By Lauren Barack
Nosy Crow’s long-awaited Cinderella app was launched yesterday, and it’s a fairy tale ripe for the digital age. Young readers can help Cinderella clean the kitchen, assemble a wondrous carriage with her Fairy Godmother, and even change the music during the fabled grand ball. We caught up with Kate Wilson, Nosy Crow’s managing director to ask what the company gleaned from building its first successful app, The Three Little Pigs, what readers should expect with Cinderella, and if all reading can be interactive.
The story of Cinderella is one of enchantment; what magical experiences can children expect with this app?
With Cinderella, we very much wanted to use the interactivity for transformation and magic. So children can change Cinderella’s dress, choosing from four gowns. We’ve also employed the mirror. The stepsisters are quite obsessed with how they look, so there’s an opportunity to use the mirror that is in keeping with the idea of appearance in the story.
I think one of the things about the story of Cinderella, interestingly, is hard work. As children [listen to or] read the app they are encouraged to fetch, for example, different bits of costume to help the stepsisters get ready for the ball and to help collect mice and a pumpkin for the Fairy Godmother….
How did the creation of The Three Little Pigs influence the production of Cinderella?
We learned a lot through that process. It was new to us. And a lot of our thinking was refined. One thing that surprised us about The Three Little Pigs was that the…interactivity and the rich dialogue extended the appeal of that story to children [older than six or seven]. We thought about that in relation to Cinderella, and we constructed the app to be read [and enjoyed] at various levels; children can spend very little time with it, or spend a long time with it. For example, [viewers] can help Cinderella tidy the kitchen. Some older children spend a [fair amount] of time sweeping the floor, and moving fruit into bowls and cups and saucers into the sink. Younger children [tend to do these chores] once or twice and then move on. And that’s absolutely fine….
Also, text appeared for a fixed amount of time in the “Read by Myself” mode in The Three Little Pigs. But some parents said their children needed a little bit longer to read than that, and so we’ve set three reading-time [options] in Cinderella.
Do you see Cinderella being used in classrooms?
I can imagine it used in small groups with or without an adult. The app can be an empowering reading experience for children because they can control the pace of the story or choose to have the words read to them.
We are tremendously interested in hearing from teachers who are using story apps in the classroom because we would like to extend features that will help them use apps in that [setting]. But we don’t position ourselves as an educational publisher. I have too much respect for teachers and educational publishers to make [unproven educational] claims [about apps]. Nosy Crow is very much about reading for pleasure and the advantages of reading for pleasure. The key for us is to provide exciting reading experiences on the screen.
When creating an app, do you start with the words or the interactive elements?
The first step for us—and it may be different for other app developers—is the text. We’re about writing, but we’re writing with the device in mind, the features [that are available to us], and what we might be able to bring to the story in the [digital format]. But we start with the written word, much as we would with a picture book. We’re [not] interested in having the interactivity stuck on as a game. We want to forward the story in a child’s mind, to deepen the engagement.
Nosy Crow inked a deal this year creating its own imprint with Candlewick. Is there a connection between the digital stories and the print books you produce?
We’re extremely happy to be working with another independent publisher with a focus on children….[Recently] Candlewick began publishing our illustrated books and board books. There are three picture books, two interactive touch-and-feel books, and two pull-tab books, and books where children can add their own words, or draw their own pictures.
I don’t see [apps and books] as two separate worlds; I see them as a continuum. I see children touching books, pulling tabs, drawing [in] books, and being read to as highly interactive experiences. Children experience stories, words, and images in different media in different places in their homes, at different times during their day, and at different stages during their lives.