This is the latest instalment in an occasional series of blogposts, in which some of our authors and illustrators share their favourite spots for work. Today Bizzy Bear illustrator Benji Davies takes us inside his studio…
This is my studio – I’m fairly new here. Six months in and I’ve still not managed to put any shelves up or hang any pictures on the walls. Just left of this photo are stacks and stacks of books, other people’s work, vintage and new, waiting for their new home to be completed.
Before I was in a large open plan space, where I lived and worked, with a distracting lounge and kitchen all around me and my studio. But no longer. The new studio is more compact but more peaceful and hopefully more productive. Time will tell.
It’s still part of my home though and tea-making is a staircase away. I live with my wife who is a fashion designer. Her studio is downstairs so its very much a live-work house and we get to meet by the kettle.
The plan chest is off ebay and was supposed to be a way of cataloguing old work neatly but quickly became more of a stuff-it-and-see system. The key to a good working space for me is to keep things simple and efficient, or at least fool myself into thinking they are.
Two desks; one for digital the other for real pencils, paper and paint. The square one, my iMac atop, is my dad’s old family kitchen table which he ate around as a boy and still has meat-mincer clamp marks under the table top edge where my gran used it for cooking. It has a great cutlery drawer with a brass handle where I stash all my ink cartridges and other stationery nick-nacks. On the right, an industrial sewing machine frame that I salvaged from my wife’s old studio, makes my drawing desk. I stripped all the cabling and fittings and had a new top made, but kept the lamp and rewired it. But I need a better chair – the inherited Ercol is not so ergonomic.
The room itself is a simple white box so its nice to surround myself with objects that have a bit of history. I would hate everything to be shiny and brand new (except the technology). I think the familiarity instantly grounds me to the space and my work, and I settled much faster when I moved.
And here’s a great scene from Zoo Ranger: (I love the rather worried-looking expression of the rabbit whose glasses appear to have fallen into the penguin pool on the right hand page – thankfully, he gets them back by the final spread):
Perfect for toddlers, these books are packed with lots of wonderful detail, visual humour, and a very gentle rhyme… and all on a pleasingly sturdy board.
Pip and Posy: Look and Say by Axel Scheffler is out now – with fun, busy scenes and lots to talk about, this delightful first book is perfect for sharing with an inquisitive toddler. A ‘Can you find these things?’ panel on each spread adds an ‘I-spy’ game element for extra fun – look for the objects along the bottom of each page, spot them in the scenes and then say the words. It’s great for speech development and an ideal book for parent and child to share. Here’s a look inside:
An elite crew of furry animals have found the Lost Nuts of Legend, a mythical snack rumoured to give the bearer unimaginable blessings such as teeth that never need brushing, rooms that never need cleaning and underwear that never needs changing. Now all they have to do is go home, but everyone is starving, the Star Nav is broken, and it was a REALLY bad idea to stop at the Death Banana. Will the crew ever find their way home? And, most importantly, will they get there before someone EATS the Lost Nuts of Legend? Full of humour and packed with detail on every page, this is a truly stellar (and very funny) story in an EXTRA-large, glorious hardback format . Here’s a look inside:
Granny decides to liven things up during the school play and turns Noah’s Ark into Noah’s Pirate Ship, before making it rain in the school hall! When Pandora’s parents decide to build a new bedroom for her over the garage, Granny decides to lend a hand. Why build a boring extension when you can build a fairytale castle? But it’s during an outbreak of nits at Pandora’s cousin’s wedding that Granny truly comes into her own… The perfect next step after picture books, these are ideal stories for newly independent readers. Here’s a look inside:
Next month is an EXCEPTIONALLY strong one for Nosy Crow titles – we have some truly incredible books coming out… and you could win them! It’s time for our monthly books giveaway – if you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland, you can win any of next month’s releases simply by subscribing to our Books Newsletter and sending us an email with the book you’d like to win. Here’s what’s up for grabs…
We’re publishing two new Bizzy Bear books by the incredibly talented Benji Davies – Zoo Ranger and Knight’s Castle. Absolutely PERFECT for toddlers, these books are packed with lots of wonderful detail, visual humour, and a very gentle rhyme… and all on a pleasingly sturdy board.
You can win Pip and Posy: Look and Say by Axel Scheffler – an engaging new picture book with richly-detailed scenes, a conversational, friendly text and Axel’s characteristic touches of humour. Here’s a look inside:
We’re incredibly excited to be publishing Nuts in Space – the second picture by Elys Dolan, creator of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-shortlisted Weasels. A laugh-out-loud picture book (with a simply stellar story), Nuts in Space is absolutely FILLED with puns, visual gags, and all sorts of detail – this is a book to pore over again and again. Here’s a look inside:
To win one of these books, all you have to do is subscribe to our books newsletter (if you’ve already subscribed you’re still eligible for this competition) and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Newsletter competition” in the subject heading and the title of the book you’d like to win in the body of your email. So have a good think about which book you’d like to win (we can only accept one entry per person), and good luck – we’ll pick the winners at random next week.
You can read the full interview, in which Kate talks about 25 years in the publishing industry, the digital revolution, what she’s looking for in an illustrator, and some of her all-time favourite picture books, here. And normal service will resume here shortly!
Today’s an extra-special publication day: our final one of the year! We’ve got lots of great books out today – perfect for christmas gifts and reading together, with lots of wintery-y themes and something for all ages. Here’s what you can find in bookshops today:
Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten by Alison Murray is out now – a tactile treat of a picture book with glitter on every page! Follow Princess Penelope as she runs through the palace and the palace grounds, including a maze, garden and the royal stables, chasing her naughty runaway kitten – the kitten is all tangled up with wool, which makes a crazy pink glitter trail of shapes behind her as she leaps and jumps through the book. With strong contemporary art, this is a perfect present for would-be princesses. Here’s a look inside:
It’s publication day for Because I Love You by David Bedford and Rebecca Harry. In this charming and delightful story, it’s bedtime for Little Bear, but as his mummy tucks him into bed, he wonders if he’s had enough love that day. So Mummy Bear takes Little Bear on a journey, reminding him of all that they’ve done that day – of the laughter, the discovery, the joy – but most of all of the love they’ve shared. And Little Bear goes to bed happy, warm – and loved. Here’s a look inside:
You can also find the first paperback edition Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish by Rebecca Harry in shops today – a very satisfying, warm and fuzzy Christmas story with winter baby animals, lots of Christmas cheer, and foil on every spread for that extra special something. Here’s a look inside:
And for slightly older readers, we’re publishing the second volume in the brilliant Space Pirates series, Space Pirates: Stranded! by Jim Ladd. These fast-paced, funny books are perfect for 7+ readers (particularly boys), with a truly FANTASTIC combination of themes – pirates and space – and brilliant black and white illustrations by Benji Davies. Here’s the first chapter:
It’s also publication day for Zoe’s Rescue Zoo: The Playful Panda by Amelia Cobb, the third story in the Zoe’s Rescue Zoo series – another great story for 7+ year olds (and with very strong appeal for animal-obsessed readers). Two cuddly panda cubs arrive at the zoo – and they’re twins! Zoe isn’t sure how she’ll be able to tell them apart, until she finds that one of them is really, really naughty! Here’s the first chapter:
And finally, we’re publishing the second incredible Faeries Tribes novel by Paula Harrison – Faerie Tribes: The Wildwood Arrow, an incredible fantasy series for 9+ readers. Laney and her friends have managed to find and keep safe the Crystal Mirror. But there are still four more hidden Myricals. If they fall into the Shadow Faerie’s hands, his power will strengthen and the faerie world will fall under his dark reign. Can Laney bring her unruly magic under control in time to find the Wildwood Arrow and continue the faerie fight? Here’s the first chapter:
It’s time for our monthly book giveaway – and our final one of the year! October will be another exciting month of new books for us, with something for everyone. And if you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland you can win any of next month’s releases simply by subscribing to our Books Newsletter and either tweeting to @NosyCrowBooks or leaving a comment underneath this blogpost, telling us the name you subscribed with and the book you’d like to win. Here’s what you could win…
We’re publishing Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten by Alison Murray – a tactile treat of a picture book with glitter on every page! Follow Princess Penelope as she runs through the palace and the palace grounds, including a maze, garden and the royal stables, chasing her naughty runaway kitten – the kitten is all tangled up with wool, which makes a crazy pink glitter trail of shapes behind her as she leaps and jumps through the book. With strong contemporary art, this is a perfect gift for would-be princesses. Here’s a look inside:
You could win Because I Love You by David Bedford and Rebecca Harry. In this charming and delightful story, it’s bedtime for Little Bear, but as his mummy tucks him into bed, he wonders if he’s had enough love that day. So Mummy Bear takes Little Bear on a journey, reminding him of all that they’ve done that day – of the laughter, the discovery, the joy – but most of all of the love they’ve shared. And Little Bear goes to bed happy, warm – and loved. Here’s a look inside:
And if that’s not enough, we’re also publishing the first paperback edition of Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish by Rebecca Harry – a very satisfying, warm and fuzzy Christmas story with winter baby animals, lots of Christmas cheer, and foil on every spread for that extra special something. Here’s a look inside:
You can win Space Pirates: Stranded! by Jim Ladd – the second volume in the Space Pirates series, a fast-paced, funny series with gags galore that will have you cackling from start to finish! Sam and the crew of the Jolly Apollo are still searching for Planet X, where they hope to find Sam’s parents and a whole load of treasure! But the dastardly Black-Hole Beard is on their tail, which is why they are forced to hide in the scariest, most deadly nebula in the universe. Here’s the first chapter:
And finally, we’re also publishing Faerie Tribes: The Wildwood Arrow by Paula Harrison – the second title in this excellent fantasy series for 9+ readers. Laney and her friends have managed to find and keep safe the Crystal Mirror. But there are still four more hidden Myricals. If they fall into the Shadow Faerie’s hands, his power will strengthen and the faerie world will fall under his dark reign. Can Laney bring her unruly magic under control in time to find the Wildwood Arrow and continue the faerie fight? Here’s the first chapter:
You can subscribe to the books newsletter here (if you’ve already subscribed you’re still eligible for this competition) – and every month we’ll write to you with details of our upcoming titles, author events, exclusive interviews, and all of our news. So have a good think about which book you’d like to win (we can only accept one entry per person), and good luck, until next year!
I use the Bizzy Bear on the Farm app with my 22 month old daughter Lexie and it’s definitely our favourite. She always picks Bizzy Bear ahead of others (I’ve got about 10 on my phone including some other Nosy Crow apps) – either Bizzy Bear on the Farm or Bizzy Bear Builds a House.
We like Bizzy Bear on the Farm best, mainly because it’s so interactive. The other Nosy Crow apps, including Bizzy Bear Builds a House, seem to mainly tell stories, whereas with Bizzy Bear on the Farm, she really can do lots of different things on each screen. Also each screen is different, be it picking apples and eggs, or feeding piggies and herding sheep, to riding the horsie and parking the tractor. She’s absolutely obsessed with putting Bizzy’s shoes on at the beginning and taking them off at the end. Ditto with putting on the hat for Bizzy Bear Builds a House. She does like the fairy tale Nosy Crow apps too. We have The Three Little Pigs and she likes blowing the house down with the Wolf.
I got the apps initially to help with a long plane and car journey and I like them. She gets a bit fixated in a similar way to with TV so I try and balance her screen time with other activities (outside fun, drawing/crafting etc). But her dad and family work in TV and new media so we’re not at all opposed! In fact I think there is a lot of brilliant content out there and I’m really happy with everything Nosy Crow does, miles better than the other apps I have. I do wish I had an iPad though – it niggles me that she’s looking at apps on my iPhone with the small screen. It will be interesting to see how she responds to these apps as she gets older.
We’d LOVE more apps like Bizzy Bear on the Farm!
Thank you for sharing this, Phillipa! You can find Bizzy Bear on the Farm on the App Store here and Bizzy Bear Builds a House on the Store here for $3.99 each, and watch trailers for the two apps below. And if you’d like to be kept up-to-date with news of our upcoming app releases, you can sign up to our Apps Announcement Mailing Listhere.
Some very exciting proofs arrived in the office last week: proofs of the next two Bizzy Bear books by the incredibly talented Benji Davies – Zoo Ranger and Knight’s Castle. Bizzy Bear is off on two new adventures, and there’s lots to find and explore in every spread, with tabs and sliders for little fingers.
I love the rather worried-looking expression of the rabbit whose glasses appear to have fallen into the penguin pool on the right hand page – thankfully, he gets them back by the final spread…
These books are absolutely PERFECT for toddlers – there’s so much wonderful detail, lots of visual humour, and a very gentle rhyme… and all on a pleasingly sturdy board.
Both books will be published in March next year – if you’re new to Bizzy Bear, you can find out about all of the existing books in the series here – or sign up for our monthly books newsletter and stay up-to-date with all of our new titles, here. There are also two fantastic Bizzy Bear apps for iPad and iPhone: Bizzy Bear on the Farm and Bizzy Bear Builds a House.
There’s an extra spring in our step today – our July titles are out now, and there are some INCREDIBLE books on offer!
It’s publication day for Just Right for Two by Tracey Corderoy and Rosalind Beardshaw – a heartwarming, gently-told tale of an unlikely friendship, brought to life with charming, beautiful artwork, and with a poignant message that sometimes the best things in life are right under your nose. Here’s a look inside:
We’re publishing Digger Dog, by William Bee and Cecilia Johansson – a perfect picture book that’s full of things that pre-schoolers love: diggers digging, holes, construction, hard hats, and a huge foldout surprise at the end. Here’s a look inside:
We’re launching an intergalactic adventure series for 7+ readers – Space Pirates, written by the not-entirely-real Jim Ladd, and illustrated by the very-much-real Benji Davies. Funny and exciting, with lots of disgusting alien gloop, a cast of outrageous characters and snappy dialogue, the series begins with Space Pirates: Stowaway – here’s the first chapter:
And as one door opens, another closes – Lyn Gardner wonderful, acclaimed Olivia concludes with the seventh volume, Olivia’s Curtain Call, out today. Olivia and her friends are auditioning for a production of Romeo and Juliet in the West End. It makes Olivia realise just how much she wants to be an actress, like her mum was. But her father asks her to perform with him in a high-wire stunt instead. How can she choose between her parents? And love is in the air at the Swan School of Theatre and Dance. But when the curtain falls, will everyone get their fairytale happy ending? Here’s the first chapter:
It’s time for our monthly book giveaway! If you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland you can win any of next month’s releases simply by subscribing to our Books Newsletter and either tweeting to @NosyCrowBooks or leaving a comment underneath this blogpost, telling us the name you subscribed with and the book you’d like to win. Here’s what’s up for grabs…
You can win Digger Dog, by William Bee and Cecilia Johansson. All the ingredients for a brilliant picture book for pre-schoolers are here, along with the most fantastic fold-out surprise for a truly satisfying finale. Great for reading aloud, this is destined to become a bedtime favourite. Here’s a look inside:
We’re launch a brand new series – Space Pirates, starting with Space Pirates: Stowaway, by Jim Ladd, and with brilliant illustrations by Benji Davies. This funny, fast-paced series is absolutely perfect for boys aged 7 and up – a chase through space that will have you cackling from start to finish. Here’s the first chapter:
And finally, we’re bringing another series to an end – the last volume in the wonderful Olivia series by Lyn Gardner, Olivia’s Curtain Call. Olivia has to choose between her parents – does she want to become an actress, like her mum was, or perform with her father in a high-wire stunt? And love is in the air at the Swan School of Theatre and Dance. But when the curtain falls, will everyone get their fairytale happy ending? Here’s the first chapter:
You can subscribe to the books newsletter here (if you’ve already subscribed you’re still eligible for this competition) – and every month we’ll write to you with details of our upcoming titles, author events, exclusive interviews, and all of our news. So have a good think about which book you’d like to win (we can only accept one entry per person), and good luck – we’ll pick the winners at random next week.
This July we’re lauching a brand new, illustrated fiction series that’s perfect for 7 – 9 year olds (and boys in particular) – Space Pirates!
With fantastic black and white illustration by Benji Davies and gags galore from (ahem) author Jim Ladd, this fast-paced, funny series combines two perenially popular “boy subjects” (no prizes for guessing what they are).
The series launches with the fantastic Space Pirates: Stowaway. When Sam’s parents are stranded on Planet X, he bravely asks his neighbours, the notorious Space Pirates, to help rescue them. But they’d rather carry on bowling and singing space-shanties, so Sam has no choice but to hide in a barrel of alien slime and stowaway!
Our next, stunning storybook app – Little Red Riding Hood – is almost ready. We’ve got LOTS of things to share over the coming weeks to celebrate – and we thought we’d start with some of our other apps! So we’ve dropped the price of both of our award-winning Bizzy Bear apps – Bizzy Bear on the Farm and Bizzy Bear Builds a House – to just $1.99/ £1.49 (that’s HALF their old price).
The Bizzy Bear apps – which feature fantastic artwork from the board book series by Benji Davies, as well as original animation, music, voicework and interactivity – are perfect first apps for young children. There’s lots to do in each, with gentle stories, plenty of encouragement, and familiar themes.
If you enjoy the Bizzy Bear apps, why not sign up to our app announcement mailing list? We’ll email you whenever we release a new app and will keep you up-to-date with any special app offers. We’d also love to hear your feedback – you can get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, or by email if you have any comments that you’d like to share. And please do consider leaving a review on the App Store!
In Fire Rescue, Bizzy Bear is lending a hand at the fire station when he receives an emergency call summoning the team’s help. Using ingeniously simple and easy-to-use mechanisms, you can help Bizzy Bear race to the rescue in this action-packed story!
And in Pirate Adventure, Bizzy Bear packs his ship, hoists the jolly roger and sets sail on an exciting pirate adventure! All little readers will love helping Bizzy steer his ship, dig for treasure and open the treasure chest.
The Parents’ Choice Awards are the oldest nonprofit program created to recognise quality children’s media in the USA. There are several tiered award levels, and the criteria for the silver award are “excellent products that, like the Gold Award winners, are designed to entertain and help children develop universally ethical attitudes, and rigorous standards and skills … Silver Honors are highly prized – like the Gold Awards – for production and human values.”
In their citation for Bizzy Bear Builds a House, Parents’ Choice wrote:
“With pleasant voice acting, realistic sound effects, lively illustrations, word-tracking, and polite characters, it offers an excellent introduction to construction play, reading, and manners … Well-produced and charming, Bizzy Bear Builds a House will surely become a favorite amongst families with toddlers and preschoolers.”
If you’ve not yet explored the world of Bizzy Bear, you can find the app on iTunes here, and see our trailer below.
One of the most exciting (and sometimes, quite scary) things about making apps is the fact that so much is new and unknown. The way we tell stories, the way we engage children, and the way we sell our products are all different to how we do things with our print books, which can be incredibly liberating. Selling our apps on the iTunes App Store presents a unique set of challenges around discoverability and marketing, and one of the ways in which app developers like us can try and increase our visibility on the App Store is by experimenting with pricing.
Very broadly speaking (and without taking into account other, admittedly large, factors like quality and brand power), apps that cost little are downloaded in greater numbers than apps that cost a lot (which is not to say that they make more money), and apps that are free are downloaded in even greater numbers. The more downloads your app receives, the higher it climbs in sales charts, and the more visible it becomes, and so the more likely it is to be downloaded by other people. This is what’s known as a positive feedback loop (there is an incredibly interesting book called Winners and Losers, which looks at how positive feedback loops – which are not always good – have affected different businesses).
We’ve never experimented with a free price model before, but we thought we’d give it a try now (and be as open as possible about our thinking behind the decision). Bizzy Bear Builds a House, our newest app, will be free for one day, on Wednesday July 25. What we hope is for a very large number of people to download the app on that day, so that when it returns to its incredibly reasonable price of £2.49 the following day, it will be high in the charts and enjoy a very visible position.
Being able to expand our audience and reach lots of new people, who we hope will love our apps, is one of things that’s very exciting. And doing so by making an app free is one of the things that’s quite scary. But we’re very eager to try new things, see what will happen, and learn from the experiences.
There’s lots to do – in Bizzy Bear Builds a House, toddlers can help Bizzy Bear on a building site by operating diggers, dumper trucks, and concrete mixers, painting a fence, unloading a pallet of bricks, hammering, digging, sawing, and lots more.
The app is filled with interactive surprises, original child narration, music, animation, and includes our new word-tracking technology for highlighted read-along text (which you can see in the trailer, above).
Kate says: “Bizzy Bear Builds a House, is a natural follow-up to our successful and highly acclaimed app, Bizzy Bear: On the Farm.This time, we’ve focused on movement and machines, inviting children to interact with the exciting grown-up world of the building site. In this app, as in all of our apps, we’re encouraging children to link having fun with stories, and to link stories with text.”
You can find the app on iTunes here, and we’d love to hear what you make of it – please do leave your reviews on the app store, or write to us on Twitter or Facebook.
Nikos’ daughter, Aphrodite, with the Greek edition of Playbook Farm
Having spent four years in the UK studying, I became somewhat familiar with business practices in the publishing industry, long before I ever actually worked there. Upon my return to Athens, Greece, in order to start working for my family business – Ikaros Publishing – I quickly realized the vast differences in practices and culture as well.
The publishing industry in Greece is a very big network of very small businesses and self-employed people. There are no big conglomerates, and most publishers are family businesses, privately held. There is only one publisher listed in the Athens Stock Exchange, out of the nearly 300 (!) registered as active in a recent survey. Most publishers outsource their production, from pre-press to proofreading to printing and binding.
Selling is also done in a very different way, compared to the practices established in Western Europe or the USA. Again, the market is fragmented into many different small– or medium–sized distributors, who work more like an order-receiving centre, than an active seller. Most publishers have their own salespeople who travel from bookstore to bookstore, sampling books and taking orders, in order to collect payment on the next trip. This effectively means that books are distributed from more than one channel, with multiple distributors stocking the same publishers while at the same time the publisher handles some accounts directly, like big chain bookstores. At the moment, there are three big bookstore brands with multiple shops around Greece. In 2010, the French retailer Fnac decided to close or sell all outlets and left the Greek market in fear of the financial crisis that was looming.
Smaller bookstores have not been unaffected by the spread of big chain outlets, and many have been forced out of business. However, the Greek book prices are regulated by a law similar to that of France: prices are set by the publisher, and retailers cannot sell with more than 10% discount for the first two years. As always, Greek publishers have found a loophole in the law, that allows them to treat reprints as new editions that cannot be sold at discount.
eBooks are quite a new thing in Greece, and many publishers have chosen to ignore them for now. We at Ikaros have been publishing eBooks since December 2010 and always produce a digital edition of our new titles. We also have two iOS apps on the Apple appstore. It is perhaps worth mentioning that it is only now that big booksellers are considering adding eBooks to their catalogues and online shops.
In 2011, having just become a parent, I found myself spending more time looking at children’s books than anything else. Ikaros, established in 1943 by my grandfather, had never published children’s books and specialized in Greek literature. It was my drive to find quality, educational children’s books that led me to Nosy Crow and our subsequent collaboration. With seven titles in our launch list, and seven more coming later this year, we have already received flattering comments from our readers and encouraging messages from our retail partners.
Greece is going through some hard times at the moment, with the financial crisis and political instability having a profound effect on the market. Book sales are down as everything else, while children’s books are showing some better resistance. It seems that parents are willing to sacrifice other expenses, in order to provide for their little ones. It is my belief that Greece will soon emerge stronger from this crisis, benefiting those who have invested in long-term quality, over fast profits.
The “Make a Face” game uses the front-facing camera in the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 (or later) so that you can copy Pip and Posy’s expressions – sad, happy, laughing, everyone’s favourite – monster – and more, and then take pictures of the results. If you have an older iPad or iPhone, you can still play the game, if a second person holds your device for you.
Once you’ve struck your best pose, you can save the picture to your “Photos” folder or take a screenshot by holding down both the Home and Power buttons – and then you can enter by posting a link to the photo in the comments below, tweeting it to us @NosyCrowApps, or emailing it to email@example.com.
The competition closes on Sunday and Pip and Posy will be on sale on iTunes for only $0.99/ £0.69 until then! You can find the app on iTunes here.
The app has been fantastically well-received. It won the Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review. The Guardian wrote “There’s loads of easy and satisfying interactivity in telling the story of Bizzy Bear’s farm visit … Simple interactivity creates multiple permutations of text which encourages careful listening and makes repeating the familiar activities full of surprises.” The Literary Platform said “Young children will love this app. It’s bright, fun and engaging with plenty to keep little fingers occupied.” And in the New York Times’ Gadgetwise blog, it’s described as “Full of clever talking animals and barnyard jobs that include gathering eggs, herding sheep and riding a horse. Every page has hidden surprises that support the story.”
So if you haven’t tried Bizzy Bear on the Farm yet, now’s the perfect opportunity – help us celebrate our birthday, and help Bizzy out on the farm!
It’s particularly gratifying as last year, both Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs were recipients of the award, which is given in recognition of outstanding quality and value in children’s media products.
In their review, by The New York Times’ Gadgetwise blogger Warren Buckleitner, the Review write that Bizzy Bear is “another excellent Nosy Crow app … the narration by children is professionally done, and the activities work well to support the story.”
If you haven’t tried out Bizzy Bear on the Farm yet, you can buy it here – and if you have, we’d love to know what you think, so please send us your reviews on iTunes, Facebook, or Twitter.
We are thrilled to announce that our third highly-interactive storybook app, Bizzy Bear on the Farm, is now available on the App Store for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Using the touchscreen, children aged two and up can explore the farm and help Bizzy Bear with all his chores. They can, for example, feed the pigs, put sheep into their pen, pick apples, gather eggs and drive the tractor!
This is our first app based on a Nosy Crow book series – our popular Bizzy Bear board books for children. But we’re not just squashing the books onto a phone or tablet. While the board books feature chunky tabs to push and pull, the app includes lots more simple ways for little fingers to explore the story, and the words are different too. The children’s voices reading the story, the farmyard sound effects and the specially-composed music make things even more fun.
We’re excited to bring the interactive features we’ve developed in apps (like The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella) for slightly older children to a younger audience.
The app is designed for toddlers and focuses on listening skills, following directions, and completing tasks. Bizzy responds to every touch with encouragement and help.
Now that Summer is most certainly upon us (evidenced at Nosy Crow by the fact that almost everyone is on holiday), the ritual of reading round-ups has been getting its yearly airing in the press. Without wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth – we’ve been very pleased with the inclusion of our books in so many round-ups – there seems to me to be something a little… unsatisfactory about the criteria for these lists. Surely, in order to qualify as a great Summer read, a book ought to have more going for it than a recent publication date.
There is, of course, all kinds of ways one could choose to define a good Summer book. Some – like our Mega Mash-Up series – are brilliant for keeping children occupied on long journeys or during days at home. Others, like Noodle Loves the Beach and Bizzy Bear: Off We Go!, evoke Summer quite literally. And stories like Dinosaur Dig! somehow encapsulate the outdoorsy, spirit-of-adventure feeling that Summer represents when you’re young – or, as Camilla put it to me in an email from the road, “Summer is about liberation isn’t it – from school, parents and routine, and in theory, the weather.”
When I asked for everyone’s suggestions here (before they all left), we decided to restrict ourselves to books that actually take place over the Summer. Needless to say, as with every previous discussion on the subject of favourite books of one sort or another, the debate swiftly dissolved into endless one-upmanship, but out of this, I’m pleased to say, came some truly excellent suggestions.
As ever, we’d love to hear your favourites, so please leave your comments at the bottom of the page or on Twitter.
Dom, pipped to the post for The Wind in the Willows, chose Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie, saying that, “Some of the scenes from that book were so vivid, they’ve become practically my own memories. It’s the book equivalent of Inception!”
Camilla’s first suggestion is The Enchanted Wood, by Enid Blyton – and she has exactly the measure of a lot of Blyton’s books:
“Ginger beer, doorstep sandwiches and smugglers coves – in fact the very holiday I am just embarking on, though of course it never seemed to rain and I bet they didn’t spend hours sitting in a traffic jam on the A30.”
My choices are, for much the same reason as Camilla, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, as well as A Spoonful of Jam by Michelle Magorian and Raspberries on the Yangtze by Karen Wallace, both of which have sort-of magical qualities about them. And finally, I believe I would be remiss not to mention the summer strips of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoons (pictured above), which, like all of our choices, cannot capture everything that’s wonderful about Summer, but certainly go a long way towards trying.
Now – over to you!
We’ve had some Twitter recommendations with the hashtag #summerreads:
@rogue_eight suggested The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner
Dinosaur Dig was inspired by Penny’s pre-school grandson Zachary’s love of all things mechanical. It’s a counting book with (very benign) dinosaurs, mechanical earth-moving equipment, a bit of suspense and a swimming pool finale. It caters quite shamelessly for the obsessions of many, many small boys. One of the things we thought that they would respond to is the carefully-realised detail of the dinosaurs and the diggers: you can see every claw and every piston. This was a book that came in to Nosy Crow from Penny’s agent just weeks after we’d started up. It was a book that we’d made an offer for within an hour of opening the envelope with Penny’s beautifully detailed sketches in it. Here’s a little flavour of what the book looks like inside:
And, to give you a sense of how Penny works, here’s a movie of Penny (re)drawing the cover artwork on an iPad:
She’s written about the process of creating the book for a boy audience in a guest post for the Book Trust blog.
We’re in the run-up to Easter (and Passover’s begun – any good childeren’s versions of the Haggadah, people?), so it seemed interesting to ask people for their Easter and, more generally, spring book recommendations.
It seems that the most impressive – to me – children’s book telling the story of Easter, Jan Pienkowski’s Easter, is out of print. It combines King James Bible words with Jan’s trademark silhouettes against a marbled background.
@dredgewood suggested The Story of Easter by Christopher Doyle.
Tom, who’s interning here, and whose photography skills I’ve already roundly mocked, suggested that the great Easter children’s book is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I looked puzzled. “But it’s about a world where it’s always winter and never Christmas,” I said. He reminded me of the Christian allegory of Aslan’s self-sacrifice for Edmund’s betrayal. Ahem. He is right, of course… though, as ever, I tend to see children’s books through the lens through which a child might look at it, and I don’t think that many 10 year olds will clock that allegory.
Widening the search beyond Easter-specific titles, I asked Twitter followers about spring and chick ‘n’ bunny books.
There were a few generally spring-like suggestions.
@sarah_hilary proposed The Secret Garden, which is, after all, about a physical and metaphorical, transition from winter to early summer.
And, if we’re going general – and as maybe I’m thinking about it because of the current almost-full moon – what about The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
I had the following suggestions that were poultry-based:
@prestonrutt suggested Ed Vere’s Chick.
@Discover_Story suggested The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett.
@AliB68 reminded me of The Spring Song in Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson.
And I’d add a personal favourite, Ruby Flew Too by Jonathen Emmett and Rebecca Harry – read it as a parent and blub.
There were some fine bunny-based suggestions too:
Camilla suggested Guess How Much I Love You (the office copy of which she’s just taken home to read aloud).
@prestonrutt suggested Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem.
@dredgewood suggested The Country Bunny & The Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward.
Not a rabbit, but a hamster (so here because displaying impeccable rodent credentials and also because it has Easter in the title), was remembered fondly by @amandapollard, whose Haffertee’s First Easter by Janet and John Perkins was a Sunday School gift, “and undoubtedly the highlight of 8 years endured”.
@sarah_hilary suggested The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Wiliams (again, I think of this, in my literal-minded way as a Christmas book more than an Easter book) and it got two other votes too, so it made the list, on condition that no other edition than the William Nicholson illustrated edition is given house room, and I do love it.
Kate Burns suggested You’re a Hero, Daley B by Jon Blake, which was one of the first books that Axel Scheffler illustrated.
My own list would include:
Axel Scheffler’sPip and Posy and The Super Scooter (of course!), which not only features a very fine rabbit (Pip) but also feels very spring-like. As Julia Eccleshare says of this book in her round-up of new children’s books for this Easter in The Guardian, “Scheffler’s illustrations are full of comfort and gentle humour”.
Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Michael Rosen and Arthur Robins (just typing it makes me smile).
Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (and @publishingmum mentioned Peter Rabbit too)
There’s lots of spring/Easter activity stuff out there.
The very fine website, Parents in Touch, has done a post on spring and Easter activity books here
Also on the activity books theme, when I asked on Twitter for Easter book recommendations, Usborne amusingly simply sent me a link to their homepage and therefore all of their books. However, it is true that they have an awful lot of Easter titles here. When pressed, their tweeter selected First Activities: Easter Fun as their favourite Usborne Easter book.
And finally, I am, with a stone in my stomach, forced, too, to acknowledge that several people pointed out that the weekend following the Easter weekend is the Royal Wedding weekend (maybe this is just sour grapes: I will be flying to Australia). The Perfectly Pretty Royal Wedding Book was suggested by Scholastic, which I’d have ignored (sorry, Alyx), except that @librarymice said she was giving it to her daughter as part of her Easter book bundle. So here it is, included with a bit of a sigh.
So what’s missing from this list? Do let us know by sending us a comment.
We’ve got very cheering videos of a pair of two year-olds reading each of the books in the “extras” tab for each book.
These books have simple rhyming texts and really sturdy mechanisms and are really great for children from 18 months to 3.
We’ve got some to send to reviewers and bloggers. So, if toddler books float your boat, let us know: contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, Reviewing Bizzy Bear.
And if you are in East London today (4 March), you could come to our Bizzy Bear event at 11.30am for 45 minutes of songs, stories and colouring at the Discover Centre’sBig Write festival, where we’re doing other events, too:
Yesterday, Kate met up with Neal Hoskins (pictured) of Winged Chariot in the Crow’s Nest to talk about the opportunities for collaboration amongst apps publishers, and, specifically, children’s apps publishers. For all of us involved in apps publishing, the challenge is how people – parents in our case – find good apps among the ever-growing sea of apps on the store.
They also talked about the Bologna Tools of Change Conference 2011, which Neal is heavily involved in, and at which Kate will be a keynote speaker.
Then Kate and Imogen left for the Bounce Marketing sales conference for April to August titles in Islington, wrapping fizzy wine in the back of the car to give to the Bounce reps so they could drink to Nosy Crow’s first book (Small Blue Thing) being published on 13 January 2011. Kate presented to an enthusiastic audience of 18, and it was great to see how many of the reps had already read many of the titles: Bizzy Bear and Pip and Posy were being enthusiastically read by one sales manager’s two year-old. The six year-old “reluctant artist” son of one of the reps had loved completing his first Mega Mash-up book. And one of the reps told everyone how much she’d LOVEDOlivia’s First Term.
After a meeting at the Publisher’s Association about World Book Day 2012 (which’ll be the subject of another post), Kate met up with Imogen and Kirsty at Bounce’s Christmas Party, and Kirsty and Kate had to be asked to leave as the pub was closing. A fine time was had by all.
Here’s Camilla with top freelance designer, Sarah Goodwin, and very fine Benji Davies’ artwork for _Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm that the massively efficient Benji has delivered several weeks early. Bizzy is shaping up to be a tremendously appealing character, and these are really simple, sturdy board-books with big, bold novelty mechanisms.
It’s all good.
The sharp-eyed among you will also spot lavender and honey cupcakes, because it’s lavender time in London and so why not?
We had a really good meeting with Benji Davies, a very talented
illustrator and animator, about our series of Bizzy Bear toddler
books. It was another step towards making Nosy Crow public. We
really hope he’ll agree to take the books on.