If you'd like a chance to win the app, Gerry is honoring the search and rescue dogs of 9/11 on his Facebook page by asking parents and kids to share stories of brave and/or courageous dogs they've known or owned. If you have a story to share, or are just a dog lover, please stop by.
Finally, I think Gerry's post opens things up for a potentially great conversation and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Enjoy!
Picture Book Apps, Striking the Perfect Balance
By Gerry Renert
Like so many other children’s book writers, I’ve seen the picture book world going digital at light speed and how quickly publishers are seeing the light. Digital developer technology seems to be improving every day, making the newest digital books increasingly more interactive and increasingly more engaging.
I just had my first children’s book/app, BRAVE ROONEY, published and initially expected to end up with a book that had some interactive page turns, an animated door opening, maybe a dog bark or two. What I ended up with, though, was a vibrant hands-on experience I never envisioned. Characters flew when you touched them. A dentist office poster of a huge tooth, ‘brushed’ itself when pressed. Child constructed paper planes effortlessly flew through and around an elementary school auditorium, much as they did when I attended elementary school. To me, the animation was as dynamic as many of the flash animated webisodes currently out there or even some of the simpler animated TV series for younger children.
It got me thinking. Are we witnessing not only the slow diminishing of the printed storybook, but also the phasing in of a new kind of media – part picture book and part animated TV show? I speak from some experience in the TV animation area, as I have both co-created and produced animated children’s TV series, one of which was EMMY nominated three times for “Outstanding Animated Children’s Program.” The interactive appeal of this new book platform was driven home to me when I played a beta version of BRAVE ROONEY to an elementary school class and how quickly the kids picked up on all the interactive features (much quicker than I did, I might add.) Many of the children looked at the iPad as if it was their own portable TV screen they could control and play with. When they found an interaction they liked and one that made them laugh, they played it over and over and over – much in the same way they loved seeing Spongebob escape from an underwater cage – over and over. As the quality of digital development software and technology continues to improve, my opinion is the next generation of digital books will go further to engage the reader/viewer than current TV producers could ever imagine, meaning producers and broadcasters will have to adapt accordingly, perhaps further emphasizing their “multi-platform” strategy.
A lot of questions remain unanswered, however: Will all this interactivity make the reading experience richer and more engaging, or will the various features pose mere distractions to the story and characters? My belief is that digital developers will have to strike the perfect balance between story and animated features to be successful. Whether naive or not, I continue to believe the key determinants will come down to strong, relatable characters and a unique, likable storyline that conveys an important message in a slightly different light. A larger question regards the future role of animated TV series. As iPhone, iPads, Android devices, etc. continue to proliferate, worldwide, will children choose to get their main content from these devices, which they can interact with whenever they choose to, or will they still see TV as the primary deliverer of their content? Perhaps it will remain some combination of both. Either way, the delivery of children’s content will continue to advance at light speed, and those remaining in the dark will remain behind.