main elements your child can work with to design content are type boxes, object boxes, photo elements, and free-hand drawings.
In type boxes text can be entered, fonts chosen, color, opacity, size, and shadow selected. The text can also be aligned (left, center, and right) within the box.
In object boxes your child can select from a wide range of pre-designed stickers that can be resized, given backgrounds and borders, rotated, layered, copied, and locked. Some of these stickers are even animated, physics-enabled, interactive objects (like bouncing balls) that can be added to the story. These pre—designed drawings include characters, vehicles, letters and numbers, animals, food, costumes, and much more.
Photo elements can be brought in from the objects gallery, the images galleries on your device (some apps have their own image galleries), or the camera for photos taken on the spot.
All of these boxes and elements can also be layered, locked (to prevent movement and changes), given backgrounds and borders, deleted, or copied. They also have resizing handles and can be moved by tapping away and then tapping in the center and dragging. The page as a whole can also be given a border, background, and theme music (20+ choices) that plays when it is opened.
Freeform drawings can also be included with a wide range of drawing tools. A huge palette of color choices is provided along with drawing tools including a pen, circle maker, hollow circle, line tool, square, and hollow square tools. An eraser is included, the line size can be specified, and opacity set. The different opacities and colors provide many opportunities for creating layered compositions. Unlimited undos are also available.
Your child can also record narration for each page individually – either reading the text they’ve written, adding their own sound effects, or narrating the story for their readers if they are pre-writers. There is a time limit on narration for each page and a wheel shows how far into the recording your child is.
At any point tapping the view page button can preview the page being edited – it will then let you preview the page as if in reading mode. Audio can also be played on its own or deleted so it can be left blank or re-recorded. Pages can be deleted by tapping the trashcan or added by using the plus button. Your child can view pages in a page layout overview by going to the story’s main menu where all the pages are shown, and select one to edit, existing pages can be copied to make new pages, or new pages can be started from scratch.
Stories created by your children are stored in My Library, which allows you to read, edit, or share in-progress and completed stories. When files are shared they are compacted and sent out by email – they can be sent as plain pdfs (no sound or animated objects) to friends and family who don’t own the app, or sent as fully interactive files with sound and animated physics objects intact for those who do own the app. The PDF files can also be sent to a compatible printer for producing a physical copy of the work.
Completed stories can also be submitted to the public storybook library for consideration. There are some qualifications as the library is screened – no photographs of people, personal details, or inappropriate content etc. The public library currently contains some lovely hand-drawn stories, public domain titles converted to Storybook Maker format, and others. The ones we’ve downloaded so far don’t have included sound but can be read independently or used as read alouds. My children have really enjoyed having me read these to them.
This app is silent, with instructions and commands that are written without audio guidance, but even pre-readers quickly learn the intuitive pictorial icons for commands and menus and will most likely be able to use the app without any trouble (mine have).
Other Notes: This app doesn’t include ads, in-app purchases, or social media integration. It does include options to send books by email, a feedback section where live feedback can be sent to the developers, and a ‘More Apps’ section that includes links to the App Store.
What We Liked:
Storybook Maker is an open-ended app that provides a wide range of opportunities for both written and verbal expression. Children who are writing can pen reports, creative stories, put together family photo albums to send to distant friends and relatives, create picture books for their younger siblings, and more. Even children who aren’t confident expressing themselves in writing can illustrate and create their own pictorial storybooks and then tell their own stories verbally with the narration feature.
My children loved the options to add background music and to choose from pre-drawn stickers to illustrate their books with – these really jumpstart creativity for kids that get stuck for ideas without some kind of prompt. You could even illustrate a little starter scene yourself, fill in some text, and see where they go with it. My girls chose characters, layered on clothes, drew on top of them, and had a blast creating their own funny, fantastical tales. Definitely a favorite feature here.
My 10-year-old worked with a combination of written text and spoken narration, while my still-learning-to-read 7-year-old used a few cartoon speech bubbles for simple text for her characters and relied mainly on telling her stories orally. “Hundreds of stars! Thousands!” My children offered as their ratings.
What I love the most as a mom, is that Storybook Maker serves as a simple, easy to learn, but rich word processing/desktop publishing style program for children. Some of you may remember MS Publisher? This app reminds me so much of that – simple frames to work with and place flexibly, layering options, frames etc. But Publisher never let you add sound and physics-enabled objects! Even my seven-year-old was showing ME the ropes and all of the options, she picked it up very quickly because of the pictorial icons for the actions.
This will likely go without saying, but we don’t even really talk much about the importance of teaching word processing, document layout, and formatting skills to children anymore. It is a GIVEN, and this app provides such an easy way to dig into the basics – previewing work before sending, working with different options, resizing – LOTS of good stuff can be practiced and explored in an environment that is simple and focused.
What We Didn’t Like:
My ten-year-old would like explosion-based background music added, and I’d love to see the option to select the cover color of your storybook (that just randomly changes right now). Personal libraries for multiple users would also reduce the chances of siblings changing stories that aren’t their own.
Storybook Maker is a powerful, open-ended tool for creating richly illustrated, written and orally narrated stories and reports. Filled with comprehensive features and options, this easy to learn set of publishing tools lets your child create works that can be read, shared, and printed. Whether your child is an emerging or confident writer, a stumbling or gifted artist, all children will find supportive features to turn their storytelling dreams into a reality with Storybook Maker.