In September I took a really long trip with my youngster and brought along some things to keep us amused during the long flights and the sitting-around time in the airport.
If only I'd known about PicPocket Books, which were just launching at that time. The Milwaukee company was born in spring 2009 and is already the largest publisher of children's picture book applications for the iPhone or iPod Touch.
PicPocket Books are children's picture books for ages 2-8 that you download as apps to your iPhone or iPod Touch. The apps range in price from $.99 to $3.99.
There are currently 17 titles available, including eight books in the "Big Stuff" series (with trucks, sea creatures, dinosaurs and the like), fairy tales like "Sleeping Beauty" and original picture books like Vickie Leigh Krudwig's "Cucumber Soup."
The books are the brainchild of Milwaukee's Lynette Mattke, a former stay-at-home mom turned self-described, "mompreneur."
"I am passionate about kids and reading, and especially interested in ways in which parents, teachers and publishers are embracing the digital era to reach potential young bookworms," says Mattke.
"I do not see digital books as a replacement for traditional print books, or for snuggling with your child for bedtime stories with a hardcover picture book, but rather as a gentle alternative to flashy video games for tech savvy families on the go."
Mattke's background almost ensured her entree into the business world would involve reading.
"I studied English literature at Haverford College, where I met my future husband and business partner Manuel Mattke," she says.
"He's in software development and oversees the tech side of things! I trained to be an elementary school teacher and bring years of experience as a homeschooling mom of three children, as well as a deep passion for children's literature and early literacy into the high publishing standards of PicPocket Books."
Mattke says that the idea for PicPocket Books came to her when she started playing around with an iPod Touch.
"I noticed that there were games for kids, as well as a tiny handful of audio podcasts / audio books for kids. I thought, 'why not use the amazing clarity of the iPhone screen to publish quality picture books for kids with full color illustrations?' We began developing our platform while I pursued relationships with publishers of children's picture books, and our first title was released to iTunes in July 2009.
"Since then, we have secured contracts with a number of publishers and authors and currently have a selection of 17 titles available on iTunes. There are many more titles in the works, including another picture book from Chronicle, 'Round is A Mooncake,' some fairy tales by award winning author / illustrator Ruth Sanderson, and some titles from a well-known British author. But, since that's not fully contracted, I can't give specifics."
We checked out "I Can Do It, Too," by Karen Baicker and illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. The illustrations are static, but the pages flip like a real book and the reader can use arrows to navigate backward or forward.
The words appear on the screen, but users can also listen to accompanying narration. If the books capture the imagination of young readers, the PicPocket Books could really catch on.
Had I had them as a complement to the couple game apps I downloaded to my phone, the books would certainly have been a hit on my trip. And it would have been great to rotate some books into the video game routine, too.
"It's a big world, technology is developing fast and there are a lot of apps," Mattke says. "We've got some great titles and partnerships, and are hoping to let people know that digital picture books can be a gentle alternative to video games."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.