If you have kids (or if you once were a kid), chances are you’ve seen Ed Emberley‘s work. He has a whole series of drawing books (the ones that come to my mind are the fingerprint books that show you how to turn a fingerprint or thumbprint into all sorts of things), as well as several picture books. One of the best known from library read-alouds is Go Away, Big Green Monster!
The original book starts with a black page, and each successive page has some cut-outs that slowly reveal the Big Green Monster. First his two big yellow eyes, then a long bluish-greenish nose, and so on. When he’s finally all there, the narrator (along with the child) shouts, “But you don’t scare me!” and then you get to peel back, layer by later, the pieces of the face (“Go away, scraggly purple hair!”), until the Big Green Monster has completely gone away.
It’s a very fun book, particularly the way that the different die-cut pages layer together and form the monster’s face. Whether or not it helps children overcome fears of night-time bogeymen or not remains to be seen, but I know a lot of kids really enjoy the book.
Go Away, Big Green Monster is now available as a digital book for iOS devices from Night & Day Studios (which Dan Donahoo profiled last year). They provided a copy for me to try, and while I have some reservations, it’s a pretty fun app. The app has four modes: Read Along with Ed, Read Along with a friend, Sing Along, and Read Myself. All three of the “Read” modes give you a simple interface: left and right arrows at the bottom of the screen let you progress through the book, and an up arrow at the top takes you back to the menu. The Sing Along mode has the up arrow, but instead of page turns, it has a play/pause button at the top.
You can either have Ed Emberley himself read the book to you, or if you choose “a friend” you get a little four-year-old girl reading the lines. “Read Myself” just gives you the pages to read at your own pace, or so a parent can read the book to their child. “Sing Along” is actually pretty fun, with music written and performed by Adrian Carney. It’s a catchy little tune, and plays out the book at a nice pace — both of my kids like that mode the best. While you read or listen to the book, you can tap the various parts of the face and they respond with animation and sound effects: clickety-clackety teeth as the mouth shuts, or blooping-blinking eyes.
I mentioned that I had some reservations about the app, too, and if you’ve read any of my posts about digital versus paper books you pretty much already know what I’m going to say. I like paper books — that’s just a preference thing, and I certainly accept that there are some cool advantages to eBooks. Digital kids’ books add things like read-aloud and sing-along modes, and the cool animations that let the kids play around with the story. However, while that may add something that isn’t there to a standard picture book, in this case you also lose something: the ingenious paper-crafting that makes the original book so intriguing. As with these two books I reviewed recently, there’s something about actual cut paper that you can manipulate that is magical, and that is lost in translation to an app. On-screen, you can do whatever you want, make things move, have things appear and disappear at will. But making that happen with plain old paper and cut-out holes? That’s something else altogether.
That said, I can tell you that both of my kids (ages 5 and 7) have enjoyed this app, to the point that even my older daughter has pulled it up during her own free screen time. We sat and played through all four modes together, and they loved poking at things and watching them move around. If you’re a fan of Big Green Monster already, it is a cool new way to experience it, and you don’t have to worry about taping the long bluish-greenish nose back together when your kid pulls at it.
Wired: Easy-to-use interface; hear the book read by Ed Emberley himself; the Sing Along is a pretty catchy tune.
Tired: The app doesn’t capture the magical paper-craft of the original book.
Go Away, Big Green Monster is available in the iTunes store for $2.99.