The Penguin Young Readers Group is expanding its line of enhanced e-books and releasing a series of apps based on such contemporary bestselling picture books as Judy Schachner’s SkippyJon Jones and Jacky Davis and David Soman’s Ladybug Girl and on classic works like The Night Before Christmas and Peter Rabbit. In November the series will also feature a simultaneous print/app release of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp, based on a wildly popular YouTube video.
Penguin Young Readers associate publicity director Elyse Marshall said the house will release about one enhanced e-book a month though November with multiple releases planned after that date. Initial releases beginning in August will be offered at the introductory price of $4.99 for a limited time. All releases will feature dedicated Web sites, interactive games, read-along functionality, animation and many other in-app activities for the young reader.
Adam Royce, v-p, digital content development at Penguin Young Readers, said the apps offered an “enhanced reading experience and interactive features that are true to the reading experience.”
Marshall said the new enhanced e-books follow the successful release of a number of children’s apps last year, among them The Little Engine That Could and MadLibs, which received more than four million downloads. Marshall said the program will be “more aggressive” beginning in 2012 with more releases “in the spring, including older titles, an early reading program and a YA project coming.”
Titles to be released include Skippyjon Jones, the story of a Siamese kitty who believes he’s a heroic Mexican Chihuahua in mask and cape. The app is developed by FlickerLab—Penguin uses a variety of developers, “the right brand for the right developer,” Royce said—and is based on the first book in the six-book series which has sold more than 1.2 million copies (Skippyjon Jones, Class Action, the most recent release, has spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list). The app features original music; the story is read by the author and, much like all of these apps, the illustrations—all based on the artwork in the print titles—on each screen can be manipulated to make sounds or animated with the touch of a finger.
Much the same for Ladybug Girl by Davis and Soman, which tells of a girl in a ladybug costume and her canine sidekick; and Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama, a picture book about a baby llama who won’t go to bed. Both are print bestsellers and the e-books include interactive costume changes for Ladybug Girl; and digital postcards that can be created in the Llama Llama app, which will also be released in a bilingual Spanish-language version. In addition, Llama Llama Red Pajama has been selected for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Book campaign, and Penguin parent company Pearson is partnering with Jumpstart to support Read for the Record Book, which is a national event that encourages kids to all read the same book on the same day. Dewdney will appear on the Today Show on October 6 to kick off the national event.
Coming in November: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, an app with painted illustrations based on a YouTube video—more than nine million viewings—produced by Slate, a former Saturday Night Live performer. This title will feature a simultaneous book and e-book release. Also coming in November are The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Jan Brett (featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra); and Beatrice Potter’s Peter Rabbit, featuring interactive coloring, reading and matching games for early readers.
“Our focus is to extend the brands digitally while preserving their literary values,” said Royce. “If the interactive features don’t make sense to the story, then we won’t do it. They’re unique works but they stand for the brand.”