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Want to conquer evil green pigs with irate winged animals? How about making a fruit salad that just might explode? Or creating a masterpiece without spilling a drop of paint?

There's an app for that -- and for just about anything else you can imagine.

Last month, Apple Computer announced it has sold nearly 15 million iPads, all in less than a year. The popularity of the iPad means that it is quickly becoming a favorite with kids. Now you might have to "borrow" it from a parent, but soon you might be using one in school. Many school systems are starting to buy the tablet computers to help with "mobile learning."

The iPad is the size of a school notebook, but you can use it to play games, create music, listen to poetry, write and illustrate a story, make digital paintings and much more.

With thousands of applications available, what's worth your time -- and money? We've picked some favorites that will make you laugh, help you learn -- and in many cases do both at the same time! All except for Drawing Pad also are available for the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Many apps come in a free "lite" version, which might have fewer levels or ads on the screen. These are a great way to test a game to see if you like it before buying it (or asking your parent to buy it). And sometimes apps go on sale, so, for example, you can get the supercool Scrabble app for just $4 instead of $10.

>Fun to play

Angry Birds HD, $4.99. (Lite version available.) This addictive game is already a popular download. Angry Birds is a great combination of simple and comic: You launch cute, wingless birds with a slingshot at a bunch of evil pigs who are hiding in various kinds of shelters, having stolen the birds' eggs. It makes sense when you play it!

Fruit Ninja HD, $2.99. (Lite version available.) In this fast-paced, attention-grabbing game, you use your finger to slice flying fruit before it falls off the screen. Just don't get so swept up by the fabulous squishing and splatting sounds that you accidentally karate chop a flying bomb. Not good.

Game of Life HD, $6.99. When your life is on hold -- waiting for your ride or sitting on a long flight -- it's hard to beat the digital version of this classic board game. Have a career, get married, have babies and make a pile of money, all before you have to put your seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked position. Best detail: The spinner sounds just like the real thing!

>Games that make you think

Cut the Rope HD, $1.99. (Lite version available.) An enchanting game that requires thought and strategy and is packaged with adorable graphics and sounds. A piece of candy dangles from one or more ropes, and you have to cut the right ropes in the right order so the candy swings into the mouth of Omnom the frog. Watch out for bubbles and other obstacles, and think before you cut!

Toy Balls! HD, $3.99. (Lite version available.) Match-three games are fairly common, but this is one of the best. You have to draw a line connecting three balls to make them disappear, but those pesky balls won't stop moving! If you aren't fast enough, the balls overflow and hit the electro-zapper, meaning your ball, and your game, are toast.

Labyrinth HD, $2.99. (Lite version available.) You've probably played the wooden version of this game, and this app is a great stand-in for the real thing. You guide a ball through a wooden maze by carefully tilting and rocking the iPad, being careful to avoid the ball-swallowing holes. Plunk.

Bookworm, $2.99. In this fun word-building game, you connect letters on sliding tiles to form words. But your search gets frantic when the tiles catch on fire. Points are assigned to words based on length and difficulty. We especially love that definitions pop up when you form an unusual word. We learned that "col" is a low point in a mountain range.

>Get creative

Cake Doodle, 99 cents. This clever app gives you a recipe to follow, and you have to use the iPad to get the ingredients into the bowl by tapping, tilting and shaking it. Then comes the fun part: decorating! Cake baking shows on TV have gotten many kids interested in the art of extreme baking, so here's your chance to try it out -- without breaking any eggs!

Drawing Pad, $1.99. This easy-to-use app makes paper seem so yesterday! You can choose from paint, markers, crayons, colored pencils and stamps, in a huge variety of colors, to make pictures and cards on lots of different backgrounds. Even use photos from your own library.