The iTunes store has no shortage of fairy tale-themed apps and eBooks. A quick search for any of your favorite Hans Christian Andersen or Brothers Grimm stories will turn up hundreds of options for both “free” (quotations marks very intentional) and paid options. Unfortunately, many of them feature artwork right out of a bad Disney rip-off film. As for the game-play, I never get that far. Of course, pretty art doesn’t always equal an engaging app either, so after going on a few fairy tale app journeys, we came back with a few favorites.
Hansel and Gretel: Lost by PB&J Publishing The beautiful, bright hand-drawn illustrated style of Chilean artist Alvaro Pantoja Busch is what initially brought this app to my attention. The experience itself measures up to the art, with 21 interactive pages including 60 points of interaction. For my two girls, stuffing the two lost siblings full of witch house candy is a twenty minute activity in itself! The classic Grimm tale is also updated for modern children with the evil, child-dumping step-mom removed and Gretel re-positioned as a joke-cracking girl-power role model.
Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty: 3D Interactive Pop-up Book by StoryToys With this app, StoryToys Entertainment proves they are a company that fully realizes the power of the tablet platform. This app takes the traditional pop-up book concept and lets young users play around and interact with the illustrations within the book. Created to appear like an open book on a table, users read along and participate in 11 interactive 3D pop-up scene activities. My 2-year-old could not get enough of dressing up Briar Rose’s fairy friends and finding her way through a magic maze. Less scary than the Disney version and with added humor, Sleeping Beauty is a great intro to the StoryToys line.
Lil’ Red – An Interactive Story by Brian Main Lil’ Red caught my eye after seeing a screenshot of its big-eyed heroine – the creation of talented artist and illustrator Brian Main. Created solely in the stark pallet of black, white and red, the story of Little Red Riding Hood is given a humorous kid-safe update. Best of all, this app leaves it to the parent – or the child – to interpret the story; with animation, music and basic interactions being the main driver of the tale. The wordless eBook approach, combined with the 3-color pallet and unique character illustrations, makes for a one-of-a-kind app experience.
Cinderella by Nosy Crow Nosy Crow’s Cinderella features a beautifully sophisticated hand-drawn look and feel that is comparable to classic children’s property Charlie & Lola. Artist Ed Bryan’s brunette take on the one-shoed princess is infused with just enough visual humor and magic to set it apart from the countless other takes on this classic tale. In-story interactions are a must for eBooks, and Cinderella doesn’t disappoint, even utilizing the front facing camera. Young players will spend hours helping Cinderella clean the kitchen, dress her sisters for the ball, build her pumpkin carriage, and even choose the music for her dance with the Prince.
Do you have a favorite fairy tale app? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Chrismukkah is over at our mixed-marriage residence. Please ignore those lingering decorations. It’s time to call out just a few of the Santa (and Hanukkah) successes of the 2012 Holiday season.
Disney Apples To Apples – Surely, you have played the adult-targeted version of this game at a party or two – possibly under the influence of an adult beverage. “Disney Apples To Apples” down-ages this word association game so the whole family can participate and integrates pictures from almost every Disney property – including Parks, Pixar, Princesses, and tween TV. We have been playing this non-stop since Hanukkah and has become an instant favorite for our 6-year-old.
Star Wars Princess Leia Fashion Set – Most parents of Disney Princess-loving girls have spent much time helping dress the rubber-dressed, Polly Pocket-esque Disney Princess mini- figures. This Disney Parks “exclusive item,” also available on Amazon, gives Princess Leia the Disney“fashion set” treatment with a slew of clothing and hairstyles from different ‘Star Wars’ films. No matter how hard those rubber clothes are to put on, I will gladly support my 6-year-old’s interest in this property.
Lite Brite LED Flatscreen – Lite Brite lives on! A staple toy of my 80’s, this toy has been downsized to an era-appropriate “LED Flatscreen.” It still comes with the same multicolored pegs we know and love (yet hate to step on) as well as the black slip-in sheets to create designs.
LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Cakes – My two year old loves two things: Getting her hands in my older daughter’s LEGO Friends and celebrating birthdays – fake or not. This DUPLO kit keeps her away from her big sister’s creations while letting her have some birthday make-pretend play at the same time.
Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set – This playset lets kids “bake,” “decorate,” and “serve” cookies. My children have had their eyes on this toy since seeing it at a friends’ house, and I was happy to add a solid wooden toy set to the mix.
MindWare Pattern Play – Nothing beats some offline, old-fashioned block play. The Pattern Play set comes with 40 rainbow-colored blocks to assemble. Just choose a pattern card design to replicate and fit it into the wooden tray. While I am sure there is an “app for that,” it is nice to see my daughter disconnecting from the screen for a while.
Cinderella Toddler Doll – My two-year-old can often be seen swaying through the house warbling her rendition of Cinderella’s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” in her sister’s flashing “glass” slippers. So, yeah, she loves her Cinderelly. Instead of a Barbie-style doll, Santa brought her a larger-sized Cinderella Toddler Doll. While it may not exactly align with the story – Cinderella wasn’t exactly wearing her crown and blue dress as a toddler – I don’t think that is going to stop her from carrying it with her everywhere she goes.
LEGO Friends Adventure Camper – The LEGO Friends argument is played out at this point, but my stance is “if it gets my girls into the LEGO brand, I am down.” This was one of the most enjoyably intricate sets we have built, and temporarily left last year’s camper-gift-from-Santa (Barbie Sisters Family Camper) in the dust.
Journey Girls Wheelchair and Crutch Set – The rite-of-passage know as American Girl Dolls has fully infiltrated our house. It’s a great to have brands like Journey Girls that offer cheaper 18” doll accessories. This wheelchair and crutch set has been a hit on the block and a central part of our daughter’s American Girl playtime since Medical Orderly Kriss Kringle delivered it December 25th.
Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace – Fisher-Price’s classic Little People brand meets the ubiquitous Disney Princess brand in this musical dollhouse-style toy. My two-year old has already spent hours with this toy, warming up for her eventual full-fledged Disney Princess obsession.
In reviewing children’s shows, I often chance upon two types: First, there are the wonderful, niche productions aimed at a specific audience with specific goals. Then, there are the broader, mainstream-aimed shows that are just waiting for their national breakthrough. The Choo Choo Bob Show falls in to the later category.
Based out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, The Choo Choo Bob Show is a live-action comedy show aimed at children 2-7 that has echoes of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody. ’Choo Choo Bob’ is set at Bob’s clubhouse, and features visits from his wacky human pals (includes actors with experience at Comedy Central) and puppet friend Charlie Rat. Choo Choo Bob keeps it updated for modern audience with stop-ins from hipster musicians (Ozomatli), humor that will appeal to parents and kids (“Cleaning with Autotune”), and a likable lead host (Sam Heyn) that won’t scare off parents.
And, of course, there are the trains. Executive producer and show creator Bob Medcraft was inspired by his retail storefront Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store, located in St Paul. His knowledge of trains carries over into each episode where the characters travel across the country visiting real working railroads, answering train questions from kids, and watching “guest trains” zoom by their club house. Even if your little one is not train-infatuated, the music, wrap-around plots and characters will keep them engaged. And if they are train enthusiasts, this show will send them roaring down the rails. We had a viewing party with our friends’ sons (ages 2 & 5) who were already in love with all things locomotive. The show resonated with them after the first 10 minutes, and the one DVD we gave them as a sample was surely not going to suffice.
Right now The Choo Choo Bob Show has 46 episodes produced, all airing in the mid-west. But anyone outside those geographic lines can access Choo Choo Bob merchandise online, including, DVDs, CDs, and stuffed animals. Bob Medcraft and team hope to ride their train into other states soon. In the meantime, you can check out some great clips on their YouTube channel.
The ‘Choo Choo Bob’ Gang
If you kvell over the artistic sensibilities and pop-art style of Yo Gabbba Gabba and its animated segments, then it is time to take a trip to Goon Holler. While we have written about this property in the past, all has been quiet out of the ‘Holler,’ until now.
“The Goon Holler Guidebook” was written and illustrated by four-time Emmy-nominated Yo Gabba Gabba art director Parker Jacobs, based on a a property he created with his brother Christian (co-creator and director of ‘Gabba’ and The Aquabats! Super Show!). This fully-illustrated “guidebook” introduces readers to Tooba the Bigfoot as he wanders into the land of Goon Holler. There he meets a wizard name Uncle Wiznat, a girl named Dosie Doh, an alien name Xöranj and the mischievous furry goons that give the book its name.
“The Goon Holler Guidebook” shirks the traditional format to create what can be best described as a “variety show”-style book for kids. Similar to “Yo Gabba Gabba,” a wrap-around story ties everything together. The story focuses on Tooba’s introduction to Goon Holler and is interspersed with comic strips, recipes, jokes, and even sing-alongs.
When the Parkers launched Yo Gabba Gabba, they brought something bold and new to TV, while pulling in the best artists and musicians to make it hit home with kids and caregivers. Once again, they are ignoring the norms in a traditional marketplace and have created a first-of-its-kind book for kids.
So what’s next for Goon Holler? Let’s hear from Parker himself in an exclusive interview with Nugget Island.
Nugget Island: First off, a standard question: What inspired this property and its universe?
Parker Jacobs: I lived in Appalachia for a few years; West Virginia, Virginia & the Amish part of Maryland. America’s forgotten back yard became so exciting to me in this age of Google maps. Living out there brought back things that excited me as a kid, tall tales, stories of Bigfoot, the Flatwoods Monster, Mothman…These legends say that there’s still magic, wonder and unknown things in this world, but it’s just hiding out in some hidden forest. Like the Smurf villlage.
NI: What came first ‘Goon’ or ‘Gabba’?
PJ: We had been developing both from around the same time. I was already working on Goon Holler when Christian approached me to feature those characters for the “Please/ Thank you” segment in the Yo Gabba Gabba pilot. That along with 2 other Goon Holler shorts, “Goon Fishin’ and “Toot Your Horn” were in the first season.
NI: Love the guidebook format! What made you decide to go this way instead of a traditional storybook?
PJ: My goal for “The Goon Holler Guidebook” was not to tell one story but to present a new world. I wanted to appeal to a broader audience, while still keeping it visually strong. If I had just made a traditional picture book people would think that Goon Holler is just for preschoolers. I also didn’t want to settle on one style. That’s why I implemented an Illustrated version, a loose 2-color comic book style and even real photographs of Dosie Doh and Pooka Shells.
NI: Is that you singing the theme songs on the website?
PJ: Oh that’s Tooba’s voice. ;^)
NI: Have you tried all the recipes in the cookbook?
PJ: Okay you got me. Not all of them. A couple of those recipes I enlisted my sister and mom to help put together. The Alien Tentacle Crawlers, is something I’ve been doing with my kids for years! It’s so much fun to prepare as a family.
NI: What future plans do you have for the property outside of the print media?
PJ: I would like to do an app next. The goons lend themselves so well to designer toys, but we’ll see. Ultimately a T.V. show or a full-length motion picture is where I’d like to take this.
NI: Will we see more of the ‘Holler or Toobaloth C Grassfoot on Yo Gabba Gabba?
PJ: Probably not, but don’t you think it’s time for a spin-off anyway?
“The Goon Holler Guidebook” is now available on Amazon and in bookstores nationwide. For more information about the Goon Holler team, check out http://www.goonhollerbook.com or http://www.sourcedmediabooks.com. Also, be sure to check out the trailer here!
At Nugget Island, we love unique goods for kids, and it doesn’t get any more unique than handmade. The zanimals are cute stuffed critters made of knee socks and other new & recycled clean materials, stuffed with 100% polyester fiberfill. The zanimals were brought to life by Suzanne Pollack, a Boston-based artist from my childhood hometown who I have known since she was collecting stuffed animals of her own.
Each zanimal is handcrafted with their own little back-story, name and personality, making for a one-of-kind experience for each child (or adult). According to “artist, animal lover and knee sock wearer” Suzanne, “making these cute critters allows me to combine my extreme love of animals with my desire to play with texture, pattern and color. Because my zanimals truly are filled with love, you will feel their souls when you look into their sweet button eyes.” Also, 10% of each zanimal purchase will be donated to an animal charity.
Check out Suzanne’s Etsy shop and meet some of her latest zanimal creations. Any one of her latest critters would be an excellent one-of-kind gift for the holidays. Below are a just few to check out.
CONTEST: Help name Suzanne’s new product line – and win a pair!:
Suzanne has just launched her zanimal ornaments / mini-monsters and needs your help naming them! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion(s), and you might win two. Check them out here. Please note: We cannot guarantee usage of your “winning” name. Contest ends 11/30