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.
When Ola suggested this theme to me for a blog post, I couldn’t believe we hadn’t covered it before – it is absolutely crying out to be written – but it seems she’s right. Of all the best-loved and most iconic figures in children’s literature, an awfully large number are ursine. I don’t know that I really have the patience to investigate why we’re so fond of fictional bears (the cultural prevalence of the teddy bear? the fact that they can stand on two legs? the predilection for honey?), so without futher ado, here are ten of our favourite books with bears:
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E.H. Shepard
The bear of very little brain is possibly my favourite character in any book, ever, and A.A. Milne’s stories stand up, in my view, as some of the best comic writing of the last century. Winnie-the-Pooh is my I Ching: there is something to learn on every subject, whether it’s bees (“You never can tell with bees.”) or testing honey for cheese (“I remember my uncle saying once that he had seen cheese just this colour.” So he put his tongue in, and took a large lick. “Yes,” he said, “it is. No doubt about that. And honey, I should say, right down to the bottom of the jar. Unless, of course,” he said, “somebody put cheese in at the bottom just for a joke. Perhaps I had better go a little further… just in case…”)
Paddington Bear by Michael Bond, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum
Paddington was Ola’s immediate suggestion: he is perhaps the only bear who can rival Winnie-the-Pooh for the nation’s affections (and his fondness for marmalade equals Pooh’s love of honey). He is a quintessentially English creation… even if he is from Darkest Peru.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
A very different sort of bear to Paddington and Pooh – Jon Klassen’s picture book has become a modern classic: funny, dark, and stylish, with an ending that will make you gasp. It’s brilliant.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Another contemporary(ish) classic, the bear in Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s fantastic story doesn’t actually appear until three-quarters of the way in, but it looms over the entire narrative as a sort of spectral presence, and its eventual arrival – “One shiny wet nose! Two big furry ears! Two big goggly eyes! IT’S A BEAR!!!!” – is as wonderfully dramatic as the final spread is melancholy.
Peace at Last by Jill Murphy
The bear family in Jill Murphy’s picture book might as well be people, they are so thoroughly domestic. But they aren’t – they’re bears, and somehow that adds a wonderful pathos to Mr. Bear’s inability to get to sleep.
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, illustrated by John Lockwood Kipling
Baloo might be the coolest entry on this list. His most famous incarnation is in Disney’s animated film version of The Jungle Book, and although he’s quite a different sort of character in the books (in which he’s a rather stern teacher of the Law of the Jungle), he’s still a Very Good Bear.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Pullman’s Iorek Byrnison is possibly unique on this list for being the only truly frightening bear. He’s also an incredible hero: brave, loyal, kind, and a great friend to Lyra.
The first of three of our own books on this list, Leigh’s brilliant fractured fairytale picks up the story of Goldilocks many years later, when Little Bear wanders out of his forest and into the big city. All he wants is a bowl of porridge and maybe a bit of a lie down – how hard can that be?
This is one phenomenally busy bear. He puts out fires, he has fun on the farm, he finds pirate treasure, he goes to work on a building site, he goes on holiday, and he plays in a park – rich in visual detail and with chunky sliders to push and pull, Benji Davies’ fantastic Bizzy Bear series is perfect for toddlers.
An absolutely charming picture book (which publishes in October), featuring a little bear who’s not sure that he’s had enough love that day. Together with Mummy Bear he goes on a journey, and together they remember all of the love they’ve shared. These two bears are guaranteed to warm the heart.
… And here’s one bonus bear:
A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton
We’ll be reading this recent winner of the Branford Boase award at our next book group in August – if you’d like to come (and decide whether this is one of your favourite bears), you can find all the details here.
Now, over to you – what would you add to this list? Which bears have a place in your heart? Leave your comments below or on Twitter with the #bookbear hashtag!
A guest blog post by Odile Leveugle, the founder of Applimini.com, a French kids’ apps reviews website, on using our Apps with French-speaking children.
I’m a busy mother of two boys. Félix is 4 and Lucien is 2. Having lived in the UK when I was younger, I’ve still got a real interest for English language and British culture. Since my boys were born, I’ve always thought it would be a valuable inheritance for them to have this “English package” in their cultural background. But you know how it goes: days run fast, kids grow even faster and by the time you find precious moments to teach them a bit of English with songs or games they’re already four years old and old enough to tell you, “Oh no mum, I’m not interested in knowing how to say yellow in English! Come on, tell me about dinosaurs instead… and in French… please!”
When Felix was younger, I managed to have him listening to some English with Peppa Pig or Fireman Sam videos. But he discovered with his school friends that there were Peppa Pig and a “Sam le pompier” in French! From then on, needless to tell you where I could put my videos in English!
And this is where Nosy Crow came to my rescue!
I use the home iPad for my work. On this iPad, the majority of apps are for kids. I usually order them randomly on purpose… just to see which apps attract my kids the most. I’ve got all sorts: puzzles, memory games, interactive stories, song apps… but most of them are in French. The exceptions in English are the Nosy Crow apps.
And as opposed to the video experience, Felix never ends an iPad session without going to Animal SnApp or Bizzy Bear. He just loooooves them! It seems he keeps them for the end just like you do with your favorite meal. You would have thought he would be more attracted by Pip and Posy because it does not require much English comprehension. But no… Animal SnApp takes the lead.
The other day he was playing with his playmobil toys in his room and he was saying “One… two … three… four”… up to ten. I asked him “Where did you learn to count in English? I remember teaching you when you were a baby but not since then!”. His answer was: “With the cow and sheep on the iPad”.
Lucky boy to grow with Cuddly Cow!
Thank you, Odile, for sharing your experience! As well as teaching counting in Cuddly Cow and Higgly Hen’s stories, Animal SnApp is also great for early literacy skills: some of the benefit of rhyming stories are discussed inthis post.
You can find Animal SnApp on the App Storehere– and you can also find French-language editions of some of our apps – including Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs, and Bizzy Bear – from our apps partnerGallimardhere.
A visualisation of all of the code and asset file changes made in the service of creating Nosy Crow apps over 6 months(taken from this blog).
We’re busy putting the finishing touches to Rounds: Parker Penguin and my time is now being spent fixing bugs. Bugs can be parts of the app that aren’t working properly, art assets that don’t look or move quite right, and features we can tweak to be even better.
Whilst an app is being developed we are always testing to make sure that each build works better than the last and we regularly let children lose with our iDevices to see how they respond to the app. I’ve found that simply standing back and watching the children using the device and apps is the best way to get valid feedback about the parts they enjoy and the parts they have trouble with. We can then use these observations to shape what we’re doing.
Observing children playing with the app whilst we are still developing helps us to refine the design and function of features within the story.
Before we release anything to the App Store we spend many, many hours doing a lot of final testing to find and fix every bug we can to be sure the product is ready for you.
There are two parts to this final testing. Firstly we want to make sure that everything we’ve put in the app functions correctly, like collecting all the items needed to make Cinderella’s coach, or making sure all the name changes in Franklin Frog happen at the right place in the story and checking that you can’t push all the frog spawn out of the pond and leave it floating in mid-air!
Every bug is logged and assigned to the right person to be fixed. Once a bug is fixed it is assigned back to be verified, before being closed.
The second thing we do is try really hard to break the app in as many creative ways as possible. A good example of this is the famous child-puts-all-their-fingers-on-the-device-at-once trick, which can be sure to cause an app to freeze or quit out! I’ll find myself going backwards and forwards through the app, tapping and swiping in silly places, seeing what happens if I try dropping the pumpkin on Cinderella’s head instead of giving it to her Godmother, or making all the characters in a scene talk at once, or sending the device to sleep then waking it up and doing it all over again until the app crashes!
As the developer, you’re doing everything you can to put your software through a lifetime of use before you release it.
iPods, iPhones, iPads, and now Android. Testing our apps is a big job!
Of course, we have to do all this across an ever increasing selection of iDevices with different versions of iOS, and we’ve just added Android into the mix too. It’s a critical job for us and one that is growing all the time!
We want children to enjoy our apps again and again and again, in the same way that many children have a favourite book or favourite toy. Testing is vital to make sure that when you’re sitting with your children helping Bizzy Bear to build a house or finding out what frogs eat with Franklin, you know the app will delight rather than frustrate.
If you do ever have any issues with our apps, please don’t hesitate to let us know at email@example.com, and we will do our best to help. And if you’d like to be kept up-to-date with all our app releases, you can sign up to our app announcement mailing listhere.
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.
At Nosy Crow we use version control software to manage changes to the code and asset files that make up our apps. As each new app feature is implemented, the files that have changed are committed back to the version control server for safe keeping. During the development of a single new app, this can occur hundreds or even thousands of times; sometimes changing lots of similar files, sometimes lots of different files and occasionally just one file. All our apps are built using the same ‘engine’ code, with most of it common to all our apps. What makes each app unique is the other code and the art, animation and sound assets. As we’ve developed more apps the things the engine is capable of has increased. This means we can share new features across apps and even enable new features in older apps – something you’ll see very soon. Our engine now consists of about one hundred thousand lines of code. Our Cinderella app adds a further fifteen thousand lines that are unique to Cinderella, whereas one of our Bizzy Bear apps adds about eight thousand.
The video we show here is a visualisation all the changes to files and assets in our version control server. Each coloured dot is a file, grouped by folder. The lines represent the folder structure. Each flash of activity is a file being changed. You can see how the structure grows and changes over time as we started new apps or localised an existing one. The video was created using the great Gource tool.
(Kate says: “I hugely admire the writing and illustration of Alex T Smith, a couple of whose books I had the pleasure of publishing when I was at Scholastic. We’ve remained Twitter friends, and, when he tweeted about how his younger nephew’s attention span had, he felt, increased through exposure to Nosy Crow’s iPad apps, I asked him to expand on the thought, and this guest blog post was the result. There isn’t solid evidence about the impact of iPad apps on children’s development, concentration and/or literacy. Lisa Guernsey has spoken about them in the epilogue to her book, Screen Time (which you can download from her website, and I hope that Joanna McPake and Lydia Plowman of the Universities of Strathclyde and Stirling will extend their research (which I mentioned in this blog post though the links to the Seven Myths doesn’t work any longer, I see) into this area. In the meantime, all we have is personal stories. This is a lovely, individual one. Thank you, Alex.”)
I love being an uncle. I’ve even invented a word for the times I am left in charge of my two nephews: “uncling”. I think it’s a useful word to describe all the things I do with them – playing games, building dens, drawing (everything and anything) on demand, wiping noses… and, of course, battling boredom.
When my niece was little (she’s now a very glamorous 14 year-old) she was really easy to amuse. Should boredom strike, you could just plonk a book into her hands, or arm her with a pile of card, some glue and a pot of glitter, and she would be entertained for hours.
Big Nephew (now seven) was pretty much the same. From a very young age he could be entertained with a pile of books. He spent ages looking at the pictures and finding all the details hidden in them. What’s more, he could, and still can, (Proud Uncle alert) spend ages writing and illustrating his own beautiful, stapled picture books or making up brilliantly complicated and imaginative games (often involving aliens and/or dragons depending on whether he is a space man or a knight at the time).
Then Little Nephew arrived.
Little Nephew is now three and, like his siblings, he is (if you’ll allow me another Proud Uncle moment) very bright, fantastically imaginative and hilariously funny. He is also, and I say this in the nicest way, completely and utterly bonkers. After spending time with him I find myself exhausted, not only from laughing so much, but also from trying to keep up with the way his brain works. There is apparently a gorilla who lives in the attic at my parents’ house who tap-dances crossly on the floorboards if Little Nephew has to brave the stairs alone. When his parents check in on him after his bedtime, he can often be found sprawled across his bed in a completely different set of clothes from the pyjamas he was put into a few hours earlier: he was once found wearing swimming goggles, with a well-packed rucksack, a coat stuffed up his pyjama top, and a toy sword down his pyjama trousers – prepared, it would seem, for all the possible night-time eventualities and adventures that he could imagine.
While all of this is as lovely as it is funny, he isn’t exactly easy to entertain. He simply did not seem to have any sort of concentration span. You’d show him a book… and he’d race through the pages and zip off to do something else. You’d give him some paper… and he’d draw a squiggle then hop down from the table and get started on something new elsewhere. Getting him to do anything for more than a few seconds was really difficult and tiring, and he sometimes seemed frustrated too.
Then we had a breakthrough: the iPad!
When my parents bought their iPad, I got them to download some of the Nosy Crow apps as I thought they would be interested in them as they had both been teachers and are both bookworms. They were very impressed not only with the stories and the artwork, but also with the ways the iPad enhanced the texts and allowed the child reader (or in this case my parents!) to explore the story at their own pace.
It wasn’t long before the iPad was spotted by two pairs of beady eyes: the Nephews leapt onto it like hungry beasties. Big Nephew typically found his way around in no time, but what really surprised us all was how interested Little Nephew became. He sat flicking through the ‘pages’ and using his little fingers to make the three little pigs hop about and talk. He loved the ballroom dancing sequence in Cinderella and Bizzy Bear on the Farm is, I think, one of his very favourite things.
He now sits for sustained periods of time reading and playing with the Nosy Crow apps and really enjoys himself. I could say that through the iPad and its various apps his concentration span has increased, but actually what seems to have happened is that his ability to concentrate has appeared. And his fine motor skills have really improved too!
From reading the book apps, he has gone on to spend time creating mini-masterpieces in a painting app and learned to play games on the iPad too.
But the most curious thing is that since learning to enjoy the Nosy Crow apps, he has become really interested in print books. He regularly snuggles up beside one of us with a pile of books and wants each book read to him s-l-o-w-l-y giving him plenty of time to enjoy looking at the illustrations. He has also developed a real interest in creating non-digital artwork. Whereas before the best you could hope for was a blob quickly scrawled on a piece of paper, he now likes drawing funny little blob people who have their arms and legs on sideways and can sit happily glueing and sticking for ages.
I started thinking about this today whilst listening to a discussion on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme about whether all the technology today is damaging children. I tuned in mainly because I love listening to the crazy people who phone radio stations. One woman today wanted to ban and/or uninvent both TV and the Internet because she felt they were a bad influence and unhelpful! But after laughing at that, I got properly interested in the discussion. There was a lot of talk about how playing games on their computers can actually equip children with lots of skills they will need in the future careers. There were also testimonials from proud parents saying that their square-eyed, computer-game-playing child had grown up and been able to put their skills to use, not only in the games industry, but in a wide range of jobs, many of which you wouldn’t immediately associate with playing on an xBox.
I know that there’s a lot of anxiety as to whether, with the arrival of eBooks and apps, we will see the traditional children’s book becoming a thing of the past. There’s a worry that children born today will grow up not knowing how to read properly or know what a ‘real book’ is. Personally I don’t think that will happen. In the case of Little Nephew, modern technology (and Nosy Crow’s beautiful apps) have really grabbed his interest and actually led him from the screen to the page. I think with careful parenting (and uncling!) there is room for both apps and paper books in the world and they can be used to help children who struggle initially to connect with literature to learn to love books both ‘real’ and electronic.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got a tap-dancing gorilla in the attic to deal with…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
We blogged about it yesterday, but here’s a little reminder – to celebrate World Book Day (which has the Twitter hashtag #WBD2012) we’ve dropped the price of ALL of our apps to just £0.69/ $0.99/ €0.79 for one day!
The apps can be found on iTunes with the following links:
Find Cinderella on iTunes here
Find The Three Little Pigs on iTunes here
Find Bizzy Bear on the Farm 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.
Just in time for the release of our brand new Bizzy Bear on the Farm app, Cinderella, our second 3D fairytale app, is now on the front page of the “Apps for Kids” section of the iTunes App Store in the US. We’re really happy with the recognition it’s received all over the world, and it’s in excellent company here, alongside Sesame Street and Bartleby’s Book of Buttons.
So, thank you once again to everyone who’s bought the app and enjoyed it so much!
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.
Yesterday, the Nosy Crows had a bit of a lunch-time knees-up to celebrate (nearly) 15 months of existence and (nearly) 5 months of publishing. It was a non-birthday party, because we hadn’t been able to get ourselves organised enough to celebrate earlier. We’d love to have a photograph to show you what it was like, but our usual Nosy Crow photographic incompetence precludes this.
I wrote about our real birthday in our blog post of 22 February.
Adrian cooked, mainly Ottolenghi stuff as we have some vegetarians/borderline vegetarians in our group, and, besides, the recipes are great. I wheeled out the old pavlova trick. We ate like hogs, and staggered off into the early evening.
Because of how we work – three of us work from home, and some of us work part-time – and because we have as few formal meetings as possible, we don’t spend much time round a table, so it was great to have us all (well, nearly all: Deb’s in Rome but we couldn’t bear to postpone any further) in one room just to talk.
And it was a welcome moment to stop (because we hardly ever have time to stop) and think about what we’d achieved so far.
The first few are also published in Australia /New Zealand via Allen and Unwin, and many will be published in the second half of the year in the USA/Canada by Candlewick Press under the Nosy Crow imprint. So far, we’ve sold rights to translate these books to publishers in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Germany, France, Israel, Korea and China.
We have one app, The Three Little Pigs, available in the App Stores throughout the world, which has been named as one of the top 10 children’s book apps by the New York Times, and been extensively reviewed and praised by people who’ve bought it, bloggers specialising in apps and some of the increasing number of children’s book reviewers who are turning their attention to children’s reading experiences on the iPad (you can see most of the reviews on our The Three Little Pigs page of the Media Kit section of our website. The app will be published in German by Carlsen and in French by Gallimard Jeunesse.
We feel lucky to have pulled together the team we have – people with the best possible experience in fields as diverse as computer games coding, picture book design and children’s fiction commissioning (you can find out more about each of us in the Who Are We? section in the About As part of our website.
It’s not all cakes and ale: these are exceptionally tough times to be a print publisher, and the apps market is in its infancy, but, 15 months on, we reckon that we’ve made the best possible start and are toddling along nicely.
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.
Well, things got very real – and exciting – this week for Nosy Crow in North America.
Those of you who follow the blog will know that on March 10 (gosh: just under a month ago – things have moved fast since then!) we announced in our blog post that day that Boston-based Candlewick Press will co-publish the majority of Nosy Crow’s full-colour and illustrated titles in the US and Canada and Nosy Crow will become a new imprint of Candlewick Press.
Since then, as I say, things have moved quickly, and we’ve finalised the first Nosy Crow list for the US and Canada which will be published between August and December 2011. The books that will be published on the first Fall list are:
I’ve spent the last few days with friends at Candlewick.
First, I went to Boston to present the SPRING 2012 list (because publishing never stops, folks, and we are now working on the titles that Candlewick will be publishing under the Nosy Crow imprint from January to July 2012).
Then I went to New York (and I do love New York), to present the Fall list to Random House Special Markets team (because Candlewick is distributed by Random House in the US and Canada and they do some of their specialist selling through Random House’s sales force) to present to the people who do deals with things as diverse as museum shops and Pampers. Then on to Scholastic (for whom I used to work and an organisation I hugely admire) to talk about the Nosy Crow/Candlewick list to David Allender of US clubs before a lunch with Lisa Dugan, Barnes and Noble’s baby, toddler and picture book buyer.
While I was in New York, I managed to meet up with Andi Meyer, who is clever, dedicated and nice, and who works on publicising our apps in the US and does a lot or our @nosycrowapps tweeting. It was, as it happens, the eve of the mention of The Three Little Pigs on CBS (you can see the clip here, but we didn’t know it was happening until it was happening, if you see what I mean. We had a lot to talk about over our pasta.
And now I’m writing this in a hotel near Niagara (the Canadian side – the photo is of the Canadian side of the falls and it was – really – glorious to see it yesterday evening), having presented the Fall list to the very nice people at Random House Canada (who do Candlewick’s selling in Canada).
It’s been a busy three days, but there’s nothing like being able to present great books – in person – to the people who will then be the advocates of those books as they make their way to readers more than five thousand miles away from the place that those books were created.
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 email@example.com 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:
Pictured here is one small boy absorbed in Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play, having first fetched his own football because it’s just like Bizzy Bear’s. He enjoyed the sturdy, imaginative push-and-pull tabs and sliders and especially loved the being able to pass the ball from Bizzy Bear to his friend and back again. We stayed on that page for some time. Never has spot-the-ball been so much fun, for child or parent!”
“I was off to Waterstones today, to show them material on our books from May to August. May is the first month in which we have more than one book or pair of books from the same series, so that felt like a bit of a breakthrough.
Lyn Gardner is a terrific children’s writer and a Guardian theatre critic, who has brought her skill, her passion and her knowledge together to create the Olivia books, which are classy-but-commercial Ballet Shoes meets Malory Towers for today’s 8+ girl reader. The first book in the series, Olivia’s First Term publishes in June.
Dinosaur Dig! is Penny Dale’s innovative combination of two things little boys (in particular) love: dinosaurs and diggers. These dinosaurs are (spoiler alert!) digging a swimming pool and making a lot of noise about it. The book was inspired by Penny’s construction vehicle-obsessed grandson, Zachary, to whom the book is dedicated. The book publishes in May.
The Noodle books by French illustrator Marion Billet are touch and feel books with a very attractive panda character whose life reflects the daily activities and excitements of most babies under the age of 18 months. Two books publish in May and two in August.
Where possible, we try to make sure that books with a summery themes, featuring holidays, or swimming, or beaches, which are, therefore, possible summer reading promotion contenders, are published in these months, so the ocean setting of the third Mega Mash-up, the beach holiday theme of Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! and of Noodle Loves the Beach, as well as the swimming pool finale of Dinosaur Dig! all make them books we think babies and children would be in the right frame of mind for as the weather gets warmer. Trudging through the rain, weaving round discarded and dessicated Christmas trees this morning, it was hard to believe we’d ever see summer again, but publishing is always about thinking ahead: full-colour books take months to get from the printer to the warehouse, and we are selling rights and doing highlights presentations up nine months, and even more, ahead of the books being available to readers.
The first presentation – to Waterstones – went very well. Lots more presentations to come…”
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.
‘Tis the season to be jolly and the crows got off to a good start at The Bright Agency Christmas party, a cheery affair attended by the great and the good, including Klaus Flugge of Andersen Press (who, pictured above with Kate B, Camilla and a cunningly placed Christmas wreath has something of the Angel Gabriel about him!)
Emily Bolam, Nicola O’ Byrne, Benji Davies and Ben Mantle were among the many illustrators who raised a glass to Vicki Wilden-Lebrecht and her team. Vicki, in turn, gave an eloquent and heart-felt speech in which she paid tribute to the agency’s artists and staff.
Kate went to Nosy Crow’s first Bounce conference: 18 sales reps and marketeers in a room who wanted to hear about Nosy Crow’s first seven books so that they could sell them to their customers. (Bounce is our sales agency for UK and export as we announced in our recent blog post.
Oh, and, the truth is that Kate loves an audience, and it is perhaps the only disadvantage of being a small, independent publisher that she doesn’t get one as often as she used to. And while she’s stood in front of reps and talked about books before, they’ve never been her very own company’s books. So all in all, it was a Big Day for Nosy Crow.
Sue Ransom joined us for a lunch that featured chips and ice-cream (top lunch in Kate’s books), and at least one of the reps was able to give her excellent feedback from real, live bookshop people based on their reading of proof copies of Small Blue Thing.
It is that time of year. The tubes are hot and sticky, London is preternaturally quiet, you can get a lot of apricots for £1, and the key account buyers are seeing publishers to look at their January to April 2011 books, and work out what – if anything – they might want to do with them in terms of promotions.
This is necessarily an opaque business: the buyers have to see everyone before they decide what books make the grade, so you show them what you have and you then try to decode every little comment that they make.
This is Nosy Crow’s first season, and, to tell the truth, it’s been years and years since Kate’s done a key account presentation. All in all, it’s pretty nerve-racking.
But, so far, with three down and many more to go, it’s been worth it. It’s another step towards our proper launch next year (Small Blue Thing publishes in January 2011 and is our first title), and the feedback, or at least such feedback as we’ve had, has been positive. In fact, we have our first order, which is a bit of an exciting moment.
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 are sorry. We haven’t posted since last Sunday, and we apologise to those of you – and we know you exist and we love you! – who’ve been coming to the site every day for our daily Nosy News. We’ve been at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair since Monday and have had no time at all to post, though Kate’s tweeted a bit.
The picture of Kate and Camilla on the stand with an author was taken by lovely Liz Thomson from Book Brunch.
Kate has her schedule to hand and sees that she had over 50 appointments in three-and-a-half days just counting the ones which she spent showing non-UK publishers and a couple of UK retailers the material on Nosy Crow’s books for 2011. Camilla had a full schedule too. Given that, as some of you know, we initially planned to come to Bologna just to have a few chats with old friends, this wasn’t bad going.
Of course, because we’d been launched for exactly four weeks when the fair began, we didn’t have a huge amount of material – though Imogen did manage to pull together bound proofs of Small Blue Thing which went like hot cakes. We couldn’t be more pleased with the response to all that we had to show, though. Several key people came back to the stand, some with colleagues, to look again at things that particularly interested them. Kate got five requests to come to visit publishers/groups of publishers to talk through the programme over the next few months. There wasn’t a single project on which we don’t have a lot of interest to folllow up, and we’re really grateful to the authors, illustrators and other creative people we’ve been working with over the past weeks for all their hard work as it meant we could make a really strong debut.
People were really compelled by the concept and storyline of Small Blue Thing, for which Kate’s shorthand pitch was, “Twilight in London but with memories instead of blood”.
They responded really well to the “mash up” element of Mega Mash-Up, and doodle books were doing well in many markets so the idea of doodle novels was really popular. As has happened to Kate before, Alan Boyko of Scholastic Book Fairs USA made a brilliant observation that will improve the books as we develop them: thank you, Alan! This is one of the excellent by-products of selling to really good people: their comments really help you to refine the books. Here’s how Book Brunch reported on the books.
Benji Davies’s Bizzy Bear character was tremendously popular – accessible and cute but still distinctive and classy – and people responded well to the very simple and well-thought-through mechanisms.
The idea of being able to tell the story of life on earth from blobs to us in 32 pages in Evolution went down very well, and there was real interest in narrative non-fiction for young readers. This is the book that’s furthest off in terms of scheduling for us (we plan to publish in September 2011, while the rest of the books we were talking about are for the first half of next year), and we’ve yet to confirm an illustrator for it, so it will have it’s first real outing at Frankfurt.
Like us, others recognised Penny Dale’s spectacular brilliance in combining dinosaurs and diggers in Dinosaur Dig. As one interested publisher said, “It’s got dinosaurs, it’s got diggers, it’s got counting, it’s got a story. It’s even got suspense!” Here’s how Book Brunch reported the acquisition
We could sell Pip and Posy many times over in every major market. Axel’s work is known and loved in so many countries, but people also really liked the idea of reflecting the realities of toddler life, including the bits that make toddlers cry. And here’s how The Bookseller reported the acquisition.
We were on the Publisher’s Association stand with other independent publishers who were exceptionally friendly, though we’re not sure we were the best of neighbours as we were both noisy and messy. Gloria and Helen from the PA looked after us brilliantly.
Both off the stand and on the stand, we met authors, illustrators, agents and journalists as well as non-Uk publishers, and there’s a handful of really interesting ideas for us to follow up as possible additions to the list.
Book Brunch gave Nosy Crow a mention in its Bologna Book Fair round up, and did a great write up of this year’s Bologna party of parties: Scholastic’s 90th birthday.
As we were flat-out, we can’t really say that we spent much time taking the temperature of the fair, but we think that the general view was that it was pretty lively and buzzy. UK and German children’s books markets at least did well last year, and people seemed open to buy. A lot of people were talking about US fantasy The Emerald Atlas, which Nosy Crow saw, but decided not to bid on, and which Writer’s House had done a very good job of hyping up before the fair. It went to Random House in the US and Germany and HarperCollins in the UK.
Here are a few photos that we took – we’ll remember to take more next time.
Camilla had a great meeting about the Bizzy Bear books which shaped up beautifully in the course of a discussion with a really experienced designer. Kate kept butting in, though, for reasons she can’t go into, she was writing a poem at the time.
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.