The Memory Makers
If you ask people about their favorite things from growing up, you’ll usually get the title of at least one storybook. Maybe it was the one that their parents read to them at bedtime, perhaps it was the first one that they were able to read by themselves, but everyone has a Goodnight Moon or a Winnie-the-Pooh holding a special place in their heart. The next generation is going to feel that way about stories they experience on the iPad, and the purveyor of those new stories is Ice Cream Fine Storybooks, created by brother and sister team Patrick and Kate Buss of Lake Forest.
“We write a story, illustrate it, and design it like we’re going to print it,” says Patrick. “We take that template and we port it to the iPad. Then we add in all of the effects and the sounds and the narration.”
The first two stories they created are Ug and The Gobberwobbly. Ug is the fun story of a prehistoric caveboy who doesn’t want to go to school. Instead, he gathers together a group of animal friends and starts a classroom of his own, which ultimately descends into chaos. The Gobberwobbly is about a ferocious sock-eating monster that sort of looks like a big koala bear and who will dearly befriend any child who knows the right tricks. Both stories are delivered in the wonderfully imaginative tone that speaks directly to children and can even transport some grown-ups back into that magical mind-set. Both Patrick and Kate have a gift for speaking that rarified language; Patrick wrote Ug and Kate wrote The Gobberwobbly. “We were talking about funny names for stories and I said, ‘Oh, how about The Gobberwobbly?’” says Kate. “From there, you just have to make a creature that exists behind the name. Story ideas have always come pretty quickly to us.” That dates back to their childhood when Patrick and Kate, then tiny little entrepreneurs at 7 and 6 years old, would make up stories and perform them for ice cream, hence the name of their publishing company, Ice Cream Fine Storybooks.
It’s not only the stories themselves that are wonderful. The superior execution and interactivity of their storytelling model is perfection. Being on the iPad offers children more options than any printed book ever could. You can choose to have the story read to you by a narrator or to read it yourself, turning pages by sliding your finger. Background music is incorporated, and animations accompany parts of the story. If you touch one of the animals on the page, you can hear the noise it makes. The words are highlighted as the narrator reads them, and if a child is having a hard time getting a word, they can touch it, the word is highlighted, and just that word is repeated. Not to mention the inclusion of small story-specific games like the cave painting screen in Ug. And the first screen that pops up when you open the app is for the child to sign their name using their finger, claiming the book as their own.
The astounding part is how much of the creative process is accomplished by just Patrick and Kate. Patrick taught himself to write all of the code to launch their stories for the iPad as well as creating all of the interactive elements. Kate does the striking artwork that accompanies the stories, and she’s the harpist playing the music that accompanies The Gobberwobbly.
Still, these talented 20-somethings insist that the key to their success rests on the shoulders of the entire family. Their father doles out advice from his background in the computer industry—he was with Microsoft for many years—and he was also the one to guide them to the iPad instead of printing. Their mother serves as a source of marketing advice as well as lending her voice as the narrator of The Gobberwobbly. Their brothers, Jack (15) and Brendan (19), act as software testing and business strategy partner respectively.
Their next storybook is currently in development. It revolves around two siblings, a boy and a girl, who let their imaginations run wild creating new worlds underneath a table in a boring grown-up restaurant. Sounds like subject matter that these two wunderkinds have something to say about.
“There should be something in a story that touches you, that informs you, or that expresses an idea,” says Patrick. “I think that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s very difficult to get out there, but we’re doing our best. I guess the difference is that we’re trying.”
For more information on Ice Cream Fine Storybooks or to find out where to get their stories, visit icecreampublishing.com.