Archive for the 'Books' Category

Moving the Needle with Kids Interactive Media

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

In the final weeks of 2014, I spent a lot of time reviewing all of the kidtech product I had seen throughout the year. In part, taking stock of the past year’s digital playthings was related to providing recommendations as a judge for the KAPi Awards (KAPi meaning Kids at Play Interactive.) The KAPi’s are an industry award for innovation and outstanding design in children’s interactive media. While you can find the complete list of KAPI award winners here, there were a handful of products that didn’t make the list that are worth mentioning. The product may have been too old for kids, or was not digital, or was simply a book. I thought it might be helpful for others to see some of these additional products that, in this reviewers opinion, are deserving of high praise for moving the interactive industry forward in 2014.

Here’s my list…

The Book with No Pictures – by B.J. Novak

The Book with No Pictures is a breakthrough in children's books The first item on my list is not an app. It does not require batteries, and no assembly required. It’s a children’s book. Buy it, find a four or five year old child to read it to, and let the fun begin. If you don’t have a young child send it as a gift to someone who does. As an adult, don’t over analyze why this book works for young children. It’s silly, appropriately speaks to its target audience, and it just works. I call this book out because of the disruption it’s caused in the children’s book world, and because it can help teach app developers to think about alternative approaches to content creation. Break outside of self-imposed barriers to creating content in any medium.

Monument Valley

Beautiful art and engaging game play can be found in the Escher-esk app called Monument ValleyI fell in love with this app earlier in 2014. The artwork is absolutely beautiful, the Escher-esk puzzles are fun and challenging. It did win a KAPi Awards for best app for older kids, but teens and adults will greatly enjoy it as well. It’s only flaw is that the app eventually ends. It’s a game you wish would go on forever. But fear not, the makers of Monument Valley released an additional content download late in the year to extend the challenge with additional levels of play. This app sets the bar very high for the rest of the industry. Currently it’s the yardstick I use to measure against all other apps.


From the makers of You Don't Know Jack, the social game of FibbageHere’s one you won’t find on any kids list. The game of Fibbage is rated T for Teen, and is a major hit at parties for adults young and old. They’re many things to say about this game. First, do you remember the You Don’t Know Jack titles from years ago? Well, Fibbage was developed by the same creative folks! The game uses a series of fill in the blank phrases, and audience members try to give a response, or a lie, that throws others into voting for your answer. After a short number of rounds the player with the most votes wins. It’s easy to learn, and the humor grows as more people play. But here’s what I really appreciate about this game. In an age of over the top 3D graphics, and deep story lines, and super slick characters and properties, Fibbage is incredibly simple console game, and in a sense a minimalist approach to game play that beats all other games it competes with. It’s also designed to work easily with any kind of smartphone, and you don’t have to be in the same room to play with others. You can have team members from around the world compete with you! Be forewarned there’s crude humor and fart noise throughout. If you can put that aside you will be amazed at how much fun this game is. As a developer, you will appreciate the beauty and simplicity of it’s design.


Photo of the Osmo interactive gameInteractive products that successfully marry together fun interactivity software with physical objects can be counted on just one hand. The industry is littered with virtual and digital product combination failures. Osmo, another KAPi Award winner, stands as one of the shining example in this category. The product can be purchased at most Apple retail stores, and comes bundled with physical pieces to play three games, along with the three apps you download for free to play those games. There’s a fun and challenging tangram puzzle, single or multi player spelling games, and a drawing game where you control the direction of falling virtual balls based on what you draw. It’s a clever set of games and I can’t wait to see what new products this company announces in 2015.

Positive Digital Content for Kids

Image of the book Positive Digital Content for KidsThere are two things I really admire together; great design and insightful articles about the interactive industry. This beautifully designed online book includes both! It’s a free, informative guide for developers, complete with excellent interviews from leading children’s product developers like the BBC, Ravensburger, and Toca Boca. Interactive media designers, play designers, and print designers can learn a lot about making successful products and great designs for kids from this book. Another must read for product producers. For me, it was one of the best finds of 2014. Now download a copy and enjoy, but do know the book is also available in a limitedprint run.

Google Cardboard

Photo of Google CardboardRegardless of what you may think of this deal, the world of virtual reality took a giant step forward in 2014 with the acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook. What many people may not be able to see is just how fast the VR space is moving. Google Cardboard is a great example of that breakneck speed. Cardboard is an innovative, low cost solution to experience virtual reality. Folding together a pre-perfed cardboard mailer and sticking your Android compatible phone in the back allows anyone access to a compelling VR experience. The idea itself suggests that a lot can be done with VR in short, affordable bursts. The Google Cardboard initiative is definitely thinking outside the box. Watch for many copycats in the coming months.

Moff Band

Photo of the Moff Band interactive productThe Moff Band is a set of two flexible wrist bands that communicate motion activity of your arms back to an Apple tablet or smartphone. That motion drives a simple sound effects app. Ever play air drums and wish you could enhance the experience with the perfect set of well orchestrated rhythm effects? Ever have a wooden spoon and needed the audio support to make you feel like you dueling with Zorro? Or maybe a princess’ magic wand is more your style, complete with sparkle sounds? The Moff Band provides a great audio backdrop to your pretend play. The product was a huge Kickstarter success in Japan earlier in the year, and is now just making its way to the US. Watch for it in 2015.

Press Here – by Hervé Tullet

Image of the Press Here children's book by Hervé TulletI’ll end my list with another children’s book. Press Here is not just another great children’s book, it’s an excellent example of how to capture the spirit of great interactivity. In a sense it’s a new breed of books, one the feels like the author spent a lot of time studying the world of successful kids apps and theater of the mind, and folded the two into the book’s pages. Anyone working in the industry must experience this book with a child. This is not simply a book for techie wonks. Kids love it. You will love it. It’s a great addition to a young child’s library as well as your professional library.

Have you used any of the above products? Have you read any of these books? Have thoughts about other products that should be added to this list? Leave a comment below to share with others!

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A Year of Children’s Conferences

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Photo of a conference hall

Where do you go to stay smart in the kids interactive industry? What conferences keep you on top of your craft, while also helping you grow your network? What events are vital to attend to learn the latest trends? There are so many conferences these days which ones are right for you? Look no further, here’s a compiled conference list to get you started! It covers areas of the children’s interactive media business like toys, eBooks, video games, children’s television, apps, play, research, consumer products, and more. The list below covers most of the big US and international shows in 2015, and just a few important smaller events.

You can download a PDF copy of this list here. Let us know what you think. Which events do you attend? What speakers draw you to an event? If there’s an event that’s not on this list, and you think it’s important, please let us know in the comments below.

# Conference w link Location Date(s) Focus
1 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Las Vegas, NV 1/6-9/15 Hardware, tech
2 Kids@Play Las Vegas, NV 1/7/15 KidTech
3 Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair Hong Kong 1/12-15/15 Toys
4 Digital Book World New York, NY 1/13-15/15 eBooks
5 FETC Orlando, FL 1/20-23/15 Ed tech
6 PAXsouth San Antonio, TX 1/23-25/15 Gaming
7 Nuremburg Toy Fair Nuremburg 1/28-2/2/15 Toys
8 NY Toy Fair New York, NY 2/14-17/15 Toys
9 Digital Kids Conference New York, NY 2/15-17/15 KidTech
10 Kidscreen Summit Miami, FL 2/23-26/15 Broadcast, Children’s TV
11 iKids Miami, FL 2/26/15 KidTech
12 Game Developers Conference (GDC) San Fran, CA 3/2-6/15 Gaming
13 PAXeast Boston, MA 3/6-8/15 Gaming
14 SXSWedu Austin, TX 3/9-12 2015 Education
15 SXSW Gaming Expo Austin, TX 3/13-16/15 Gaming
16 SXSW Interactive Austin, TX 3/13-17/15 Interactive
17 SXSW Music Austin, TX 3/17-22/15 Music
18 Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Philadelphia, PA 3/19-21/15 Research
19 Sandbox Summit Cambridge, MA 3/22-24/15 Play
20 Dust or Magic Masterclass Bologna 3/25/15 eBooks
21 Bologna Children’s Book Faire Bologna 3/30-4/2/15 Books
22 Early Education & Technology for Children (EETC) Salt Lake City, UT 3/15 Early ed, edtech
23 London Book Fair London, UK 4/14-16/15 Books
24 Games for Change New York, NY 4/21-23/15 Serious games
25 Dust or Magic eBook Retreat Honesdale, PA 4/15 eBooks
26 PlayCon Scottsdale, AZ 4/29-5/1/15 Toys
27 Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) San Fran, CA 5/3-5/15 Ed tech
28 Maker Faire Bay Area San Mateo, CA 5/16-17/15 Maker
29 Book Expo America (BEA) New York, NY 5/27-29/15 eBooks
30 AppCamp Pacific Grove, CA 5/30-6/2/15 Children’s Apps
31 “Content in Context (CIC, AAP) Wash DC 6/1-3/15 Ed publishing
32 NAEYC Professional Development conference New Orleans, LA 6/7-10/15 Early ed
33 Licensing Expo Las Vegas, NV 6/9-11/15 Licensing
34 Digital Media & Learning (DML) LA, CA 6/11-13/15 Ed tech
35 E3 LA, CA 6/16-18/15 Gaming
36 Interaction Design & Children (IDC) Medford, MA 6/21-24/15 Research
37 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Philadelphia, PA 6/28-7/1/15 Ed tech
38 Children’s Media Conference (Professional) Sheffield, UK 7/1-3/15 Broadcast
39 Playful Learning Summit Maddison, WI 7/7/15 Serious games
40 Games, Learning & Society (GLS) Maddison, WI 7/8-10/15 Serious games
41 ComicCom San Diego, CA 7/9-12/15 Entertainment
42 International Reading Association (IRA) St. Louis, MO 7/17-20/15 Education, reading
43 Serious Play LA, CA 7/15 Serious games
44 Casual Connect San Fran, CA 8/11-13/15 Gaming
45 Burning Man Black Rock Desert, NV 8/29-9/5/15 Art, mind
46 Digital Kids Summit San Fran, CA 9/15 KidTech
47 World Congress of Play San Fran, CA 9/15 Toys
48 Maker Faire New York New York, NY 9/26-27/15 Maker
49 MIP Jr. Cannes, France 10/2-4/15 Children’s television
50 MDR EdNet Atlanta, GA 10/4-6/15 Ed tech
51 MIPcom Cannes, France 10/5-8/15 Television
52 Fall Toy Preview Dallas, TX 10/6-8/15 Toys
53 Meaningful Play East Lansing, MI 10/15 Serious games
54 CineKid Amsterdam ~10/18-22/15 Interactive
55 Dust or Magic Lambertville, NJ 11/1-3/15 Kidtech, children’s apps
56 NAEYC Annual Conference TBA 11/15 Early ed
57 ChiTAG Chicago, IL 11/20-23/15 Toys
58 SIIA Education Business Forum New York, NY 12/15 Ed tech
59 Star Wars Episode VII release US 12/18/15 Entertainment

NOTE: Items highlighted in red indicate specifics about an event that have yet to be announced as of 11/10/2014.

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Need-to-know Advice for Publishing in the Digital Age

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

[This article was originally written for the Association of American Publishers (AAP) PreK-12 Learning Group and can be found here.]

What do traditional publishers need to know to enter the digital world of publishing?

The publishing world has been on the edge of major change now for well over a decade. Digital media and all the different content delivery platforms are here to stay, and the traditional print model is being challenged in many ways publishers have wished to avoid. I find myself in discussions where the old adage “Video killed the radio star” keeps coming up. The reality however is that video didn’t really kill the radio star, but it did change the future of radio forever. The same is true today with interactive devices, tablets, and smart phones. Traditional publishing is now and forever changed as a result of digital.

I’ve worked in interactive product development for over 20 years now and put together a few thoughts about what is important to know in making the leap to digital. What “must-have” knowledge is important, and why? I offer you these top five observations.

Interactive media is different

That sounds obvious, but many publishers have difficulty in grasping the finer nuances of interactive media. Print media is largely a one-way conversation. Interactive media at its best draws in the user, as a participant, often times creating a two-way interactive conversation. Interactive content, the user interface, and the user experience are often different and unique for each user group or age. In print we may talk about the correct language level of the written word. In interactive there are usability considerations. In a nutshell passive media, like books, magazines, television, and movies, has a viewer; interactive media has a user.

Understand the strengths (and place) of engineers and executive editors

I’ve seen many a publisher hire a hot-shot engineer and relinquish all product development control to that person. The thinking is that “They should know how to make a successful product. They’re the engineer!” Unless that engineer has a great depth of experience in content, usability or instructional design, you are about to make the world’s worst interactive product. Related to this observation (and many people will hate what I have to share next,) the same can be said about the executive editor. Editors often have a wealth of print and content experience and little to no interactive experience. This too is a common mistake, and one that really ruffles feathers at traditional publishers. There is a place for the editor, just as there is a place for the engineer, but knowing what talent works on what part of the project to make the best interactive learning experience is an effort in rethinking through the expertise of each member of your team. Traditional roles do not port to digital in a straight-forward way. Be prepared for some disruption.

Have a road map

The best interactive products have a development plan. Before a single line of code is written or pixel created in Photoshop a detailed plan is created that defines the product. Often times this road map for development is referred to as a design document, or design spec. Complex projects might also have a technical spec. These documents are not only helpful to bring an entire team up to speed about what exactly is being built, but they are also important documents for your quality assurance (or QA) testers. How will your development and QA team know when your product is actually done without a defined plan to compare against?

[Related article: Want to Make an App for Kids? — Getting Started]

Test your product

There are a few different ways to test an interactive product, and all approaches are invaluable. First off, the quality assurance part of a project is not a line item expense that can be eliminated. I have seen executives cross it right off of a product plan as an unnecessary expense. Many cost conscious publishers mistakenly decide that quality assurance testing need not be part of something they’re working on. While you may have absolute faith in the content portion of your product because your team knows content, the best software development teams rely on QA testing to help improve the finished product. Many a product fails within moments after its release due to sloppy development, or even simple innocent coding mistakes that should have been caught and corrected during the QA process.

Test with an audience

An even bigger oversight is not testing a product during development with the target audience. A common complaint I hear from educational product companies is that kids are so engaged by videogames and television that they can’t compete from an interest or engagement perspective in the classroom. Well, what is it that game developers and broadcasters do to help ensure that kids love their products? They test their products with their target audience! When have you ever heard of such a thing in the publishing world?! That’s crazy talk right? Well, as different media formats mature, it might not be such a crazy idea in the future to test your interactive product out with the target audience that will ultimately use them. User testing could be the new normal in publishing. Even if you think the idea of user testing is crazy, trust me, you will learn something. At very least you will learn new, invaluable ways to shape future products. I can guarantee it.

[Related article: Kid Testing and Facebook — What? Are You Crazy?!]

While there are additional points I could add, having an understanding with the above list is a great place to start. Shipping a quality product by traditional publishing means is always hard and takes a team years of experience to master. Shipping a quality interactive product that engages an audience in the digital world is also hard. Understanding the differences between old and new media types is essential for future product success, and providing a path to step confidently into the future of digital publishing.

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James Paul Gee on Video Games and Learning

Monday, December 28th, 2009

James Paul Gee, noted expert on video games and learning

If you’re attending a conference on forward thinking ways to help kids learn, or maybe an event on learning through video games, chances are you will be listening to thoughts offered by James Paul Gee. Dr. Gee is a noted expert on the topic of video games and learning. He is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University and is a member of the National Academy of Education. His work has been published widely in journals in linguistics, psychology, the social sciences and education. Dr. Gee’s recent book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy argues that good video games are designed to enhance learning through effective learning principles supported by research in the Learning Sciences. His new book, Women and Gaming: The Sims and 21st Century Learning, written with Elisabeth R Hayes, will be available this coming May, 2010. At the recent Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age conference held at the Google headquarters, I had the opportunity to speak with James. You can view a short video of my interview with Dr. Gee on the Cooney Center YouTube channel or read the complete interview below. Portions of this interview were edited for clarity:


What successes do you see in the learning games movement?

Why do you think games are not perceived as effective learning tools?

Would a funding approach that is similar to public television be a good model for the learning games industry?

What excites you when you see kids developing their own games?

How are learning games best used to accelerate learning?


Scott Traylor: Where do you think things stand today with the learning games movement? What successes do you see?

James Paul Gee: Successes have been slow in coming, much more slowly than I would have thought, but they are coming. What I’m seeing is the beginning of noncommercial games for learning.

Looking back on the gaming industry, developers made products that were expectable, products that were designed by baby boomers and made by principles of instructional technology. These games didn’t break the mold, and didn’t break out of a pattern. They were not good games and did not include good learning. Today we’re beginning to see games being developed by young game designers who understand learning and understand game design. They’re making good games, and they are making things that work. Over the next few years we’re going to see a real explosion in better products. Some of this has to do with the appearance of the independent game studios. In the commercial world the independent games community has been very slow to develop. For a while there really was none, but now with downloading services across all major platforms, you’re seeing many independent games being developed. Games like Flower and Braid, made with relatively small budgets, but they are really top games. Independent games like these are doing as well as many of the commercial games out on the market, and they’re setting the standard for so called “serious games,” games that have the ability to teach. If we can make commercial games that are as good as Flower or Braid for a modest budget, we certainly can make games in the learning sphere that are equally as good. (Return to Question Picker)

Traylor: Why do you think games are not perceived as effective learning tools?

Gee: I think the major reasons are cultural, along with the slow development of an independent game industry, but also the power of baby boomers. People of my age, baby boomers, have theories and are in relatively solid positions in institutions. They get to call the shots, but this is a changed world. We’re talking about learning and using technologies that people under thirty know a lot more about. It’s not surprising when they apply our theories and do a better job than when we applied our theories. I think that’s all good, we need to release that creative energy.

The other thing you touch on, and it’s a very serious matter, is that we really don’t have many new business models. Think about it. We’re trying to make things that do social good, but if the social good is done for free, it dies when the grant ends. Right? We now realize we have to think about how to make products that can go on for a long period of time, and at some level earn enough money to sustain themselves while still doing social good. Lots of people are now thinking about how we can create new and innovative business models so that everybody wins. Models that allow people to make enough money and at the same time spur new businesses, new enterprises to open up, models which will help everybody benefit. Until we really get that down, what you’ll end up seeing are products that are made on government dollars that die the day the grant is over. The same is true with academic research, the day the grant money stops coming in the research stops. (Return to Question Picker)

Traylor: Would you suggest a financial approach that is similar to public television? Would that be a good model for growing a learning games industry?

Gee: There’s going be a whole new set of models. Open source, the public sharing of programming resources, is one very important area. A public television model around games that would include both design workshops as well as giving out products, and also encouraging consumers to make products, would certainly be one model. We just have to have new models for new businesses. There are going to be “double bottom line” businesses; businesses that are committed to social good by solving our educational problems but these same businesses would be committed to making money. Making money not just to enrich individuals, but to also keep the social good going. There are a number of models we can think of for that. As is true of many academics, we didn’t think that business models were important. Now people are starting to see that business models are needed to bring about long-term impact. (Return to Question Picker)

Traylor: What excites you when you see kids developing their own games?

Gee: I’m excited that so many young people today are taking gaming beyond gaming. They’re not just playing games. They’re making games. They’re designing things for games. They’re setting up discussions and guilds and websites around games. They’re learning new software, software that contributes to these sites and discussions and products. And very often, they organize themselves into learning communities to do all of this. Their passion for learning in these communities grows beyond their passion for the games themselves. In other words, it’s a trajectory towards learning communities, and towards thinking like a designer, and producing, and not just consuming, that some of our best games give rise to.

The video game Spore is a great example. Spore is designed so that you play, and then you design, and then you play, and you join a community, and you get the products you have designed to appear within the game, and then you design with others collaboratively. This game provides very good tools to do that. Anyone, from the very young to the very old, can play.

Another great example is the game Little Big Planet. There’s a whole bunch of products coming out that say why don’t you see playing and designing as things you can do together in a game. These things are integrated together, so the game becomes as much your product as it is ours, and becomes a community event and not just an individual event. The lessons here for education are massive, because it means we’re going have to start designing, not just pieces of software, but ways for people to set up learning communities that they’re productive within. (Return to Question Picker)

Traylor: So the perception that learning games alone will result in really good learning outcomes, is not the full story. What you’re saying is that learning games, supported by learning communities, are really the combination that accelerates the learning opportunity?

Gee: Those of us who study learning games make the distinction between a game, which is just the software, and the game with a capital “G”, which is the whole set of social learning interactions built around the game. We used to argue, if you’re going to use games for learning, you have to have a community of learning built around the game. Now the commercial industry realizes you won’t make money if you don’t build a learning community around the game. It’s an integral part to gaming, to participate in a collaborative community around the game.

My work has never been that of an advocate to put games into schools. That’s a fine thing to do, but that’s not what my work is about. It’s about putting the learning found in games into schools, learning that’s centered on problem solving and collaboration.

In school students get a bunch of facts and information. You can’t solve problems with it, so you get nothing. The interesting thing is if I make you solve a problem, and I really design the experience of that problem, guiding you and mentoring you, which is what good game design does, you get problem solving and you get facts and information, because you have to learn that in order to solve the problem. I will also get you to collaborate in a community where you might even innovate. You’re going to design new things and do new stuff. I want to see that model go into schools and that model doesn’t have to be a game. We can do that in the world in many different ways.

The other thing I really want to stress about games is that, in my opinion, it’s not a good idea to try to teach a whole curriculum through games. Industries are building up to try to do this. It’s too expensive. We want to learn in many different ways. Games are particularly good for preparation for future learning. If you want to motivate somebody in an area like chemistry or physics, a game is an ideal way to not only motivate that learning, to get learners to see why you do it, what is good about it, why it would be a turn on to do it, but it also prepares them to get ready for learning in the future. That future learning doesn’t have to occur in games. We tend to get obsessed with one platform, but just like in the world where kids don’t just game, they also go on the internet, and they write fiction, and they mod games. They do a whole bunch of stuff. We want our curriculum to be a whole bunch of stuff as well. (Return to Question Picker)

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Finding Fun with Children’s Books

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Every now and then I’m asked by a new parent or friends of new parents for children’s book recommendations, so today I thought I’d take a short break from kids tech-talk to post some of my favorites. I want to thank Amy Kraft over at Media Macaroni for introducing me to the No Time for Flash Cards blog. This site’s a great find that promotes play, discovery and learning with preschoolers in mind. A recent post asking for favorite children’s books reminded me that I’ve been keeping an ever growing list of my own. I think every new home library should include these “must have” starter books, and chances are if you’re looking to give a children’s book as a gift, these will already be in the collection:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and Archambault
  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Now that we have those great ones out of the way, here are some of my personal favorites for young and growing children. I’ve simmered my list down to just these 10 books:

  • Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton
    Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton A delightful rhyming story of barnyard friends that go to a dance. The rhythm and meter of this story will keep you reciting sections from this book for days on end. Another great find for our family was discovering that there’s a Sandra Boynton CD available with this book’s lyrics set to song.

  • How Are You Peeling? by Joost Elffers
    How Are You Peeling? by Joost ElffersElffers is a fantastic photographer with a talent for bringing personality and emotion out of common everyday fruits and vegetables. Each page is filled with wonderful facial expressions from his creations. Light copy, lots of unique and interesting faces to enjoy.

  • Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
    Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen CroninFarmer Brown runs a no-nonsense farm, but things change once the cows who live there acquire an old typewriter and learn how to express there wishes on short notes. When Farmer Brown doesn’t comply with the cows requests, the cows decide they will go on strike. Fun, fun. fun!

  • Bunny Planet by Rosemary Wells
    Bunny Planet by Rosemary WellsThere are so many great books written by Rosemary Wells that it’s hard to pick even just a few, but the Bunny Planet books (a small collection of three books sold together as a set) have a wonderful Zen-like story quality to them. Ms. Wells explores the idea of a perfect world that lives inside our heads when things outside don’t go quite as well as we had planned.

  • Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh
    Martha Speaks by Susan MeddaughThe story of a family dog named Martha who likes to eat alphabet soup. The interesting twist in the story is that when Martha eats the soup, the letters go up to her brain instead of down to her tummy! There are many Martha Speaks books available and the first is the one that sets up the story for the entire series.

  • The Monster at the End of This Book by John Stone
    The Monster at the End of This Book by John StoneI think everyone in the entire world loves Grover, the fuzzy blue character from Sesame Street. In this story, Grover asks, even begs, the reader not to turn the pages of this book because he’s afraid there’s a monster that might scare him on the very next page. You will read this one again and again with your young child.

  • The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller
    The Scrambled States of America by Laurie KellerWhat would happen if each state in the nation could move to a new location? This book explores the fun and mayhem that ensues when each state moves to where they think they would really enjoy living. A funny story for children who are learning to memorize the US states.

  • I Will Never, Not Ever, Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
    I Will Never, Not Ever, Eat a Tomato by Lauren ChildThis is the first book that began the popular Charlie and Lola series of books and television shows. Lola is a very finicky eater. Her older brother Charlie presents familiar foods with funny names and stories that make Lola curious about what she might be missing. Just where do peas and fish sticks come from? And what sort of story would you tell to make eating these items more appealing?

  • Owly by Andy Runton
    Owly by Andy RuntonThe Owly book series are a charming collection of graphic novels starring an owl and his woodland friends. Together they go on many adventures, making new friends and helping other animals and friendly insects along the way. These books require a parent to imagine and invent the dialog alongside the visuals which I believe fosters an even closer story telling experience between reader and child.

  • Police Cloud by Christoph Niemann
    Police Cloud by Christoph NiemannThe graphic design approach to this story is just beautiful. Christoph Nieman is an artist for the New Yorker magazine and now shares his visual talents as a children’s book author. Nieman tells a captivating story about a cloud that wishes to become a policeman.

I hope you find this list helpful and enjoyable. Happy reading with your young friends!

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