Over the past year I have met many amazing people, but not many have been as influential as Danielle from www.Theresabook.com. She asked me to do a guest post about a favorite holiday book and what it meant to my family. It wasn’t easy to choose a digital story to focus on, since I have reviewed nearly 50 holiday titles in the past month. But even after I selected the top book app on my list, a nagging question was in the back of my mind. What did we read during the holidays before the iPad? My husband and I have been reading enhanced books on the iPad with our son for over 18 months now and when I really thought about it, I realized that we didn’t read a lot of holiday books before we had the digital option. Since holiday books are so specific to a time of year, we didn’t own any in print. Seasonal titles are often checked out of the public library during the holiday season, making them hard to borrow. But with the iPad, it is so much easier to download something on an impulse, especially when these apps are as inexpensive as used picture books in many cases (or even free). I’m sure my little boy will never remember a time when we didn’t read a lot of holiday books simply because he was only three when the iPad arrived. Because of digital, not only does my family read more now, but we are also creating some new family traditions around reading, including sharing holiday stories.
Among the many versions of ‘The Night Before Christmas’, tales about Santa, reindeer and Christmases saved at the last moment, one title really stood out this year from the rest … but not for being modern or even original. Our favorite read has been the LoudCrow Interactive title, A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is an app that is built on the story (and images) from the original holiday TV special so familiar to anyone who was a child anytime after the 1960’s, when the show first aired. It has been a Christmas tradition every year since on TV and one of the first ‘transmedia’ book apps that I have really fallen in love with. Transmedia storytelling, according to wikipedia, is “the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. It is not to be confused with traditional cross-platform media franchises, sequels or adaptations.” Really all this means is that the content expands, gets customized and even enhanced through modern means often unavailable to the creator of the original story idea. Charles Schultz may not have imagined his holiday cartoon, originally sponsored for television by Coca-Cola in 1965, would tell the story in an animated book; a good story, I am thankful to discover, is favored by this digital revolution.
From the first page, where a countdown to Christmas is prominently displayed, to the last page of credits with a list of all the Peanuts characters (tap to hear classic lines from each), this book app has it all. Children can play the piano alongside Schroeder, help Linus use his blanket to sling snowballs and even decorate the little tree. After reading this title many times, my child and I still find something new almost every time we read it again. The book itself is available after just a few minutes of waiting for it to download onto any iOS device (iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad). It covers much of the plot of the original television special, but more importantly it preserves one of the most important aspects of the original story, the voice of Charlie Brown. Narrated by Peter Robbins, this title has the ability to draw children, their parents and grandparents into the story together … making new memories for the youngest listeners while engaging older readers with a burst of nostalgia for their own childhoods and a reflection of deeply shared cultural experience.
Each page evokes a message that is entirely modern in it’s criticism of the commercialization of Christmas … especially for a world sobered by a deep recession. This focus on the ‘true meaning’ of the holiday season is both a reminder of what matters most, even in our modern world, and of the purpose of Christmas every year … dating much farther back than media itself. It’s a time to look beyond ourselves, to reflect on deeper spiritual values and to take time to be connected to those we love most. And for a book app to give readers across generations a shared transmedia experience, entirely new and yet connected to a shared past, is among the gifts I am thankful for this year. You can see my other favorites for digital holiday reading on this list: 2011 Christmas Book Apps – Our Top 10 + Bonus: Top 5 FREE. I look forward to reading even morein 2012, as Digital-Storytime expands to cover both Nook Color & Kindle Fire titles in the new year!
Carisa Klüver is the co-founder, with her husband Marc, of Digital-Storytime.com, a book app review site for children’s picture books on the iPad. The site features 400+ book app reviews, daily deals on kids apps and a blog, The Digital Media Diet. Before book blogging, she was a health educator working with children, youth & families for 2 decades. She resides in the Pacific Northwest, but her heart can often be found in sunny California where she grew up reading.