By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 20, 2012
With a degree in English and a fascination to animals, Kathy L. Hans is the brainchild of LittleELL.com—a company that has created a series of “Read and Listen Animal Tales.” She talked to TCBR about the inspiration and creation of her interactive iBook series, in particular The King Penguin.
Bianca Schulze: Welcome to TCBR. Let’s get started by getting to know a little bit about who you are and how you came to create your interactive “Read and Listen” Animal Tales. What is your connection to animals and writing?
Kathy L. Hans: I graduated with a degree in English many years ago, and I’ve always enjoying reading both poetry and prose. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching a great blue heron hunt in the field behind my house in the fall and spring when the ground was wet from the rains. About a year ago, I decided to write a poem about the bird in celebration of the arrival of my first two grandchildren. This was the beginning of the “Animal Tales” series, which includes The King Penguin. I also decided to include facts about each animal in the series to build an awareness of the connections between the animals and their environment.
BS: Each book in the series focuses on an individual animal. In The King Penguin, rhyme is combined with sharp photography to offer an enjoyable but educational reading experience. Each section of the poem is backed with facts which can be found at the end of the book. Where do you research your facts? And, what would you say is the most fascinating piece of information you learned about King Penguins during your research?
KLH: I watched many of the wonderful BBC videos about some of the animals. In addition, I did online research on each of the animals on sites for National Geographic, the San Diego zoo, and universities, like Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, which is a great resource. I also visited the Monterey Aquarium in California.
I think one of the most interesting facts about king penguins is how deep they can dive, to a maximum of 322 meters (1,056 feet), in their search for squid and bioluminescent lantern fish.
BS: Do you take the photographs yourself?
KLH: No, we purchased the photographs for all the iBooks in the Animal Tales Series with the exception of a couple of photos for the sea otter. We needed pictures of the sea otters in a “raft,” where they are close together, floating on their backs near the shore. We were able to take some pictures of groups of sea otters while kayaking in Monterey Bay and the Elkhorn Slough, which is nearby.
BS: Clement Clark Moore and Dr. Seuss are referenced at the beginning of The King Penguin. Would you say they are the main influence on your writing style?
KLH: I’ve spent many years volunteering as a “Booklegger” for the public library, reading books aloud in local elementary classrooms. I know that rhyming verse is especially compelling for children. I chose anapestic tetrameter for the poems as it has a lively, fun rhythm. Clement Clark Moore and Dr. Seuss have written poems using this meter, which I think are good examples.
BS: So far you have written and created eight “Read and Listen” iBooks. Do you have a favorite in the collection? Should we expect to see more?
KLH: It’s hard to pick a favorite. The animals are unique and, we used 3 different narrators, so that differentiates each iBook in the series a little more.
I am planning to do a second series of “Animal Tales” with nine iBooks covering new animals in the future. This time, I’ll be covering a couple of animals from Australia, like “The Red Kangaroo,” and you’ll be hearing a new narrator who is Australian.
BS: As your series of books are available as iBooks through iTunes, would you share a little about the process of creating an iBook and your favorite interactive feature for young readers?
KLH: Creating an iBook was a team effort for our company, LittleELL.com. We have a couple of great technical wizards, and a wonderful graphic artist. We also employ a careful editor, some excellent voice-over actors, and a very creative sound engineer. They all contributed to the finished products.
I enjoy seeing the photos displayed so beautifully on the iPad, but I think my favorite interactive feature is the word highlighting in sync with the voice narration.
BS: What would you say surprises you the most about the process of creating an iBook?
KLH: It ‘s a lot of work to create, but when you finally see and hear the iBook, it seems a bit like magic.
BS: From the conception of the idea to published work, how long did it take you to complete The King Penguin?
KLH: It’s hard for me to track the time as I fit in working on it around other projects. I can say that I started writing the first poem in the series over a year ago.
BS: How would you encourage parents who prefer to read print books to their children to download a copy of your “Read and Listen” animal tales?
KLH: I think print books are great. However, I think that “Read and Listen” iBooks offer some features that you can’t get in print, like the amazing resolution on the photos and the word highlighting that is in sync with the audio. I think “Read and Listen” iBooks are a good example of a product where the technology does not distract, but instead, enhances the final result.
BS: As a parting note, is there anything you would like to share with TCBR readers?
KLH: I’m looking forward to hearing from your readers. They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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