Dec 3

More from the bookshelf

Today I present four more recommendations from the bookshelf that should be of interest to anyone developing or producing content for children –

Creating Animated Cartoons with Character by Joe Murray

I first bought this book back when it was an ebook PDF direct from Joe Murray’s site and instantly bought the book again when it got a proper print run. From the creator of Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo, this book is another that goes through every part of the process from creation all the way to the screen. Yes, this is full of practical advice, basic steps and lists of “dos and don’ts” that any content creator needs to know but it has more than that. What makes this book different is Joe Murray’s personal point of view. This book in many ways is like the grounding voice of reason that we all need to hear sometimes and that just comes through in how it is written.

Being very much on the small independent side of things, I have actually had an easier time than most but let’s never kid ourselves that this is an easy business. It is not. It can feel heartbreaking at times. Joe Murray knows this and part of the book almost feel like a reflective part of his older self is writing a letter to his younger self – there is much we can learn from this Joe Murray.

G Is For Growing by Shalom M. Fisch and Rosemarie T. Truglio

G Is For Growing summarises thirty years of Sesame Street research. Sesame Street tests EVERYTHING and has done from day one. With testing and how they chose to use the information that came from that research, they managed to create a wonderful balance of entertainment and education that set the template for just about every educational show that followed. While this book, being written by academics seemingly for academics, doesn’t quite achieve the same level of balance, it contains a wealth of information that will be of use to anyone making children’s shows. So much can be gained by looking at the research that led to great shows like Sesame Street rather than just looking at the shows themselves and trying to reverse engineer them. G Is For Growing is like the Sesame Street source code.

Anytime Playdate by Dade Hayes

Offering a look, as the full title states, Inside the Preschool Entertainment Boom, or, How Television Became My Baby’s Best Friend, this book is a great read both from the perspective of a content creator and as a parent. A parent himself, Dade Hayes makes it his mission to find out just what goes on behind the scenes in the children’s television business – the story behind the content his young daughter seems so hooked on every day. This book explores the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry and, even though written from a very personal viewpoint, feels very open-minded, inviting the reader to come to their own conclusions about what he finds out.

And even for those of us in the industry (at least for those of us on the more European side), there is the odd surprise here and there, and not all of them good ones. For the content creators, his exploration into the development of Nick’s Ni Hao, Kai-lan is of particular interest as it, like so many other shows over the last ten years, aims to repeat the success of Dora the Explorer. A very well-written and enjoyable read.

Sesame Street: A Celebration – 40 Years Of Life On The Street by Louise A. Gikow

This is a wonderful celebration of Sesame Street, packed full of information, stories and fantastic pictures. It is a real treasure, exploring the show from its creation all the way to today (well, 2009). Beautifully designed and laid out, it is one of those books that is just a treat to pull down from the shelf and open up on a random page.

And for those of us in children’s television, it is an inspiration. I put Sesame Street up there as the best children’s television show of all time and it still has so much to teach those of us producing content for children. While there are other books on Sesame Street of great value, such as G Is For Growing above, in my view this book is the most enjoyable.

That’s it from the bookshelf for this post. As always, aim to learn and get better at what we do. Our audience will benefit and, if they benefit, we do too.

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