Digital Adventures of the Boxcar Children

You may have seen the big news: a few weeks ago, just in time for the 2010 Christmas season, the first 19 books of the Boxcar Children Mysteries became available as ebooks, thanks to our partnership with the digital content company Open Road Media.

The digital transition has come with some memorable moments—won’t forget the little rush of excitement I felt when I reviewed the ebook files just before the launch and saw, for the first time, the classic L. Kate Deal silhouette art of Book 1 appearing on an iPad. And when I spot-checked the Kindle previews I had to keep myself from getting too absorbed with the storylines of Surprise Island and The Yellow House Mystery to do my job. They weren’t just “digital files”—they were books.

Then there’s the bonus material that the folks at Open Road have created for the launch. This fall, a film crew visited Putnam, Connecticut, Getrude Chandler Warner’s Home town, to shoot footage of the Warner museum (housed in a boxcar!) and interview museum volunteers and Ms. Warner’s former students. The film clips accompany the box set of the first 19 Boxcar Children ebooks, and there’s a wonderful preview on the Open Road Site. On Barnes & Noble’s Unabashedly Bookish blog, Rachel Chou of Open Road shares her experiences of the Putnam visit along with some photos of the museum.

(For even more pictures of the museum, see Josalyn’s account of her trip here on the Whitman blog.)

More Boxcar ebook titles will become available in 2011, so stay tuned!

Exterior of the boxcar (before it's recent paint job)
Digital Adventures of the Boxcar Children

Christmas Kitten, Home at Last

Illustrator Layne Johnson made a fabulous book trailer for his new book Christmas Kitten, Home at Last, written by Robin Pulver. As we discussed a few weeks ago, a book trailer can really help lead readers to your book. I asked Layne to talk a bit about the book and the trailer.

Here’s what he had to say:

Kittens and cats have always been a part of my life. I have fond memories of my cat, Miss Kitty, having a litter of kittens behind my bed as a child. It breaks my heart to see little kittens wandering the street, so I can really empathize with Cookie.

When I visit schools, I try to get children to use their imagination by looking at things differently. And I mean literally. I tell them that a kitten doesn’t see the world at our eye level; I then flop on the floor where my eyes are six inches from the ground. I tell them to try and see things from Cookie’s world. It looks very different. By himself, Cookie must have felt very lonely and afraid, everything towering over him. They get the picture and from then on look at things differently, especially when they write.

In fact, the Cookie of the book is a cute kitten that found his home with me – at the beginning of the first book, Christmas for a Kitten. I was able to study a real live mischievous kitten (who purrs really loud, by the way).  Of course I developed strong feelings for him. The book project became much more personal and I hope it shows in the art.

Really it’s empathy I’m after. Making a child feel like they are in the story. Making a video which includes music intensifies this idea. You give a glimpse of the feelings and actions of the narrative in a small amount of time. Just enough for someone to say, “I want to read that book!” I was fun finally helping Cookie find his home. Like Dorothy said, “There’s no place . . . “

Now I need to find a good dog story to illustrate!

And here’s the trailer:

Christmas Kitten, Home at Last

Book Trailers: Should You Make One?

We’d already planned to show you some of our authors’ book trailers this week, when Elizabeth Bluemle talked about them over on PW Shelftalker last week. To be honest, while I’m always happy when an author or illustrator creates a book trailer, I’m wasn’t sure what people were doing with them. Other than the occasional truly viral video — like the one my friend Colleen Venable made for Roaring Brook a few years ago — I often wondered if it was a waste of time and money? So thanks, Elizabeth! I now know that teachers, librarians, and booksellers do use book trailers as part of their book talks and other interactions with kids and parents.  Cool.

That said, I think this means that an author should NOT just take photos of the internal spreads and do their own voice overs while their nephew records them in the basement — or the equivalent. These need to be professional pieces that professionals (librarians, teachers and booksellers) can use in their jobs.

A few of the largest publishers have begun doing their own video production and if your book will be an enhanced eBook, a book trailer will be easily handled by the publisher. But right now, today, most book trailers are produced by the author or illustrator of the book. As eBooks become more prevalent in the children’s picture book world, this will change, but for now, some simple rules:

  • Why does the child want to read this book? Make sure the trailer provides an answer.
  • Don’t give away the whole book.
  • Keep your publisher informed and have their approval of the final piece
  • Give on screen credit to author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Include a website link to the publisher (so people can find the book)
  • Don’t forget to include the full title (and ISBN) – there’s usually room on the final screen shot.

So thanks to our authors and illustrators out there creating their own trailers. Please do give me a call and I’d love to help brainstorm. While you’re thinking about it, take a look at some of ours. They can be found in the Resources section of the Albert Whitman website, but here are a few from two of our authors always make book trailers for their books.

Ann Malaspina has trailers for both Finding Lincoln

and Phillis Sings Out Freedom

And Jacqueline Jules has trailers for Duck For Turkey Day

as well as for both the first book in the Zapato Power Series 

and a brand new one that promotes the entire Zapato Power Series now that Book 3 this Spring

Book Trailers: Should You Make One?