Thursday, December 13, 2012

I've been immortalized!

I always do a portrait of one of the students as part of my presentation. After the one I gave today, I was surprised and touched when one of the students came up to me an hour later with a portrait he'd done of me! Thank you, Trevor ! I think it's a brilliant likeness.  I love it!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"I Want to Go to the Moon" shortlisted!

The Chocolate Lily Awards has shortlisted "I Want to Go to the Moon".  I'm so excited! Be sure to click on the "I Want to Go to the Moon"tab near the top of the screen for activities including colouring pages, a crossword puzzle, audio for the song, a spot-the-difference game,  song sheets with ukulele chords, and more.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Explanation of Sprite Sheets

This movie actually makes sense to me. It was a bit of a shock to learn that you can't use videos of your animations inside apps. You need to use a series of stills called sprites. So I make a little animation in Anime Studio pro, export it as a series of stills (.png files), making sure I check the box to export 1/2 the number of frames. Then these .pngs need to be imported into a software that will squeeze all the little images onto a single page called a sprite sheet because this way you use way less memory.

Phew! so much to learn - but it's fun once you get over the hump of knowing absolutely nothing. Patience with being in that frustrating period of initial ignorance and believing it will pass is the secret of learning.

This movie comes from the website for a software called Texture Packer.
SpriteSheets - TheMovie - Part 1 by Code'n'Web

gorgeous multi-platform publication

This breathtaking stop-motion video created by Isobel Knowles has spawned a print book and irresistible soft toys available on Etsy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

12 books in 120 seconds

Another example of book trailer heaven.  The last Lemony Snicket book narrated by Mr Camp himself, Tim Curry

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Robot Media storybuilder

I have been trying out the truly lovely storybook app builder by Robot Media for the past few weeks. This team is out of Barcelona and have produced a clean, pleasing, relatively easy piece of software. No strings and publishable to various platforms. I'm besotted. 

The interface is lovely, beautifully organized, and easy on the eyes.  To use it you need to have all your images in png or jpg format. Storybuilder will tween your stack of pngs for animations. The previewer is instant and really lovely.

Cons so far are:
Nonexistent instructions. There are seven videos on their youtube channel which are not particularly high resolution,  have no narration and the same annoying theme music. They load slowly which makes it hard to scrub back and forth looking for the bit you want. So a tip is to copy the url of the video and paste it into so you can have the 7 video tutorials on your desktop. Studying these videos to learn how to use Storybuilder requires concentrated scrutiny, but I got there.

Functions I'm hoping they'll add:
1. animations can scale up
2. drag and drop into a container, e.g. flowers into a basket
3. being able to choose x,y coordinates of draggable objects.
4. draggable characters can flip horizontally if you drag them in the opposite direction like Nosy Crow's Cinderella.
5. addition of path animation
6. being able to add code for your own special interaction

Here's a little video demo of what I've done so far with my design of The King Has Goat Ears by Katarina Jovanovic and Philipe Beha, published by Tradewind books.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Literary quality and apps

There is a very interesting topic on tonight's #storyappchat twitter chat (6-7pm) that arose out of the article in the Huff Post Education Canada on literary quality and apps, Improving Children's Literature in Digital Spaces by Daniel Donahoo. You can read about tonight's chat on the storyappchat wordpress blog. The easiest way to follow the twitter conversation is by going to a website like and searching for the conversation by writing in #storyappchat. You will need a twitter account in order to contribute to the conversation. V. challenging to quickly and succinctly put together a 140 character point, but fun too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Can a 57-year-old artist learn to code?

Now that I'm interested in creating apps, I find I cannot get past the art creation and design stage to actually publish one if I'm not competent in coding in a relevant computer language. I would need to hire someone to do so, but I don't even have the competency to decide who is competent enough to program my design of a children's app. Alternatively, I would need to enrol with one to the DIY companies that offer templates for you to plug in your art and interactions. (My favourite of these is Kwiksher.)

Enter Bill Martin, a fellow Vancouverite I met at Dust or Magic's App Camp. He is willing to team up with me on the creation and publication of my design for The King Has Goat Ears, based on the wonderful book by Katarina Jovanovich and Philippe Beha.

But all this hunting around for the means and knowledge to publish an app has made me realize that I need to have at least a passing acquaintance with the subject of coding. A search for a format (book, course, online tutorial?) that my brain will take in has led me back, unsurprisingly, to and Simon Allardice's Foundations of Programming video course. I am actually understanding his teaching, surprising because, to quote Adrian Mole, "I'm an intellectual, but I'm not very bright." Or, like most people, I'm smart in some ways, but thick in others.

But to return to the clever and amiable Bill Martin: he's started a Vancouver meetup for anyone interested in children's apps, and that includes parents, librarians, illustrators, authors, programmers, publishers, designers, teachers - anyone interested in this topic. The first meet and greet is scheduled for April 26, 2012. So check out Northwest Apps for Kids if you'd like to join the discussion.

Why Kids should learn to code

Today's guardian online has a stunningly well-written article on why kids should learn to code, and the key concepts they should understand.

" if they don't have a deeper understanding of this stuff then they will effectively be intellectually crippled. They will grow up as passive consumers of closed devices and services, leading lives that are increasingly circumscribed by technologies created by elites working for huge corporations such as Google, Facebook and the like. We will, in effect, be breeding generations of hamsters for the glittering wheels of cages built by Mark Zuckerberg [creator of Facebook] and his kind."

I am not surprised that this has come up in the British press first. When I was creating my show of mechanical interactive fairy tale art for the Burnaby Art Gallery

and was trying to learn basic mechanical concepts, I discovered that British schools include the technology of how to make simple machines in their art courses. Sheesh! I could have used that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

oh no, George! trailer

I am a children's book trailer nut. I just saw this on the Guardian online and love it. The music, the slow rhythmic pacing, colour, humour, delayed punchline. Totally adorable for all ages and perfect for the target audience. A complete delight!
Animation is by and I'm-hugging-myself-with-joy sounds and music by Matt Wand. You can listen to the whole music track here. I just downloaded it and am going to listen to it all day long.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Picturebook app resources

I've been giving talks on picturebook apps and decided it was high time I posted some useful links for people interested in learning more.

As a children’s book author and illustrator, and now academic, I’ve been seeking out information on apps and the possibility of making picturebook apps myself. I believe the best ones are uncluttered and have actions, interactions, and sounds that not only support the narrative but add dimensions of meaning through these additional modes. The best one I’ve seen to date is, apart from a couple of design errors, The Heart and the Bottle based on the print book by Oliver Jeffers. Unfortunately, HarperCollins has not offered any updates to fix the bugs in this wonderful app, and hasn’t replied to my emails.

Here’s a youtube preview of the app. And here's a very nicely written review

A good article introducing picturebook apps as a genre by New York Librarian Elizabeth Bird on School Library Journal

Speaking of Reviews. There are a lot of reviewers but not a lot of thoughtful, intelligent reviews by people who understand picturebooks and early literacy.

Kirkus reviews are okay - descriptive, rather than enlightening. I find their ratings unreliable.

Digital storytime - lists everything, but has very little to say except praising apps for being bright, busy and selling lots

Children's Technology Review editor Warren Buckleitner, a PhD in Educational Psychology and the founder of the Dust or Magic Institute is a wonderful writer on the children’s digital space. He doesn’t mince words and calls digital products evil if they have in-app selling. He has written extensively and brilliantly on what constitutes a great app and hosts the wonderful Children’s Technical Review youtube channel:

However, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of interest in picturebook apps.

The august Horn Book online doesn’t have a separate app review section, but mixes them in with books and other children’s materials in their Out of the Box section.

Touch and Go on Library School Journal site

touch and Go’s top apps of 2011

The Guardian online has arguably the best children’s book section in any paper anywhere. It is absolutely fabulous. Wonderful articles and multimedia features on all children's materials.

Children's App Awards

The indispensable and indefatigable Warren Buckleitner is also behind the KAPi (The Kids at Play Interactive ) award

The other award for children's digital materials is the Bologna Ragazzi Digital Award given out at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

Major developers (aside from Disney)

Vancouver's own Loud Crow - responsible for Pop out! The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the delightful Sandra Boynton books such as Moo Ba La La La

Nosy Crow - London's book and app publisher of Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs. Very exciting company who know their kidlit.

Zinc Roe is the developer of the apps for Marie Louise Gay's Stella and Sam books. They use the voices and art from the TV cartoon. I love Sam but I think they've turned imaginative kidlet Stella into a knowing mom figure which really offends me on a number of levels.

Toca Boca - brilliant Swedish company. Their Robot Lab is huge in Saudi Arabia. Is there a reason for this? Speak up, Saudi fans.

HarperCollins - Book publisher and responsible for commissioning the app of the Heart and the Bottle. Why oh why can't they fix the bugs? I'm begging, please.

OceanHouse Media - massive output of apps of limited interactivity geared to teach reading. Oceanhouse has acquired the rights to Dr. Seuss, Dave McKee's Elmer, and Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books.

Moonbot - started by an old lady children's literature academic (like me!), famous illustrator, and a tv producer. Responsible for the animation-heavy The Fantastic Flying Books of Mister Morris Lessmore

Making your own picturebook app

I confess that I’ve only been labouring on the design of an app for Tradewind Books since September and haven’t made one yet. But I’ve been researching, reading the blogs of other author/illustrators and following their experiences with do-it-yourself software. I’ve been going to seminars, webinars, and online chats, as well as learning how to animate with Anime Studio Pro which seems particularly good for making cut-out animation from existing illustrations.

So if that's where you want to go too, first look at this brilliant slideshow by Dutch team, Visser and Verplancke.

Okay, now that you’ve looked at it, you’ve seen how many steps and different kinds of expertise are involved in making apps. Developers usually have teams of people working on them. However, there are a few people developing software for people who don’t know how to write computer code and who want to make their on apps. Many of them are free but then charge you a bundle to publish the app. The one I like best so far is Kwiksher, a plug-in for photoshop CS5. The interactivity is limited but the big news is that they are working on putting in physics - code that imitates falling, slingshots and sliders, amongst other mechanics. If you don't know what those things are, here are a couple of little demo videos:

For following authors and illustrators who are working on creating ebooks and apps of their books, the best blogs to follow are e is for book and Brooke Jones. Both these blogs are amazingly generous with information and tips. A very interesting community!

Research into Children and Digital Media

A year ago there weren’t many articles written by scholars on children and the ipad (it only came out in 2010!) but more is being written all the time. Unfortunately, you need to be searching Google Scholar while logged into a library site to be able to see the complete text of articles published in scholarly journals if you’re not a subscriber.

However, there are several wonderful organizations doing serious studies on digital media and children and the troubling amount of time kids are spending glued to a screen of some sort.
You can download very reliable and recent studies from The Sesame Street Workshop's Joan Ganz Cooney Center, and from Commonsense Media.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Forays into animation

Working for Tradewind Books on iPad storybook app design for The King has Goat Ears by Katarina Jovanovic and Philippe Beha required that I be able to create small videos as well as image files. After deliberating over whether to buy Toon Boom or Anime Studio Pro, I went for the latter because it seemed better for cut-out animation - I knew I'd be animating picture book illustration rather than traditional frame-by-frame drawing. The first thing I created was the video invite for I Want to Go to the Moon. Then Mike Katz at Tradewinds gave me the job of creating a trailer for their new chapter book Nutz! by Virginia Frances Schwartz and illustrated by Christina Leist. I got the scans of the illustrations from designer Elisa Gutierrez and proceeded to storyboard and create this 35-second video. RascalMedia is my new company for trailers and storybook app design.

Publishers, please take note, Rascal Media is here!

Silken Laumann's kids loved Mr. Got to Go

Very interesting and gratifying video by the extremely articulate Olympic rower Silken Laumann on her children as readers and their love of Mister Got to Go.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Moon chosen!

Wonderful news from the association of Vancouver elementary school principals and vice-principals that Moon has been chosen as this year's book to be given to every school library in Vancouver.

"the book committee [met] last night and everyone absolutely LOVES your book, those of us that have also listened to the CD are absolutely sold on it!"

Amazingly, I had the honour of also being chosen for my last book, Fred and Pete at the Beach,and posted about the wonderful ceremony and children's art on the Fred and Pete blog.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Moon Launch Performances

A video collage of some of the wonderful songs and poems performed at the launch by my talented and generous friends. What a wonderful night! I am so lucky to know so many kind and brilliant people!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vancouver Book Launch

Here's the video invitation for the Vancouver launch of I Want to Go to the Moon by Tom Saunders and illustrated by yours truly. There will be
children's activities, refreshments, book sales and a moon stage for performances featuring the word "moon".
All stage hams are requested to contact me to get your name on the lineup.