Note: This is a repost from November 30, 2011. Now that the holidays are over and teens have new devices, and maybe gift certificates for apps in hand, those looking for just the right apps for those devices will find lots of possibilities in this gift-giving special.

In this special edition of YALSA’s App of the Week, our app reviewers bring you their selections (listed in alphabetical order) of apps that make great gifts for teens. If YALSA Blog readers have ideas of great apps to give to teens during the holiday season, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.

Title: Biophilia
Cost: Free initial download, $9.99 to download all song apps.
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod (requires iOS 4.1 or later)

Biophilia app iconBjork’s latest offering is part album, part exploration of music theory, and part audiovisual playground. Every part of this app is meticulously designed. From the font you see throughout, which was created especially for Bjork, to the sound and motion in the menu screen. Put on your headphones, and arrive in a galaxy of nine stars, one for each track. When you navigate to each song star, you have options to watch an animation, follow along with the score, read a narrative about the inspiration for the song or a musical analysis, and to play. In this case, play does not mean simply to listen to the song, but offers an option to explore an interactive piece, to play with the song, rather than just to play it. The music itself is as sensual and strange as Bjork’s other albums; the songs are conceptually connected by a love of nature and feeling of interconnectedness (hence Biophilia). I particularly enjoyed the ability to see the lyrics as the song plays in each animation. It can be hard to understand Bjork, but this app provides enough details that we might know more of her art than ever before.

A great gift for a teen who is fascinated by music, visual media, or the intersection of the two.

-Erin Daly

Title: Comic Life
Cost: $4.99
Platform: iPad

comic life app iconComic Life is a great app for teens who like to write and for those who like to develop comics. Teens start their creation by selecting a template – there are a wide variety available including a traditional comic layout and a blank template that gives teens the chance to add and organize content from scratch. Once a template is selected teens add text and images, select styles of bubbles for the placement of text, and select fonts and colors. Images can be imported from iTunes for use in Comic Life. Everything can be manipulated from within the app including sizes of text bubbles, panels, images, and font. Multiple pages can be added to one project so a teen can easily create a graphic novel or comic. Works created in Comic Life can be printed, emailed, and posted on Facebook.

Anyone looking for the perfect gift for teen writers and comic creators will definitely want to consider Comic Life

– Linda W. Braun

Title: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
Cost: $16.99
Platform: iPad

on the road app iconIt’s status as number three on Publisher’s Weekly 2011 list of Most Frequently Stolen Books highlights that picking up a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is a rite of passage for many young people. But the Penguin Amplified edition takes the memoir to an entirely new place. Interactive maps highlight the routes Kerouac took cross-country, linking to archival photos of those cities at the appropriate point in time alongside Kerouac’s pertinent passages. Hyperlinks from the text reveal full biographies of the dramatic cast of characters, and a gallery of book cover images showing incarnations from all countries and eras. The biographical information about the author itself is particularly rich, with a gallery of images from throughout his life, including his victorious touchdown in the 1938 Lowell vs. Lawrence game. You can hear Kerouac read, watch film clips of other Beats discussing Kerouac, and a comprehensive 19-screen bibliography covers both his own work and those about him.

The sharp images and crisp layout, along with the intuitive annotations. which extend but don’t intrude upon an immersive reading experience, make On the Road one of the best standalone eBook applications out there. The limitation to the larger iPad format ensure the best possible reading experience. A great choice for the budding beatnik or literary lad or lady on your list this holiday season.

– Wendy Stephens

Title: Lonely Planet Phrasebooks
Cost: $5.99
Platform: Nook Color, Nook Tablet, Android (OS 1.0 and up), iPhone, iPad

lonely planet phrasebook iconWhat better way to welcome in a new year than learning a language? Designed with travelers in mind, the Lonely Planet Phrasebooks provide a fun introduction to several foreign languages, including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Greek, Portuguese, Polish, Swahili, Cantonese, and Turkish. Audio recordings and vocabulary guides help explorers communicate essential phrases for unfamiliar places. The phrasebooks have sections for border crossing (I didn’t know I had to declare that), greeting people (What’s your email address?), entertainment (I feel like going to a concert), and more. Although the download is on the large side (2.7 MB), the ability to search the phrasebook without a WiFi connection will be much appreciated while sitting on long plane rides or traveling through remote locations.

This app is great for teens contemplating a gap year or planning to travel during the winter break. It is also an excellent companion to the many travel ebooks available for Nook.

– Rebekah Kamp

Title: NYTimes The Collection
Cost: Free to download until January 1st, 2012.
Platform: iPad requires iOS 4.2 or later.

NYT The Collection app iconThe New York Times Company just launched this app on November 10th and has been offering it free to anyone with an iPad since then. However, after December 31st readers will be prompted to sign up for a subscription to the NYTimes. Gifting a teen with a NYTimes subscription can only be a good thing, right? The Collection is an awesome mash up of the T Magazine, The International Herald Tribune, and The New York Times all crammed into one excellently stylish app. When the app launches the reader is presented with a grid of gorgeous color images and photos of runway models, celebrities, and the latest trends in fashion. As you tap through each thumbnail, details about that collection of photographs are revealed. There are a total of five different category headings on the left side panel where you can navigate between sections. Whether you’re looking to read about fashion news, street style, runway fashions, or the latest trends there is something for everyone. To top it off, each category is complete with its own set of images, video clips, articles and more. Teens are always sharing things with their friends and there is no exception when it comes to the things they read. The app has capabilities to share by way of Facebook, Twitter, and E-mail.

This app is an obvious must for the fashion forward teen, but will also provide a great gateway into pleasure reading for the reluctant reader in your life.

-Erica Gauquier

Title: Stachematic Camera
Cost: Free
Platform: iPhone 3GS / 4 / 4S, iPod Touch 3rd / 4th Gen, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 (or later)

stachematic app iconIf a teen in your life loves to document absolutely every second of his or her day, Second Fiddle Apps has created a fun and easy to use app that adds excitement and intrigue to all 300 photos a teen took of last Thursday. Stachematic Camera uses facial recognition software to add moustaches to every face detected in an image. There are several styles from which to choose, and each ‘stache is customizable by size and color. You can also opt to add image filters and achieve surprisingly realistic results. Not only can you add a ‘stache to new images, but you can add them to images already saved in your device.

Perfect for the quirky or trend-loving teen in your life, Stachematic Camera’s price tag makes this a must give app!

-Rosanna McGinnis

For more YALSA App of the Week posts, visit the App of the Week Archive.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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