Digital version – browse, print or download
Receive the latest news & reviews direct to your inbox!
This issue’s cover illustration is from Lunchtime by Rebecca Cobb. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for their help with this March cover and to Little Tiger Press for their support of the Authorgraph interview with David Roberts.
Magic Town, a virtual world created by interactive learning company, Mindshapes, was launched last week. Laura Fraine reports for BfK.
Based on picture book characters, Magic Town is a single destination for a range of animated and interactive stories. The site boasts partnerships with leading children’s publishers, including Simon & Schuster, Oxford University Press, Hachette Children’s Books, Hodder Children’s Books, Orchard Books, Andersen Press, Egmont, Barefoot Books, Edizione EL, Little Tiger Press, Usborne Publishing and Illuminated Films.
‘We’re excited to work with some of the world’s top publishers and most talented authors and illustrators,’ said Mindshapes’ CCO Christian Dorffer. ‘Magic Town’s ever-growing collection of amazing stories and beautiful artwork gives children a single destination where they can find stories they’ll want to enjoy again and again.’
At launch, there are 70 interactive picture books available, with 20 of these free to access. Ten to 15 new titles will be added each month. Subscription for up to four children costs £7.99 for one month, £39.99 for six months and £49.99 for a year.
Upon registering, children are guided by animated characters Max and Izzy to visit the different houses in Magic Town. Each of these houses is inhabited by a different picture book character, often well-known figures from fairytales and best-sellers such as Elmer, Winnie the Witch, Aliens Love Underpants and Little Princess. Magic Town also has ‘digital first’ titles from best-selling authors, including the Superfairies series from Janey Louise Jones, and Shrinky Kid from Ian Whybrow. Each character’s house contains stories and interactive games.
Stories in Magic Town are told through Livebooks, Mindshapes’ proprietary storytelling format. There are several modes for reading each Livebook. A child can listen to a narrator; read with an adult; or answer interactive questions related to the story.
Magic Town was created with input from teachers and early childhood development experts, including Professor Paul Harris at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Harris said, ‘We’ve known for a long time that reading stories to children is one of the very best ways to enrich their language and stimulate their imagination. Magic Town gives parents a tool that can help them to engage children in an inspiring world of stories, a world that will expand as children grow and explore.’
The world of books quite literally expands, as daily visitors are rewarded access to additional content. Magic Town is customised to each user as an algorithm tracks usage and tailors content to the child. In future, parents will be able to further customise the experience by selecting preferred characters, publishers and brands. A range of printable stories and activity sheets aims to give the virtual world a home off-line.
‘Magic Town is a ground-breaking way for families to share story time,’ said Mindshapes CEO David Begg. ‘As a father, I was searching for quality digital content for my kids, but nothing met the mark. So at Mindshapes we set out to build what we couldn’t find. Parents can feel confident that Magic Town is based on sound educational principles and can inspire children to develop a lifelong passion for reading and learning through play.’
Magic Town is now available online. In the summer it will launch on the iPad and subsequently on the iPhone and additional mobile devices.