The iTunes store has no shortage of fairy tale-themed apps and eBooks. A quick search for any of your favorite Hans Christian Andersen or Brothers Grimm stories will turn up hundreds of options for both “free” (quotations marks very intentional)  and paid options. Unfortunately, many of them feature artwork right out of a bad Disney rip-off film. As for the game-play, I never get that far. Of course, pretty art doesn’t always equal an engaging app either, so after going on a few fairy tale app journeys, we came back with a few favorites.

Hansel and Gretel: Lost by PB&J Publishing The beautiful, bright hand-drawn illustrated style of  Chilean artist Alvaro Pantoja Busch is what initially brought this app to my attention. The experience itself measures up to the art, with 21 interactive pages including 60 points of interaction. For my two girls, stuffing the two lost siblings full of witch house candy is a twenty minute activity in itself! The classic Grimm tale is also updated for modern children with the evil, child-dumping step-mom removed and Gretel re-positioned as a joke-cracking  girl-power role model.

hansgret2 Hansel and Gretel
Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty:  3D Interactive Pop-up Book by StoryToys With this app, StoryToys Entertainment proves they are a company that fully realizes the power of the tablet platform.  This app takes the traditional pop-up book concept and lets young users play around and interact with the illustrations within the book.  Created to appear like an open book on a table, users read along and participate in 11 interactive 3D pop-up scene activities. My 2-year-old could not get enough of dressing up Briar Rose’s fairy friends and finding her way through a magic maze. Less scary than the Disney version and with added humor, Sleeping Beauty is a great intro to the StoryToys line.

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Lil’ Red – An Interactive Story by Brian Main Lil’ Red caught my eye after seeing a screenshot of its big-eyed heroine –  the creation of talented artist and illustrator Brian Main. Created solely in the stark pallet of black, white and red, the story of Little Red Riding Hood is given a humorous kid-safe update. Best of all, this app leaves it to the parent – or the child – to interpret the story; with animation, music and basic interactions being the main driver of the tale.  The wordless eBook approach, combined with the 3-color pallet and unique character illustrations, makes for a one-of-a-kind app experience.

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Cinderella by Nosy Crow Nosy Crow’s Cinderella features a beautifully sophisticated hand-drawn look and feel that is comparable to classic children’s property Charlie & Lola. Artist Ed Bryan’s brunette take on the one-shoed princess is infused with just enough visual humor and magic to set it apart from the countless other takes on this classic tale. In-story interactions are a must for eBooks, and Cinderella doesn’t disappoint, even utilizing the front facing camera. Young players will spend hours helping Cinderella clean the kitchen, dress her sisters for the ball, build her pumpkin carriage, and even choose the music for her dance with the Prince.

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Do you have a favorite fairy tale app? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Dave PerilloIf you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you may know our tendency for sharing and over-sharing the work of Philly-based artist and illustrator Dave Perillo. Like me, Dave has a love for all things pop culture and pop art, including well-known and cult artists like Jim Flora, Charles Schultz, Jim Henson, Mike Allred, and Tim Biskup. Unlike me, Dave has actual artistic talent and has used it to create some amazing illustrated tributes to some of the entertainment properties we love as children of the 80’s (The Goonies, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Thundercats), watch as adults  (Moonrise Kingdom, Breaking Bad), and, most relevant to this blog, enjoy with our kids.

If you are looking for some art to decorate your children’s room (or your office), Dave’s Etsy shop is a great place to start. From fairy tales to Pixar films, he offers a broad spectrum of illustrated work for parents who want to  pay tribute to their children’s favorites without just sticking up a poster.

Do yourself a favor, and check out Dave Perillo’s blog and Etsy shop as soon as possible. I have included some samples of his work below for you to appreciate.

All images are created, designed and illustrated by Dave Perillo. 

Monsters Inc

Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Muppets Dinosaurs Mickey Mouse Willy Wonka

Buzz & Woody

Grimm's Fairy Tales by Dave Perillo ParaNorman Alice In Wonderland

As I have probably hinted at before, my daughter is quite the Disney Princess fan girl. So, when word came out their next major animated effort was the introduction of a post-modern take on Rapunzel (recently renamed Tangled), she was naturally curious about this classic tale.

So, off to my library I went to take a few books out about this long-haired princess in distress. Not surprisingly, there were many options. And, for both fun and review, we ended up taking out half a dozen. Instant favorites included the quirky, modern-day set Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale by Lynn and David Roberts and the subtly humorous illustrated execution by Dorothee Duntze. Even the more sophisticated and award winning take by Paul O. Zelinsky and the gothic graphic novel by Stephanie Peters and Jeffrey Stewart Timmins were a surprise hit with this toddler.

However, the book that Maia seemed to gravitate to the most was Rachel Isadora’s Rapunzel. Inspired by the author’s ten years of living in Africa, Isadora takes this traditional fairytale and transplants it to an African village. While the story itself remains mostly the same, Rapunzel is no longer the traditional, fair-skinned/blonde haired princess. In Isadora’s tale she is a stunning African maiden with long, beautifully-decorated dreadlocks. When her prince rides in to chant the traditional “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” line, he comes not by horse, but by zebra. The happy ending remains in tact and the witch is just as terrifying as seen in other interpretations.

The bright, colorful illustrations in this book are also non-traditional, comprised of collages of textured papers and oil paintings. Rachel Isadora, who has won a Caldecott Honor for her previous children’s book Ben’s Trumpet, has also created African interpretations of fairy tales like The Princess and the Pea, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Fisherman and His Wife, and Hansel and Gretel.

So, before Disney’s  traditional, blonde Rapunzel makes it mark on the public conscious as the “Official Rapunzel”, share Rachel Isadora’s striking and unique version with your little ones.

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Rachel Isadora’s Rapunzel
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Isadora’s Artwork
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Disney’s Rapunzel

Lately, I find myself surrounded in fairy tales. When we go to the library or select a film, a standard question seems to be “is there a princess in it?” or “is it a fairy tale?” So, with witches, magical kisses, evil stepmoms and happily ever after in mind, here is a list of  my favorite fairy tale-themed iPod/iPhone apps.

Bayou Beats (Walt Disney) – Free

This Disney app is less of an earnest application and more of an “advergame” to promote their Princess & the Frog animated film. However, it is still free and since Maia loves Princess Tiana enough to see the film three times, it was a must-download. Essentially a down-aged Tap Tap Revenge, the game moves to instrumental versions of soundtrack songs. As a toddler used to slower-paced titles, Maia seemed more interested in the quick character clips and music videos. The advergame-style app that came with the film Up seems to serve her interest more, with longer trailer clips and a basic pop-the-balloon game.

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Tap, tap, princess

Kideos (Big Purple Hippos)– Free

This app was created to accompany the online destination Kideos.com. For those not familiar, Kideos is a kid-friendly video destination with much of the content pulled directly from YouTube and screened by a Video Advisory Council. The content is all easily categorized for navigation (Disney Channel Programs, Muppets, Sesame Street, etc). The app itself follows the same navigation, and even has a Fairy Tales and Disney Movies section where Maia can watch clips of her favorite princesses as well as new takes on classics. Maia’s only disappointment was the low quantity of Princess content compared to that on YouTube.  However, I’ve quickly learned the dangers of exploring kid videos on an all-ages site (fan-made nude Disney Princesses, for example) and can truly appreciate Kideos’ product.

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Kid-safe surfing

Papa Gatto and Sleeping Beauty (PicPocket Books) – ($2.99,$1.99)

Both a modern and an age-old fairytale classic are brought to the iPod/iPhone platform thanks to expert e-storytellers PicPocket Books.

Papa Gatto is adapted from a book by prolific writer/illustrator Ruth Sanderson. The story was published in 1999 to glowing reviews from publications like the School Library Journal. This story focuses on Papa Gatto, the feline advisor to the prince who learns that beauty is only skin deep. Sanderson’s illustrations are just as vibrant on a smaller screen and the accompanying narration perfectly matches the tone of the story. For this title, PickPocket has also added interactive audio “hot spots” that trigger animal sounds.

Sleeping Beauty takes the timeless story of a teenager under the spell of evil and adds beautiful, sophisticated illustrations. Martina Müller’s watercolors give this tale a look that feels as classic as the fairy tale itself. The app also makes sure you get to enjoy the illustrations taken from the book by taking sweeping views of them between the narrations.

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Beauty’s beauty
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Papa’s pages

Make Me a Princess (Rock Island Entertainment) – $.99

Princess-loving girls will be princess-loving girls. So a harmless dress-up game like Make Me a Princess may be spot-on for what your little majesty-in-the-making is looking for. This basic app starts with the selection of skin and eye color, then goes on to the real princess details. A wide selection of hair styles, tiaras, dresses, shoes and accessories are all available for the choosing. You can also name your princess and save her in the gallery for later admiration. A fairly basic app, but one that serves the purpose for younger girls who love princess dress-up play and are too young to engage on social network-style dress-up game.

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Pretty, pretty princess

Audiobooks (Download Edition) (Cross Forward Consulting, LLC) – $.99

Audiobooks (Download Edition) is perhaps the best $.99 I have spent in a long time. And apparently 1 million other people agree with me based on their downloads count. I originally chanced upon this while looking for audiobooks of fairy tales and nursery rhymes to listen to in the car. This app has direct access to 2,800 classic, free, public domain works including a large selection of fairy tales, fables, and children’s books. While some may be a little dark for today’s young audience, there are plenty of jewels here to entertain during rides. And once the little ones leave the car, you can get your Lovecraft or Austen on. The app is free if you want to stream the books and $.99 if you want to download the books. The audio recordings are taken from the renowned LibriVox project.

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Where audio dreams come true

Any apps that leave you feeling “happily ever after”? Comment below!