Susan Spira shares happiness with all ages

A few weeks ago, a short book of observations and life-lessons caught my eye amongst the Kindle freebie lists. The cover art was beautiful, and I thought it would be a fun “purchase.”

I vaguely recognized the author’s name, Susan Spira. I recall thinking, at the time, “She must be one of those big-name motivational speakers or something.” I thought no more of it until one morning when I was looking for something to provide a little quick reading that I didn’t need to make a commitment to.

The morning I first opened “One Liners for Life” was a really hectic morning for me (hence, the reason why I was looking for a few words of distraction that I could look to without the commitment of concentrating on chapters or even paragraphs of text. Many of these simple phrases spoke to my heart, brought a smile to my face, and even helped to put the burdens of my day into perspective. In her introduction, Spira expresses her hope that this will be a book that readers will return to time and again when they have need of these little gems of advice – and I honestly believe that for me, it will be.

Without intending to read the entire thing in one sitting or even realizing I had, I was finished. Not to say that the book is overly short – I believe it’s a very nice length for the type of book that it is. Rather, I found myself immersed in Spira’s spirit of happiness and lost track of the time.

At the end of the book, Amazon’s suggestions helped me realize why the name was familiar – she has also written some of my very favorite children’s books on the Kindle, the “Tinky” books. The two books currently in our collection, “Tinky’s Magic Cookies” and “Tinky and the Dragon” are beautifully written and illustrated tales that promote kindness, helpfulness and sharing. Picture books about dogs are always favorites in our household and the “Tinky” tales rise to the top. These are also some of the picture books best formatted for the Kindle of those I have found.

I’ve gotten all three of these selections free for Kindle at different times. “Tinky and the Dragon” is currently free at the time of this blog post. I certainly appreciate Spira for freely sharing her generous happiness with readers. I look forward to reading more of her works in the future, and may even purchase some of her other books for myself or children.

More about Spira can be found on her Amazon page here or on her website.

Kindle apps for your zoo

One more day on children’s fare on the Kindle, then I promise I’ll be back to more adult options for a while …

I also want to deviate from my normal topic of e-books to mention a few apps.

I’ll start with an app which is basically a children’s picture book (no words), called Petting Zoo. I almost tied this into my previous post, but really, it kind of deserves its own special place.

Imagine the most fantastic pop-up book you remember from your own childhood, then multiply it by 100. And then, imagine what that book might look like on LSD.

While I consider it a phenomenal must-have for anyone with toddlers and a Kindle, it’s pretty darn fun just for the kid in you, too. (And if you do happen to have both a toddler and this app, you can also experience the unique and special visual experience when a young child does something with the pictures you would never have thought to do – or at least never allowed yourself to do – and creates a wondrous animation.)

This “book” was the advertised free app of the day on Kindle when I got it, and according to reviews, it seems to rotate through that category. So, even if you aren’t in a rush to pay a few bucks for this, keep an eye out.

This book is full of simple line drawings of a variety of animals that, as the title suggests, are interactive when touched. And it is magical! Every animal has multiple videos that vary based on how the screen is touched; every tap or swipe of the screen makes the animals come alive. Depending on the settings selected, the “pages” don’t simply turn, but the animals transform from one to another. And a menu provides nice options such as selecting a favorite animal by picture to jump directly to its page or providing “hints” on actions that you can cause each animal to perform.

I am highly likely to buy similar apps from this publisher. And I’m also likely to purchase this app for anyone I know with children and an android device which will run it. Because it is just that awesome!

While I have already deviated to the subject of children’s apps, I’ll also briefly mention the free ones available from Cubic Frog Apps. These apps are the best I have discovered thus far in the area of pre-school children’s play and learning. We have EduKidsRoom, EduKitchen, EduKitty, EduPaint and iMakeGiantGummies. EduKitty is currently the favorite in our household and the one most manageable by our 2-year-old. I have noticed a few glitches in all of the other apps brought about by an over-zealous youngster who may not have quite the fine motor skills expected to use these games, but I’m fairly certain that they will not be issues as she grows into these games a little more. Also, some of the activities require a level of precision that’s a bit beyond the grasp of my 2-year-old, but instead of finding that a problem, I see it as a challenge that helps her develop skills. (She sees it as amusing most of the time, though it sometimes encourages her to repeat wrong answers again and again after she tried for the correct answer and failed. That’s OK too.) It’s possible that I just haven’t set the difficulty levels correctly and that would fix any minor problems I have had with these games.

iMakeGiantGummies is more game than learning experience. Right now, my toddler’s favorite part of this app is to exploit a glitch in which she “loses” the spoon to stir if she can move it completely off the screen. (So she’s learned something, at least. Yay!) From the app descriptions, I believe the full version of all of these games is available for free, the difference being that a purchase removes advertising. Right now, as the Kindle is only in my toddler’s hands with complete supervision, this is not an issue at all. If she still enjoys the apps when I feel she’s old enough to play on the Kindle on her own, I’ll likely purchase one or two of her favorites.