What Do Children Want: Enhanced Books or Innovative E-lit for Kids?

Critical Writing
Record Status: 
Abstract (in English): 

E-books for kids are one of the few areas in which commercial publishers are creating innovative literary works for tablets and smartphones, but most of the apps available do not explore the rich traditions of electronic literature, instead opting for a more linear “enhanced book” approach that strongly borrows from the tradition of picture books and in particular pop-up books. Scholarship on and criticism of children's’ book apps tends to be in the fields of literacy studies andchildren's literature rather than in the field of electronic literature, and this paper aims to bring the two domains together, looking at picture book apps aimed at young children.

Early childrens’ electronic fiction, such as Amanda Goodenough’s Amanda Stories which was published on CDROM by Voyager in 1991, was well known in hypertext literature circles, and the novelty of being able to click on pictures and have the computer respond is still be a dominant trope of current book apps. Many apps use the added possibilities of modern tablets - Atomic Antelope’s 2010 iPad adaptation of Alice in Wonderland famously allows readers to tilt the tablet to make Alice grow and shrink - but the simple click-response structure generally remains firmly linear. Mo Willems' Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App (Disney 2011) is a rare example of combinatory fiction for children. The app builds on Willems’ children’s book series that is scripted around a set formula: the pigeon wants to do something and must not be allowed to do it. In the app, the child reader either supplies words that are woven into the story or shakes the phone or tablet to create a random story. I will discuss a variety of examples ofchildren's book apps, particularly emphasising those that go beyond the linear pop-up book style of interactivity.

If narratives are important in shaping our understanding of the world, it is very interesting to see to what extent children are being exposed (and thus taught the structure of) non-linear or combinatory narratives. Clearly children are learning to use game structures to interpret and re-tell their experiences, but can the more experimental forms of narrative we know from adult electronic literature work inchildren's literature? What might these works look like?

(Source: Author's Description)

Publishers referenced:

Title Location
Disney Enterprises
United States
The permanent URL of this page: 
Record posted by: 
Jill Walker Rettberg