The Musings, Notes & Book/App reviews of a Children's Writer

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

A Family-Friendly Reading List For The Season Of Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving, and that means curling up by the fire with family and warding off a bustling wind with heartwarming stories!

book-app-alliance-november-reading-list1Whether you are entertaining the kids while preparing a Thanksgiving feast, searching for unique food-themed stories, or getting ready for an afternoon nap after a thankful meal, this month’s Book App Alliance reading list offers a cornucopia of terrific storiesand entertaining activities you will be grateful for.

As winter approaches and outside time is limited, present your children with educational options that entertain with family-friendly stories from leading independent authors.

The Book App Alliance presents the November Thanksgiving Reading ListA Family-Friendly Reading List For The Season Of Thanksgiving.

You just never know

As the year comes to a close I reflect on the friendships and relationships made this past year. The writing and teaching field has the most supportive people I’ve ever met and I’ve met a lot of people. They’re always willing to share information, opportunities and advice which is always valuable.

I recently met Monica Babaian in a twitter chat Story app chat that meets on Sundays at 8pm central. She’s a Tech savvy Librarian and i’m a Digital Author/aspiring Art Teacher. We even live in the same state but our paths might never have crossed had it not been for this chat. Her site is a great resource for parents and teachers which I plan on visiting often. The result of our meeting was an amazing app review with educational tie-ins and resources. It’s a great way to end the year and  as I look forward to the New Year, my resolution is to keep looking forward because you just never know where the next friend, opportunity or great idea will come from.

The review below was re-blogged from: http://innovativelibrarianship.blogspot.com/2013/12/storybook-app-grendels-great-escape-by.html

Storybook App: Grendel’s Great Escape by Michelle Anaya

Grendel’s Great Escape is a storybook app for both iPad and Android by children’s author and creator of Blue Sandpiper Imprints, Michelle Anaya (@bluesandpiper).

Grendel’s Great Escape is about a boy named Martin, who takes his pet ferret, Grendel, to school for show and tell. But when it’s Martin’s turn to present for show and tell, Grendel is missing! The entire school turns into a chaotic mess as Martin and his friends try to find Grendel while avoiding the wrath of the school’s principal, Mr. B.

What I really like about this storybook app is that it includes a long list of ferret facts at the end of the story. The storybook app also has its own curriculum for helping students develop reading strategies, which teachers and school librarians will find handy. For those teachers and school librarians who are allowed to have animals in their classrooms and libraries, a pet ferret would be a great way to make text-to-self connections with Grendel’s Great Escape.

Grendel’s Great Escape includes two screens of ferret facts!

Another possible way to use Grendel’s Great Escape in the classroom or library is to extend the storybook and reading strategies lesson into a science unit from Discovery Education (@DiscoveryEd), which has a couple of videos on ferrets and animal habitats. Yet another way – let students use online databases and encyclopedias to create their own list of ferret facts. Activities like these help students create text-to-world connections.

The storybook integrates interactive features throughout the book, including one page in which the reader can squirt ketchup or mustard all over the screen — something kids will surely enjoy. Readers have the option to turn the narration and music on or off. Blue Sandpiper Imprints recommends this storybook app for ages 4 and up. The Android version of Grendel’s Great Escape is $2.99, and the iPad version is $3.99.

For more information about Grendel’s Great Escape and other fun storybook apps from Blue Sandpiper, please visit their website.

 

December Picture book of the month

This post is a little late this month but life happens. It’s been hectic to say the least with work, family and getting ready for the holidays etc.

Author Visit with 1st gradersIt’s always a nice surprise to stumble across a really good Christmas story. A few days ago I walked into an elementary school library for a story-time visit with a group of the cutest first graders. There it was laying precariously on the top of a stack of returns, just waiting to be discovered.

 

 

 

 

 

Snowmen at Christmas by Carolyn Buehner is happy little tale that’s cleverly told in rhyme and asks an interesting question. How do snowmen celebrate? I had to find out, so I read it to the children and satisfied my curiosity and theirs. This book is a real treat and I highly recommend adding it to your holiday reading list.

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Excerpt: One Christmas eve, I made a snowman, very fat and jolly. I dressed him up in red and green and trimmed his hat with holly. I saw his arms trembling as if he couldn’t wait. It made me start to wonder, how do snowmen celebrate?.

These snowmen really do Christmas in a big way. You’ll find out just how much while enjoying a great holiday read with your family.

In the Spotlight! illustrator Victor Guiza

The first time that I discovered Victor Guiza’s illustrations online, I immediately realized that I’d seen his work before. Vic had illustrated one of my son’s favorite book apps called Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island . I loved his style of illustrations and knew that I wanted to work with him. vic

 

Vic’s creativity has no boundaries and he’s very intuitive in merging the Authors vision with the project’s needs. As an artist myself I knew exactly how I wanted the artwork to look but I also knew when it was time to step out-of-the-way and let him create his magic. The way the Monster Jam monster characters were brought to life went way beyond my expectations.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Vic and he had lots of wonderful nuggets to impart about his interesting and successful career.

Have you always known that you wanted to be an illustrator? When did you realize that this was your true calling.

When I was about 10 years old, I had a neighbor who was a professional comic book illustrator. I was a creative child and had always enjoyed drawing, but my childhood dream was to become a pilot. I had never been very good with math and math is key with that profession.  One day my neighbor asked me if I wanted to be a professional illustrator. If so , I would have to study and practice daily.  He challenged me, and when I discovered the many exciting things I could create, I decided that I wanted to be a comic book artist instead of a pilot.

What types of art or artists inspired you along the way?

Music is a great source of inspiration, as well as movies and architecture. I really enjoy sound tracks. I admire comic book artists like Moebius from France, Katsuhiro Otomo from Japan, Oscar Martin from Spain and Humberto Ramos from Mexico among many others. I also love hyper realistic paint from Benjamin Orozco, and Alex Ross.

You have an amazing body of work, what type of projects have you had the most fun with? 

Children books, definitely! So far the stories are pure magic and so challenging. In a comic book you have at least 22 pages and about 5 panels in each page to tell a story, in Children books you have only 10 to 15 illustrations to narrate the same story.

Do you approach illustrating a comic differently than a picture book?

Absolutely! comic storytelling have to follow a “movie like” direction and perspective while picture books are more singular in which action is the climax of the text from each page.

Where you get your ideas or inspiration?

I look at other artist works as inspiration, I see fun in life daily, I dream a lot, but my true inspiration comes directly from the source. My inner source.

Vic Guiza iLLustrator Vic at work creating a picture book character

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwtkgvLa_fU

Contact: Vic Guiza at www.vicguiza.com

vic example

A visit with the Author Jonathan Ayre

Welcome to the first of the Interview Series where I’ll be picking the brains of some of the most creative people in the KidLit world.

I’ve recently discovered the Hatty the Tiger brand which has two amazing picture books and a book app. The stories are beautifully told with great messages such as good eating habits, strength of character and being different.

I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to chat with Jonathan Ayre.  Jonathan is the writer, illustrator and creator of this unique brand. The theme song “The Hatty Rap” is catchy and my son and  I absolutely love it. I’m sure your kids will love to see the  Hatty Rap video.

THE TIGER WHO WASN'T! COVER

HATTY & THE HARD BEANS! coverThe Tiger That Wasn't

App Store link   Android version on GOOGLE Play

Here’s what Jonathan had to share…..

Q: Tell us about yourself and the Hatty brand?

Jonathan: I’ve been a writer for most of my life through short stories, songs, screenplays and magazine articles, and my books about Hatty the tiger, grew out of stories I made up for my own young children. They’re six years-old now, and although as a family we are not vegetarians, they’ve grown up enjoying lots of different fruits and vegetables and I realize how lucky we are with this. Hatty became a vegetarian tiger because  in a world where ‘junk food’ is advertised so much, I hoped that if my children knew why fruit and veg were ‘cool’ and good to eat, it would help them to make better choices on their own. Being vegetarian, was also a way to make Hatty a more gentle tiger and take him away from the usually ferocious stereotype. Among a feast of wonderful books that are out there, I like to believe the Hatty stories have helped my own children to think ‘outside the (junk) box’!.

Q: What makes this brand unique?

Jonathan: Well, because Hatty is a vegetarian tiger it throws up a lot of other issues apart from just diet. There’s peer-pressure, fear and isolation involved, as well as important character issues like conviction, persistence, kindness and individuality. Hatty is not a ‘goody-goody’, and his behavior and ideas aren’t always the best, but he tries hard and has a lot of fun on the way to learning his lessons, and I’d say that this is the essence of the ‘brand’: A fun and unexpected way of educating children about  issues of diet, cooking and character.

Q: What age range would this brand appeal to?

Jonathan: 3-8 years-old would be the main age group to read the Hatty books, ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ and the sequel, ‘Hatty And The Hard Beans!’ Though I teach children up to 14 in writing and illustration workshops based on the books, I always read the books to the younger ones. Having said that, everyone likes to be read to, and because the books are written in fun, rhyming couplets, I often get requests on school visits to read to classes up to 10 years old.

Q: What sort of feedback have you received so far?

Jonathan: Quite honestly, the reviews for both books have been terrific – and the app which has only been out for a few weeks is just now starting to receive reviews. The direct feedback I get from parents and teachers on my school tours has been really positive and I get lots of letters from the children after my visits, with ideas for new Hatty adventures  or telling me their favorite parts of the books. Hatty really seems to resonate with many of them and I feel inspired by the discussions and the issues his character raises.

Q: What lead to the decision to create “The Tiger Who Wasn’t” into an app as opposed to an eBook? 

Jonathan: Actually, I did make an eBook of, ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ while I was making the app. The whole business is so relatively new that I wanted to see how each part works and the eBook was a small expense since I did the work myself. However, making an app is THE way to go – and I was never in any doubt that I would do it. From the first time I saw my children ‘playing’ with a book app and enjoying the feedback and interaction (with a great story of course) I realized that the future of electronic picture books would never be a straightforward eBook..

Q: Tell us about your app!  What is your favorite feature and what would you like to convey to the end-user? 

Jonathan: It was a lot of fun making the story come to life – literally – with tap animations, original music and sound fx. I’ve seen a lot of storybook apps where I’ve been impressed with the technical side of their presentation, but the essence of them, a good story, has been lost in a lot of bells and whistles. I would like to think that the solid heart of ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ is a really fun and touching story that young children can actively get involved with and learn from. It still makes me smile to see the joy and laughter that children get when they make the animals move or the skunk fart!! Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great games and activities included with the app also, like the Coloring Pages, Hatty’s Hide & Seek’, or ‘Hatty’s Avocado Roll (all 20 skill levels of it), but I like to think that these are unexpected and enjoyable features that complement the story. For me, the story remains the star part of the app and includes 3 different  ‘reading’ versions and text highlighting, together with the original music and fx.

Q: What’s been the most difficult part of creating an app? 

Jonathan: Raising the money to make it, was pretty tough! Thankfully, the books were very well received by the local school in Cyprus where I live, and having written, illustrated and published them myself, the children, teachers and parents here were fantastic. I had many sales through recommendations and word of mouth and, Ruth, the owner of a local bookstore, ‘The Moufflon Bookshop’, was incredibly helpful and supportive in helping me get the word out across the island. Apart from that, having raised the money, it was a question of how to get the most value for the consumer out of the ideas we had. The developers I finally chose, Dragonpencil of Savannah, Georgia, were brilliant here; guiding me through the process with their expertise and experience, and opening my eyes to new possibilities.

Q: Now that your app is published, were there any unexpected surprises during the process? 

Jonathan: It took 6 months to make the app from the day I signed my contract with Dragonpencil, the developers. There were many surprises which came from going through that process of drawing, animating, making the sound fx and seeing it all come to life. During the process I was wracking my brains as to how I would publicize it, and probably the biggest surprise is that this turned out to be a music video, ‘The Hatty Rap!’ The first person I sent this to, having posted it on my website and YouTube, was Karen Robertson(The Empress of App!). Her positive and immediate response was a big and wonderful surprise. Feedback from those who have earned your respect is a great feeling.

Q: Any words of advice for other writers who are thinking about creating apps? 

Jonathan: Trust your dreams, buy an iPad, research as much as possible before you start – and NEVER underestimate the intelligence of children! Apart from that, it’s vital you choose your developer carefully: A good one will help you realize your dream, while a bad one will cramp it or kill it. Generally – to be happy – work for the heights, but expect the lows! That way you’ll always be pleasantly surprised and never disappointed

Q: Between the book & the book app? Which has had better sales results & is that what you expected. 

Jonathan: The app has only just come out and is doing well so far, whereas my books have been out for a year. Apart from selling the books on Amazon etc, I also offer personally signed copies with free worldwide mailing direct from my website. It’s all PayPal, so customers know they are protected and they seem to like the signed copies. It’s more time investment for me and expense with mailing and packing, but in the end the revenue is the same for me as selling on Amazon, and it’s a more personal touch for customers. Dollar-wise my book revenue is still ahead because the app is brand new, but because sales are totally dependent on marketing and lucky breaks, every single sale  – whether it be a book or an app – means that someone else is enjoying my work and there’s no dollar figure for that feeling!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

Jonathan: Have fun. Making an app is a journey and giving it a deadline can be your best friend. It can rarely be perfect in your eyes, because you’re learning all the time. The important thing is to enjoy the process and give as much as you can. The smile on a child’s face when they first get their hands on your app is a thrill that never fades!

The Tiger That Wasn't

App: The Tiger Who Wasn’t

App Store link

Android version on GOOGLE Play

Music video (Gotta watch!)http://youtu.be/cgUOiJO5ywU

Hatty Books

website: www.hattybooks.com

Social Media links: FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hatty-the-Tiger/216463078458985

Reviewing a book or app in the iTunes app store

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Book and book app reviews are the nicest compliment and reward you can give a writer. It is a gift that keeps giving because it not only helps others to make their decision but it helps to boost visibility in search engines as well. There’s no doubt about it, user reviews carry a lot of weight and are usually a trustworthy source of advise in a market saturated with reading material.

Ok are you ready to write a review online in the iTunes app store? where do you start?

  1. Enter the iTunes app store  Image
  2. Locate the app by clicking on the category ex: books, games or entering the name in the search bar in the top right corner & click enter.
  3. Once you’ve found the app, click on the app’s name, the app information will open in a new window.
  4. To the right of the icon you’ll see the words “Ratings and Reviews”

below will be the option to “write a review” click on the words.

You’ll now be able to leave a rating by clicking on the 5 stars as well as filling out the review box.

There you have it. Now get ready…set….write!   (BTW leave one for me while you’re at it)

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Finding the app

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Leaving a review

Video Instructions

Are free apps really free?

images-1 We all like free stuff, I know I do! But is anything worth having really free. When visiting the app store everyone bypasses the paid apps & zooms straight to the free app section …. but what are you really getting?

  1. Annoyingly frequent pop ups; In some apps these are so frequent it’s difficult to get to the game.
  2. In app purchases; the free-ness $0, is of course a lure to get you to down load & play for a while or read a few pages of a book at which point a purchase must be made to continue.
  3. External links to other sites selling you even more stuff.

My advise: Get the paid apps, they’re cheaper in the short run with one upfront minimal cost. usually $.99c – & $4.99 If the app’s for a child, then this is definitely your best & safest option as they’re… imgres

1. No Pop ups

2. No ads

3. No third-party prompts to take them to strange uncensored sites.

4. No child begging you to buy points, virtual stuff etc.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky & a paid app will go free or on sale as a promotion. If you like a game or book app, sign up on the developers site to get notified when good apps go free. If you’re still unsure about buying an app, read the reviews listed by other users, go to the developers site to get more info or one of the many app review sites listed below.

 

For examples of reviews & sites visit Blue sandpiper   Logo

 

Need more info or have anything to add? leave me a comment below, I love comments & questions.  

 

Here are some really good app review sites Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.05.17 PM Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.30.40 PM     Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.03.50 PM

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