Multi-Platform “Zebrafish” Shows Power of Science, Giving, Compassion

When I see a quality kid-centric project coming out of my Boston hometown, it is hard not to call it out. And when it is a project with a philanthropic twist, it demands a post.

Zebrafish is named after the fish used for studying diseases

Generation Cures is an online community and content site created by Children’s Hospital Boston and FableVision with the goal of “teaching and empowering kids to give back” and to “use their powers for good.” A quick visit to the site shows this is no partial effort. Both organizations have created a robust experience that includes games, videos, music, webisodes and real-world challenges. The cartoon webisodes center on a relatable tween garage band called the Zebrafish, who work together to help a sick friend. According to Janet Cady, Children’s Hospital’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, the mission of the fictional band is to show tweens “that they don’t have to be an adult to make a difference, and that their good work can mobilize family and friends to help sick children worldwide.”

The “Zebrafish” concept was also Boston-born, dreamt up by author-illustrator Peter H. Reynolds’ FableVision media company. Reynolds, illustrator of the Little Boy and Judy Moody books, has set up both FableVision Studios, focusing on projects like websites, games, animated films, interactive graphic novels, digital books and iPhone apps, as well as the K-12 educational publishing division, FableVision Learning. A quick visit to this organization’s website makes it clear they are used to creating quality educational output for children.

The true impetus for this post was news that the Boston-born “Zebrafish” property is making its way from the Generation Cures website to the printed form. Children’s Hospital Boston recently sent out a press release announcing Atheneum Books, a Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing imprint, is creating a hardcover middle-grade novel of this property. The book itself, to be written by Sharon Emerson and illustrated by Renée Kurilla, will be in a unique “visual novel” format. More specifically, it teams a traditional prose novel with four color graphic novel panels, making it accessible to manga-happy middle schoolers.

The story of Zebrafish will focus on band members Vita, Walt, Jay and Plinko as they support ailing band member Tanya. Recently diagnosed with leukemia, Tanya and the band must deal with the implications of her illness while planning a fundraiser to purchase research equipment for her hospital. Proceeds of the books will go back to Children’s Hospital Boston.

Read more about the Generation Cures project here or learn more about the transmedia Zebrafish effort here. Also, check out the official book trailer below.


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