“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.
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
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.
Dr. Seuss published his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” in 1937 and it was an instant hit with parents and children. The story’s free spirit and wild illustrations shook up the children’s book scene which at the time was mostly focused on teaching children lessons and manners.
This year marks the book’s 75th anniversary and what better way to celebrate than by releasing an interactive omBook edition! Download And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street for your Apple or Android device and experience the story that started it all. You’ll find it hard to believe that Dr. Seuss almost burned this manuscript out of frustration from it being rejected so many times. In fact, he nearly gave up entirely on writing children’s books — we’re so glad he didn’t!
– Fun facts about Mulberry Street –
The manuscript was rejected by twenty-seven publishing houses for being too different and edgy. He was told that “neither fantasy nor verse sold well and that his story lacked a moral or lesson.”
Dr. Seuss was ready to give up on the book when he ran into a friend from college, Mike McClintock, who had just become juvenile editor of Vanguard Press. McClintock asked to take a look at the manuscript and ended up publishing it.
The young boy in the story, Marco, was named after Mike and Helene McClintock’s own son.
The original title of the book was “A Story That No One Can Beat.” The president of Vanguard Press asked Dr. Seuss to give it a snappier title.
The rhymes were written to the rhythm of chugging engines on the Swedish ship the M.S. Kungsholm while Dr. Seuss was on a vacation with his wife, Helen.
Mulberry Street is an actual street in Springfield, Massachusetts, less than one mile from Dr. Seuss’ childhood home on Fairfield Street. It is now a tourist destination containing many historical buildings and sites, including a plaque referencing Dr. Seuss and the book that made the street famous!
On behalf of all of us at Oceanhouse Media, I wanted to send a brief update and a huge “Thank You” to our customers, partners, and supporters!
Karen and I started this business in January of 2009 at a time of uncertainly for our family. We had a vision of building a digital publishing company, but we did not hold rights to any content. We choose to embark anyway. Along the way, we found tremendous support from customers, reviewers, fellow developers, teachers, parents and incredible license partners. Recognizing all of the support that we have received from the community, we are humbled and grateful.
2011 has been an amazing year. Back in January, we announced the sale of our 1 millionth paid app. We’ve subsequently added close to a dozen license partners, grown the team substantially, and moved out of our house and into a beautiful office space.
We are learning just how much our apps are impacting people and their lives. For instance, some of the email messages we received from the parents of children with special needs have brought us to tears. Each story that we receive reinforces the knowledge that we are fulfilling the work that is expected of us at this moment. It is incredibly rewarding to know that our efforts are impacting the world in such a positive manner.
We are honored to have the opportunity to work with great license partners. We are thankful that they have entrusted us with incredible content. We are committed to delivering ever higher quality interactive experiences as the technology evolves. And, wow, do we ever see the technology evolving quickly!
On a purely personal note, Karen and I love how we are able to share our journey with our 3 year old and 18 month old daughters. They are some of our best app testers! Also, spending quality family time with the girls is the single best way to re-invigorate me and remind me why we work as hard as we do.
So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving I simply wanted to take a moment to extend a warm “Thank You” from all of us at Oceanhouse Media. Without you as customers, partners and supporters, we would not be able to do all that we do.
Please accept our best wishes! May the coming holidays be filled with good health, peace, love and laughter!
We’re excited to announce a new series of educational omBooks from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library! The first title, “There’s No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System,” is now available on the App Store, and offers a fun new way for kids to learn basic science concepts.
As children explore this animated omBook, they will discover special interactive learning moments that reinforce specific topics. Users can tap stars in the sky to reveal constellations; learn the order of the planets in our solar system through a Seussian mnemonic device; search the night sky with a telescope; find hidden information cards from Thing One and Thing Two; and even access an instant glossary by tapping on highlighted words.
We tested this app in a local elementary school classroom, and here’s what the kids had to say!:
“My favorite part was when I looked through the telescope. I also liked it when it gave me a warning not to look at the sun.” (7 year-old boy)
“It was cool! I liked that it reads to you and explains all the stuff.” (10 year-old girl –English Language Learner)
“I like that it told you about the planets and how far they are from the sun. I learned that some planets are very far away and get very cold!” (7 year-old girl)
“It was talking about space and I learned some interesting words like astronaut. I like the pictures—I like the colors and the details.” (7 year-old girl)
“I like that if you don’t know a word you can touch it and it will say it for you.” (10 year-old boy – English Language Learner)
– Check out a sneak peek of the app! –
– About The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library –
Aimed at children ages five to eight, The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library is a nonfiction series that appeals to children’s natural curiosity and engages them in the process of scientific exploration and discovery. The titles explore a range of subjects, including dinosaurs, pets, marine life, trees and outer space and feature classic characters from the original The Cat in the Hat — The Cat, Sally, Dick, Thing One and Thing Two, and even the fish!
Look for more Learning Library omBooks like “Oh Say Can You Say Dinosaurs?” coming soon!
Join us Wednesday, November 16th at 6PM PST for a Twitter Party introducing a new line of educational omBooks from our recent partnership with Random House Children’s Books. There’s No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System kicks off an exciting collection of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library omBooks, which introduce children to basic science concepts in a fun, interactive way.
There’s No Place Like Space! is our most ambitious omBook to date so we’re very excited to finally share it with you and hear your feedback. Please join us for a discussion on educational apps – why you like them, how you use them, and what features you’re looking for. How important is it that apps have educational value? Do you allow your children more screen time if you feel they are learning something? (plus, we’ll also brush up on some fun facts about the solar system! )
We have a very special guest, Carisa Kluver from the popular app review site, Digital Storytime, who will lead a Q&A session during the second half of the hour, with Oceanhouse Media’s early childhood education specialist, Liz Griffiths. They’ll discuss some of the new educational features of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series, and everyone is encouraged to jump in so we hope to see you there!
Twitter Party Details:
Who: Everyone is welcome!
What: Introducing the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series of educational omBooks.
Where: For Twitter parties it’s best to use Tweetchat, Tweetgrid, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc.
When: Wednesday, November 16 6-7pm PST
Hashtag: Follow and post with #OMApps
On Friday, we attended the 18th annual TechAmerica Awards luncheon, which celebrates San Diego’s most innovative technology companies. We were honored to received the High Tech Award in the Software Category for our work on children’s book apps for mobile devices. We’d like to thank TechAmerica for putting together this wonderful event, we had an excellent time and were pleased to connect with many local businesses. We also want to thank all the families who bring our apps into their household. Your feedback and support keep us motivated to continue innovating the reading and learning experience as technology evolves.
“We’re extremely honored to receive TechAmerica’s High Tech Award for our work in developing interactive children’s book apps that help teach kids to read. “We’re committed to bringing more beloved children’s classics to the app market with educational features that promote literacy in the youngest of readers at the touch of a screen.” — Michel Kripalani, President of Oceanhouse Media.
The rest of the crew, back at the office celebrating the good news!
Spookley the Square Pumpkin has had an eventful October. Between his pumpkin patch appearances, movie theater showings, Twitter parties, and his new job as the spokes-pumpkin for the National Bullying Prevention Campaign, he’s had his pumpkin hands full! And it’s not surprising that his natural charisma and message of kindness and tolerance have also landed him at the top of the app charts throughout the month.
Today, we have some especially exciting news for Spookley fans. The Amazon Appstore for Android has chosen “The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin” omBook as the Free App of the Day for Halloween! So, if your Android device hasn’t already been charmed with Spookley’s uplifting Halloween story, hurry over and download it today!
Halloween is just one week away, and not surprisingly, the app markets are being stormed by Halloween apps. Check out our selection of fun Halloween themed omBooks, on sale through October 31st. Whatever your Halloween plans are, these stories are sure to put you in the holiday mood!
Join Papa Bear and the cubs in The Berenstain Bears Go on a Ghost Walk. They have everything they need to make it a really spooky night — cobwebs, jack-o’-lanterns, and scary monsters, Frankenbear and Grizzula. But does Papa Bear take it one decoration too far? Enjoy this heartwarming Halloween story and find out what makes Papa Bear go “YI-E-E-E!” (Just $2.99)
When a mighty storm threatens to destroy Holiday Hill Farm, Spookley realizes “it’s fine to be round while the weather is fair, but there are times it’s better to be a square!” The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin delivers a special message from a very unique pumpkin of tolerance and self-acceptance that’s just right for Halloween…and every day of the year! (Just $0.99)
What Was I Scared Of? Introduces a character who repeatedly meets up with an empty pair of pale-green pants. At first he’s terrified of them, but when he screams for help and the pants also start to cry, he realizes that “They were just as scared as I!” Putting fear in the proper perspective, the empty pants become good friends with the character. (Just $0.99)
Deepak Chopra is one of the world’s greatest leaders in the field of mind-body medicine. He’s written over fifty books, is a popular spiritual speaker, and is the co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. Integrating the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda with traditional Western medicine and recent discoveries in the field of quantum physics, he has forged a holistic approach to healing that has had enormous appeal as well as widespread professional acceptance. We’ve had the unique pleasure of bringing his inspirational and uplifting messages to the app world. This week, we’re celebrating his birthday by putting those apps on sale! You’ll definitely want to pick some of these up! Sale ends 8pm Eastern on Thursday 10/27.
The Manifesting Good Luck Cards: Growth And Enlightenment app “will put you in touch with your own innate wisdom and power by reminding you of some of life’s great metaphysical truths. When we work on our own development and evolution, amazing things start to happen. With good luck comes a feeling of freedom. You feel you’re always in the right place at the right time.”
On My Way to a Happy Life is a children’s omBook featuring 7 lessons to help them live a happy and successful life. “There’s something incredible inside of you. It’s the power to make all your dreams come true. The gift you’ve been given is that you can create absolutely anything, whether small or great. So imagine, believe, and set your dreams free. There is no limit to what you can do or be.”
With the Ask the Kabala Oracle Cards app, you will learn how the mystical archetypes of the Old Testament can help you deepen your life and improve your patterns of behavior. Each of the 22 beautifully illustrated cards features one letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each letter is represented by a specific story or character from the Bible and a life lesson or meditation based on that story from a kabalistic perspective.
“Happiness for a reason is just another form of misery because the reason can be taken away from us at any time.” – Deepak Chopra
Join us Wednesday, October 12th at 6pm PDT for our “Pick a Pumpkin, not on a Person” Twitter Party! This month, our very own Spookley the Square Pumpkin is the National Spokes-Pumpkin for PACER’s Bullying Prevention initiative and we’re doing our best to help him spread the word! So on Unity Day, October 12, we’re joining the movement in communities, schools and online as people band together, united against bullying, to show love, support and hope for a kinder future!
Show your support by joining us for a discussion on bullying in our society, and how fun experiences like traveling or new hobbies can expand children’s minds and show them that differences are in fact delightful!
And as always, we’ll give away some fun kids apps for Apple devices, plus a special signed hardcover edition of The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin. Hope you can join us!
Twitter Party Details:
Who: Everyone is welcome!
What: A discussion of bullying prevention!
Where: For Twitter parties it’s best to use Tweetchat, Tweetgrid, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc.
When: Wednesday, October 12 6-7pm PDT
Hashtag: Follow and post with #OMSpookley