One of our favorite geeky musicians, “Weird Al” Yankovic, released a children’s book early this year about the vast universe of choices kids have when deciding what to be when they grow up. The main character, Billy, wants to do a bit of everything — a trait shared by many a geek, as I mentioned here. The book, When I Grow Up, has now hit the iPad in an interactive version designed by Bean Creative, and it’s a blast.
I spoke with musician — and now, New York Times best-selling author — Al Yankovic by phone about writing kids books, reaching a new generation of fans, and being a dad. Oh, and trying to get “Weird Al” into a comic book.
If you want to skip the review, you can jump ahead to the interview. Otherwise, read on for a bit about the app itself.
I’ve played with a lot of “interactive” picture books on the iPad, but a lot of them are limited in their interactivity. Sure, they’ll have a read-aloud function built in and quite often tapping on things in the pictures will say the names of the objects. What sets When I Grow Up apart from those is, well, first of all, Al himself. He does all the narration and it really brings all the wackiness to life in a way that the woman reading Fox in Socks never quite manages. Each page also has various little things to play around with — usually there’s something that will move when you tilt the iPad back and forth, either a mobile hanging from the ceiling or crayons rolling across a desk. Sometimes swiping a particular part of the picture will activate a little animation.
One of the best parts, though, is the selection of minigames that were inspired by Billy’s career choices. So far there are three: Extreme Snail Racing, Gorilla Masseuse, and — probably my kids’ favorite — Tarantula Shaver. Each one carries over Wes Hargis’ excellent watercolor illustrations but animates them and puts you in the action. While the tarantula shaving game isn’t particularly difficult, I challenge you not to laugh as you your kids chase the hairy spiders around with a pair of buzzing clippers.
There’s even an Al-as-a-kid cameo in the book, although I hadn’t realized it until I played with the app version. When I Grow Up is $3.99 on iTunes, and well worth it if you’re a fan of Weird Al. Oh, and your kids might like it, too.
Wired: Weird Al’s goofy narration, lots of interactivity, hilarious mini-games.
Tired: Gorilla Masseuse is pretty difficult.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a promo code for the app for review purposes.