Thursday, March 28, 2013

TWO New Mercer Mayer's Little Critter "The Trip" Apps from Silver Dolphin: A Reveiw and Information

So it is Spring Break at our house, and while looking for a diversion for my kids, I just discovered that Silver Dolphin Books (Baker & Taylor Publishing Group) has two new apps out based on Mercer Mayer’s “Little Critter’s The Trip” that came out March 19 (a  “Reading Adventure” and a  “GamePak”...there is also a “Lite” version of the Reading app too for Android and probably coming soon for iPhone/iPad)   YAY! I immediately purchased “The Trip: Little Critter Reading Adventure.”


I played with the “Reading Adventure” app for a while and found it pretty fun. It reminds me of a VERY simple adventure game (like an ultra-easy “King’s Quest”) mixed with your regular children’s book app.  It has a lot of Hot Spots (areas you can touch for animation) and some very funny bonuses. You get to pick up things and place them in your backpack to use in other scenes. You can also find “Gems” by completing puzzles, and you can collect alphabet cards (I'll give you 26 guesses as to how many there are).   It also reads the story to you and has voice actors, animation, and sound effects. Once you've visited a place you can go back to it with the map (very nice for completists...just don't “start a new adventure”!).  


After playing, I went to the Silver Dolphin website to see if they had any more information about the app. Lo and behold, there is a two part interview with John R. Sansevere on there.  Erica Farber and J. R. Sansevere are names that many Mercer Mayer and Little Critter fans might be aware of, and both are talked about on the website. Information about these two individuals is scarce on the Internet.  Many Little Critter and Critters of the Night books are written John R. Sansevere and Erica Farber. There was a time when I wondered if John R. Sansevere and Mercer Mayer were the same person… Like Mercer Mayer had some contractual obligation and had to create this pseudonym (and Gina Mayer became “Erica Farber” in my convoluted-head-theory….controversy!).  So much for that theory. *thwip*!  John R. Sansevere developed the Little Critter “The Trip” apps.  If you start looking at your copyright pages in you Mercer Mayer books, you'll see his name... a lot.

I ended up eventually contacting Silver Dolphin and they ended up giving me a copy of “The Trip: Little Critter GamePak” for review (THANK YOU!).

Well my kids being ever so nosey quickly noticed my new toy.  My seven year old spent about 40 minutes with “The Trip: Little Critter Reading Adventure.”  He said he really enjoyed it, “I liked how you got to collect gems and stuff” (he found them all and opened a new “gem” game on the app). NOTE: if you “Start a NEW adventure” your gem game will disappear unless you find/earn them all again. He is currently reading chapter books, and the reading level is well below his, but he obviously had a lot of fun and it kept him occupied.  I doubt he'll want to play it again, but you never know.

After he was done he handed me back my iPhone (3rd Generation) and I showed him that we also had “The Trip: Little Critter GamePak,” and his eyes lit up with that “please please please” look that most parents know. I told him after lunch.  When lunchtime came, he gobbled and looked at me with anticipation. I handed him my iPhone (after he washed his hands).


He started with a sorting game. The first thing I heard was a bunch of honking sounds and “try again” (the voice of Little Critter.. played by someone with the last name Sansevere) coming from the phone… and frustration coming from my son.  “The game wants things EXACTLY right!” But that quickly stopped as he got to know the controls.  Having a Generation 3 iPhone means we have a very small screen, and I’m sure it could be frustrating to deal with smaller things. 

One really fun thing is the DigiStix.  The DigiStix are like Colorforms or stickers (DigiStix = Digital Stickers), but animated with sounds. To quote the app, “…different DigiStix do different things in different places.” So depending on where you place them, different animations and phrases will be said.  Like Little Sister might say she has to go potty one place (or that she wants an ice cream), and you can actually put her next to the bathrooms too (or next to the ice cream stand).  They also interact with each other.  I found this really cool.  There is a demo of this in the “The Trip: Little Critter Reading Adventure” in the “For Parents” section but it is small in comparison.  There are a few different areas in the DigiStix section: Play (the Colorform-esque area where the DigiStix will interact with each other and you can place them almost anywhere), Puzzles, Matching, Letter Fun, Picture Poofs (a lot like a sticker book with animation and sound...some of these pics are from OTHER Mercer Mayer Little Critter books… maybe a sign of things to come!).

The rest of the games on “The Trip: Little Critter GamePak” are Dot-to-dots, How Many (counting), Color Match, Mazes, and more Matching.  PLUS there is at least one unlockable BONUS game.

Then it was my four year old’s turn. She just wanted the book to read the story to her, which is an option. I watched over her shoulder as the story was read to her.  This mode is a disjointed telling of the story and kind of disappointing. It jumps scene to scene with no real cohesion as to how things got to where they were (since a lot of that is in the animation of the Adventure version of the story. BUT, my daughter didn’t notice. She just smiled after it was over while handing the phone back to me saying, “Thank you, Daddy!” I am sure she'll ask for it again.  She "reads" the other Oceanhouse Media Little Critter apps we have all the time. Eventually, I'll show her how to do the Adventure, and I know she'll play it more than once. The app is recommended for ages 3 to 7.  So, having kids 4 and 7 fit.

Special Note: There are TWO different versions of the book version of Little Critter’s The Trip (just like there are two apps). One version of the book is the 1988 Golden Easy Reader which is an ABC reader that starts with, “Here is our trip from A to Z. A is for all. Here we all go!” It is a very humor-filled book (around 34 pages long). Later, in 1997, the book was re-released by Inchworm as a regular plotted story book without the ABC-ness (less pages too…which means not all of the original pictures are in there). The app is a lot like the 1997 version.


Oh, the reason Dad looks mad during the Ice Cream scene is because in the 1988 book, Little Critter took the keys as a “J is for joke” (LOVE Dad's face here).  Speaking of “Jokes,” Little Critter trades jokes with Ken & Perry in the app when you tap on them.  There are a lot of things from the 1988 book that didn't make it into the app (like Dad off-roading it for a bit in one of THE FUNNIEST moments in a Little Critter book, ever). You can also see the some changes that happened between the 1988 book and the app... but the flavor and fun still remains.
The original Little Critter's The Trip (1988)

The re-make/re-vamp of Little Critter's The Trip (1997)

That's all for now... Good night, sleep tight, don't let the Zipperump-a-zoos bite.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Brand new Inspired Kids line of Mercer Mayer's Little Critter Books on the horizon: "It's True" and "You Go First"

Keeping you up to date on the latest Mercer Mayer news!

Amazon has listed a couple of brand new Little Critter books coming later this year from Thomas Nelson publication's new Inspired Kids line of books:

You Go First
ISBN 1400322448
PLOT INFO: "The first book in the new Inspired Kids line featuring the famous Little Critter! ... In You Go First, Litter Critter loves being first—even if it hurts his family and friends. After several missteps, Little Critter learns that the secret to getting along is treating others the way he wants to be treated—which, in Little Critter’s case, means letting someone else be first."

.... and ....

It's True!
ISBN 1400322472
PLOT INFO: "Join Little Critter as he learns why it’s important to tell the whole truth—and not just part of it.... Little Critter thinks that sometimes it’s easier to tell part of the truth instead of the whole truth. In this second book in the Inspired Kids line, Little Critter learns quickly that lying has consequences and that telling the truth, no matter how hard, is always the right thing to do.."

Cool thing:  The It's True! cover is currently Mercer Mayer's sketch-up for the cover (not the final cover).

As a parent, I am VERY excited about this new line of Inspired Kids books.  Not only are we getting new Little Critter books, we are getting ones with stronger lessons that will hopefully inspire young ones by using their favorite book character.

Another interesting note, Amazon currently lists these available as Board Books or Paperbacks.  So, you can get a lasting Board Book or a fun paperback.

Both books are due in October 2013.

YAY!  That's all... for the moment. 

Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the zipperump-a-zoos bite.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mercer Mayer Skypes with a school, a new Little Critter stuffed animal and more!

In the "Cool News" category of the month, Mercer Mayer did a Skype session with some students at Van Meter and Amana Elementary schools in Iowa on February 13, 2013.  Some very lucky kindergarten through third grade students now have an amazing memory that I hope will stick with them for life.

Shannon McClintock Miller arranged the whole thing with Mercer Mayer and the rest is something most of us can only imagine.  She created an awesome video about the event here.  She also blogged about it here (which includes lots of pictures of Mercer Mayer and the kids enjoying a video of Mercer Mayer drawing Little Critter). 

Sadly, the "Just Me and Little Critter" book that the kids all created at the start of the school year is gone from the Little Bird Tales website. It was here (it is possible that they moved it).

If you haven't "Like"d Mercer Mayer's official Facebook page, go for it here:

Also in recent Mercer Mayer news:

An official Little Critter Stuffed Animal (er... stuffed critter)!  You can see it behind Mercer Mayer in the picture above (it is the lower smaller one).  Amazon has it available now for a little over 30% off.  Merry Makers is making it, but it isn't available on their site yet.

The Little Critter stuffed critter is available here.

A brand new Little Critter book is due next month
Just a Big Storm

Official write-up: "When a big storm passes over their house, Little Critter® and his family lose power! What will they do without it?"

I'm sure this will be a great companion to Just a Thunderstorm.

Coming in May:
Just One More Pet

Official write-up: "Little Critter discovers a lost doggy hiding in the bushes. He isn't sure who the doggy belongs to, but he tries to take very good care of him until his owner shows up. When the doggy goes missing, Little Critter gets worried. Can Little Critter handle just one more pet?"

A new My First I Can Read book is coming in November:
Just a Little Love

(no pictures or description released yet)

That's all for now.  Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the zipperump-a-zoos bite!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Goodbye Maurice Sendak, RIP June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012: A Rememberance and a Tribute

I cried this morning when I heard that Maurice Sendak died. I was at work and my wife texted me the news.  My imidiate response to her was, "Oh,"  I then left my cubical to be alone and wept for about 10 minutes. Afterword, I cleaned myself up and returned to work...but  I never stopped thinking about it.

I can remember my mom reading me every book in the Nutshell Library (Pierre, Chicken Soup with Rice, Alligators All Around, and One Was Johnny). I remember her hamming up Chicken Soup with Rice the Most...especially October, "WHOOPIE once. WHOOOOOOOPIE twice! WHOOOOOOOOOOOPIE chicken soup with rice!"  I read that to my son for bedtime, and I read it like my mom read it to me.  He laughed and looked at me like I was insane... his insane but loving father.

The first "long book" I read to my son was The Griffin and the Minor Canon which was illustrated by Maurice Sendak (written by Frank R. Stockton).  My son was 1, but he didn't budge, his eyes were transfixed on the illustrations.

You Cant Get There From Here by Ogden Nash was a staple of my childhood too.  I constanly pulled it off my father's bookshelf and enjoyed its' Maurice Sendak illustrations and hilarious poetry.

Most people will remember him for Where the Wild Things Are.  I love the illustrations in that book, but it never touched me as much as The Nutshell Library books and In the Night Kitchen did.

To Maurice's family: I am so sorry for your loss.  To fans everywhere: I am so sorry for our loss.  His work will live on in reprint after reprint.  I suggest seeking out more books by him and illustrated by him and putting them in your libraries.

Maurice Sendak was a man who would tell it like it is.  There are some jaw dropping and truly funny interviews with Maurice Sendak out there.  He may not be the Mr. Rogers-type, but I have bucketloads of respect for this man. Steve Carell's 2 part interview with Maurice Sendak a few months back is HIGHLY recommended.

And now... I'll leave you with some pictures of books he illustrated, wrote, and wrote & illustrated from my collection... not all of them, but a good smattering.

What Do You Say, Dear? by Seslye Joslin
What Do You Do, Dear?  by Seslye Joslin
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow
Little Bear's Vist by Else Holmelund Minarik
Little Bear's Friend by Else Holmelund Minarik
A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

Dear Milli by Grimm
The Miami Giant by Arthur Yorinks
Nutcracker  by E.T. Hoffmann 

Pleasant Fieldmouse by Jan Wahl
The Cunning Little Vixen by Rudolf Tesnohlidek
The Big Book of Peace by Ann Durell
Swine Lake with James Marshall
The Griffin and the Minor Canon by Frank R. Stockton
What Can You do with a Shoe? by Beatrice Schenk de Reginers

I Saw Esau by Iona Opie
A Perfect Friend by Reynolds Price
Hurry Home, Candy by Meindert deJong
Fly By Night by Randall Jerrell
Shadrach by Meindert deJong
The Juniper Tree and Other Tales From Grimm (Single Volume Edition) - by Grimm
The Wheel on the School by Meidert deJong
Dwarf Long-Nose by Wilhelm Hauff

The Animal Family by Randall Jerrell
The Wonderful Farm by Marcel Ayme
She Loves Me... She Loves Me Not... by Robert Keeshan (AKA Captain Kangaroo)
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
No Fighting, No Biting! by Else Holmelund Minarik
Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss
The Velveteen Rabbit (Best in Children's Books Volume 35)

Rest in peace, sir.   Good night, sleep tight, don't let the zipperump-a-zoos bite.

Other Maurice Sendak related books missing from the above pictures (most are must haves):
Atomics for the Millions by Dr. Maxwell Leigh
Outside Over There by Grimm
The Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry
One Was Johnny
Alligators All Around
The Singing Hill by Meindert DeJong
Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
Father Bear Comes Home by Else Holmelund Minarik
Seven Tales by H. C. Anderson by Hans Christian Anderson
Let's Be Enemies  by Janice May Udry
The Sign on Rosie's Door
Seven Little Monsters