Description in Picturebooks

Whether an individual picture is static or conveys motion, the more details there are in a picture, the longer its discourse time. The common prejudice is that children do not like descriptions, preferring scenes and dialogue. This must be an acquired preference, imposed on children by adults, since all empirical research shows that children, as well as adults, appreciate picturebook pauses and eagerly return to them.

– from How Picturebooks Work by Maria Nikolajeva and Carole Scott

Decisions To Make When Storyboarding For Interactivity

First things first: Does this story require an active and alert reader, and do the interactions reward interactivity and alertness?

1. Should interactions be user-initiated or autoplay? A mixture?

I prefer narration to autoplay, with the option of turning it off completely from the main menu. When I have to press a button to start the narration on each page it takes me out of the story. As for the rest of the page, a mixture of autoplaying actions and user-initiated interactions works well in many cases, as long as any auto-play noises are not too irritating. Irritating = loud, unpleasant tones or even a pleasant sound that’s on too short of a loop.

2. How much animation, if any?

Too much animation and the storyapp runs the risk of emulating a film, losing its true interactivity. For small development teams, too much animation is costly and therefore not an option. When simple animations are utilised, which ones help to tell the story?

3. Should interactivity be allowed before the narration is over, or must the reader wait?

I still get frustrated when I can’t start the interactivity when I want to, regardless of whether the sound that accompanies the interaction drowns out the narration. It’s about user control. Also, I prefer gentle sound effects, which don’t drown out the narration even if played simultaneously.

4. After an interactivity has played out, should the user be able to cycle through again, or will the page fall inactive, waiting for the reader to turn the page and move on with the story?

The advantage of looping is that readers can linger on a page for as long as they like, which makes the reader feel more in control. The disadvantage is that younger readers in particular may lose the thread of the story, derailed by the interactivity. We used both finite and infinite loops of interactions for The Artifacts on a case-by-case basis. I’ve grown to slightly prefer finite looping, because if readers really want a specific page they can jump to it via the navigation pages, or simply turn onto the page again from the previous, losing no control — only a small bit of convenience.

5. Should the developer offer hints with flashing/arrows, or should the reader have to find all the interactivity themselves?

We believe young readers are more than capable of uncovering any interaction we think we’re hiding in an app. We hear quite a bit from parents that children find Easter eggs in apps that they never suspected were there. We don’t believe everything needs to be handed to a child on a plate, and goes with our general philosophy of ‘try it and see’ — an important attitude when using any type of technology.

The best children’s apps are successful because of a pair of more traditional qualities. Great storytelling. Strong characters. It seems apps aren’t so revolutionary after all, but that’s a good thing.

Stuart Dredge at The Guardian

Why So Many Animals In Picture Books?

why so many animals in picture books

An astonishing number of the characters depicted in picture books are not people at all, but animals–or rather, humans who look like animals, for Horton the elephant of Horton Hatches the Egg and Pearl the pig heroine of The Amazing Bone are certainly more human than animal in their interests and motivations. In many picture books, indeed, only the pictures inform us that the characters are animals; to give just one example, Russell Hoban’s Frances is a badger only in Lillian Hoban’s illustrations of her; in the text, she talks and acts like an ordinary human child.

– Perry Nodelman, Words About Pictures

Continue reading “Why So Many Animals In Picture Books?”

How To Design A Poster



Steal Like An Artist, but don’t forget to credit.


(Tip: You don’t really need high-end software worth thousands of dollars to create something cool.)






200+ Pinterest Boards For Designers To Follow from Design Shack

And, here’s how not to design a poster. Movie Posters Recreated Using Only Clipart, from The Mary Sue. Avoid clip-art and comic sans and you’re doing just great.

The View From Bed

Not interesting.
Slightly more interesting.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen from your bed?

For me it would have to be the spider I woke up to one morning. It was dangling at the end of a thread, right in front of my nose. It wasn’t exactly a Huntsman, but still not pleasant!

Breakdown of an App… what makes an app?

Have you ever wondered what goes into an app? Here is a detailed breakdown of “The Artifacts”, perhaps shining some light on how much work it is to create an app like this.

Sound Effects:
202 different sound effects.
10 MB.

Here are the sounds effects for page 6 (click to play):

Over 1000 separate graphics frames, on 240 individual files. Many frames are combined into one graphics file to make it faster.
68.7 MB.
Here is one of our graphics sheets, from the Caterpillar page (page 6).

2 Music tracks.
6.9 MB.
You can download the music from The Artifacts (it’s free) here.

Around 12,000 lines of code, not counting framework.
Around 5 MB.
Here is a sample from the Fireflies page (Page 20), this piece of code adds a new firefly.

-(void) addFireFlies: (int) count: (CGPoint) loc
    NSString *fireflyname = getRelevantFile(@"firefly-%02d", @"png");

    for( int x = 0; x < count; x++ )
        firefly[fireflypoint] = [CCSprite spriteWithSpriteFrameName: 
                         [NSString stringWithFormat:fireflyname, 1]];
        scaleToDevice( firefly[fireflypoint] );
        [p24sheet addChild: firefly[fireflypoint]];

        [firefly[fireflypoint] setPosition:loc];

        [self stopAnimWings:firefly[fireflypoint] data:fireflypoint];

        fireflystatus[fireflypoint] = FF_NOTMOVING;


Hopefully you’ve found this enlightening, we had a lot of fun creating it! If you have any questions on the development of an App, I’d be happy to answer them for you.

A Scene From Midnight Feast: Roya’s Bedroom

I decided to put the full workings of this first page up because it illustrates how I changed my mind about the colour scheme. As you can see, I proceeded to create a bluish sort of colour scheme, avoiding the black outline with a colour wash that appears in many children’s books. This is fairly quick to draw, but doesn’t look as attractive to me.

In the end, to overcome the feeling that this project will never get done, I decided to make the ‘A’ version of each page the line-drawing and wash sort of illustration which can take about half the number of hours for me to crank out. This is because instead of rendering form tonally, I can just plonk down an outline and colour it in with a block colour. This makes drawing the characters a lot quicker. Since some pages have multiple touch and fade ‘animations’, drawing each character tonally proved too time consuming. If we spent a month on each page, this app wouldn’t get done before I got sick of it. But it’s not just about time. The ‘A’ version of each page has to look different in mood, and I was wondering how to achieve this at the beginning of the story, before Roya has fully entered her imaginative world.

As you can see, I begin to change the colour scheme back to the colour of the original canvas. In keeping with a more sketchy style, I’ve decided to hand-write the text.

I made Roya’s arms shorter so that she looks a LITTLE bit younger. I think she can pass for 12-14 now so I’m happy with that.

I had to send a whole bunch of preview screens to Dan so that he knows where to position the elements.

That probably gives some idea of the number of elements in this page, and how difficult it will be for Dan to get this page loading quickly and playing nicely. So there are no guarantees that he’s going to fit all of them in. He tells me that Apple are vague about upper memory limits, which means coding an app for Apple is a matter of trial and error to some extent.

Anyway, it would be nice to think that mobile devices were completely free of the constraints of print publishing — the need for a 32 or 24 pages, the need for approximate rather than precise colour and so on. But there are limitations on what we can do in a storybook app, even in an app designed for the best mobile hardware out there: Apple’s.


And here’s the next version. I’d like to say it’s the ‘final’ one, but you never know! I figure the first few pages need mucking around with the most. After I’ve got a mood down, I can remember how I did it, then recreate it on all the following pages.