“Frank wasn’t satisfied doing ordinary frog things. He wanted to to fly. But he was a frog. And frogs can’t fly”
Our little green hero encourages us to be fearless and to follow our dreams in his new omBook, A Frog Thing. While Frank was busy hopping his way onto mobile devices this week, we sat down with Kidwick author, Eric Drachman for a little Q&A session.
I needed a holiday present for my niece and nephew. First I created some very rough books-on-tape based on already published books. These were just personal presents, but the kids loved them and over a few years, those projects evolved into fully edited books-on-CD complete with sound effects and audible page turns with my niece and nephew playing the kids’ roles. A lot of people who heard them wanted to buy them, but these were not my books, so I decided to write my own… and found that it was something that came naturally.
2. Where did you get the idea for A Frog Thing?
The genesis for this story was kind of roundabout… I was spending some time in The Hudson Valley in New York. At the time, I was into radio controlled model planes, so I couldn’t resist visiting the aerodrome, where I could see vintage planes up close and in the sky. I even went for a flight in an open cockpit biplane! When I told the people who ran the aerodrome that I was writing children’s books, they suggested I write one about the history of flying that they could sell in their bookstore. I liked using animal characters in my stories and was drawn to alliteration, so I came up with the idea of a flying frog. At first, Frank was going to try every means he could think of to fly, mirroring the path of mankind, in our pursuit of flight. However, when I really got into the story, I just preferred a small personal story about a frog who really really wanted to fly…and the birds who helped him.
3. What message do you hope children will take away from Kidwick Books?
Rather than explaining to kids what the “message” is, I like to let them come up with it on their own. First of all, they’ll surprise you with how sharp they are − culling the message is, after all, their job in life. Second, the message that they take from it might be different (and more appropriate) than the one that immediately jumped to your mind. In my experience, the message we take seems to be the one that we need to hear. So, while it’s important for a children’s book author to be clear about the characters’ motivations and impediments to getting what they want, I say, let’s ask kids what their take away is rather than telling them.
That said, I would like my books to inspire kids to play and believe in themselves. It takes a great deal of self-esteem to do all of that. By inhibiting these traits (or activities) we limit ourselves and our children. How can you teach self-esteem, though? While it might seem like it’s about strength, I think it’s really delicate and it needs to be coaxed. Perhaps learning by example is the best way − even if the example is set by a lightning bug or an elephant or a frog who really really wants to fly.
4. How did you cast the character voices in your stories?
Luckily, I have a very talented family! The characters of Leo, Ellison and Frank are all boys, so my only nephew at the time took on those roles. His performance as Leo has been described as “beyond cute!” Patricia’s character in “It’s Me!” was inspired by my cousin’s daughter, Sivan, so she was a natural to play that part. Everyone in our family pitches in. I have used the talents of my brother, my cousin and his wife and two daughters, and my nieces and nephews, not to mention myself and some of my alter- egos.
All of the talent who have helped to create our characters’ voices are featured on our website. Come see who they all are at http://www.kidwick.com/aa_frog_cast.html From here, you can also read about the musicians and see everyone’s picture!
5. What have you enjoyed most about your books being turned into apps?
It’s nice to introduce these stories in a digital format for a new generation of readers to enjoy! It has also allowed me to revisit my older stories, which was a nice walk down memory lane. I love how kids are empowered by turning the pages and following along in the book app. They can listen on their own and hear each word read aloud as they’re learning how to read. The audio dramatization of the stories are wonderfully integrated. When developing the app, I wanted to let children enjoy the wonder of reading a book, not just give them another game to play with. Problem solved — the team at Oceanhouse Media has captured the best elements of the books in the design of these apps, while at the same time adding functionality, fun and portability! Plus the story and illustrations look beautiful on mobile devices!
6. What advice would you give to other authors looking to turn their books into apps?
Find a great developer! I passed on working with quite a few developers before I licensed my books to Oceanhouse Media. When I originally wrote the stories, every aspect of the books’ production was important to me, whether it be the quality of the paper, the binding or the audio. I wanted the app versions to have the same level of quality as the books. Working with Oceanhouse Media, we’ve come up with some really great apps that we all are proud of.
7. What projects are you currently working on? Can we expect more children’s books in the future?
I plan to continue creating quality picture books with audio dramatizations for my young readers. The publishing industry is changing fast, so I’m always looking for new and current formats for “books”. In addition to app versions of my books, I’m exploring the idea of adapting them for TV and film, but don’t worry — I’ll always stick with what I do best, which is writing the stories and making the audio.