September 13, 2013
by Mary Beth Scumaci
Being able to fly was always a dream of mine as a child. Secretly, I think I still wish I could. The closest I have come to achieving this goal is through the digital app experience in the amazing and beautifully written and illustrated book, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore written by William Joyce and illustrated by Joyce and Joe Bluhm. As stated on the Moonbot website, the inspiration for Joyce’s story was “Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books…”
The picture book motivated Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg to create a short film of the story, and their creativity earned them an Oscar for the Best Animated Short Film at the 84th Academy Awards. This short film is a powerful and emotional experience, one that can bring you to tears as you become engaged with the drama and passion of the story. As a teacher, this offers much potential for creative ELA integration. As you show this silent short film to your students, watch their observation, critical thinking, and writing skills come to life. You can then compare the silent film with the book, research both mediums, as well as the lives of the author, illustrators, and Moonbot Studios. Try having the children use their annotation strategy skills while watching the short film, a delightful experience for sure. The picture book and silent film are amazing literacy activities when used together or as standalone experiences. But guess what, there’s more…there’s an app for that! IMAG.N.O.Tron created an app for $4.99 that integrates with the picture book illustrations to bring the book to life.
With book in hand, simply open the app, hold it over the pages and watch as the illustrations come to life while you listen to the story. It won’t take you long to identify the inspiration from Hurricane Katrina and The Wizard of Oz as this digital interactive storybook pulls you into a very windy storm where books, houses, people, and objects are blown about. This digital “pop-up” book takes you on a delightful journey as you listen to the story narration and get lost in the app experience. It is sure to memorize readers of all ages. And the beauty of it all, you must have the book in hand to make this happen. Worried about print copies of books becoming obsolete? Not with genius ideas like this.
I use this book with my graduate students, children from Kindergarten through grades 12, and take it to events and family functions. It’s a crowd pleaser and a powerful literacy experience that brings digital natives and digital immigrants together. I have seen people, laugh, cry, and become fascinated with the technology. I am passionate about this book and digital experiences. My favorite pages, well that would be all of them, but if I had to select two, they would be pages 21 and 16. On page 21, Mr. Morris Lessmore “gets lost in a book.” After he takes flight, lift the iPad and he flies all over your room—walls, ceiling, and floor—as he is transported through his book journey, then watch and listen as he falls from the sky, safely landing back in the book on page 23. I also love the library scene on page 16.When you see the “Look Up” icon in the bottom right corner, lift the iPad and you feel as if you are in the library, exploring and listening to the “chatter” of the books telling their stories.
What is more intriguing than comparing a picture book, a film, and app technology? This is a critical literacy experience that integrates the P-12 Common Core Learning Standards, technology, art and fun. In addition, the book comes in several languages so you can incorporate it into your ELL program. For those of you who enjoy author autographed books for your classroom, you can purchase a signed copy of the book on the Moonbot Studios website.
If you find yourself wanting more of the digital interactive literacy app experience, investigate the apps The Numberlys, A Math Mystery, a story of numbers and letters by Moonbot Studios and Bullseye, an interactive music video where the character You-Me brings the diverse world around him to life, created by The Polyphonic Spree and Moonbot Studios.
Moonbot Studios (2013). Retrieved from http://moonbotstudios.com/the-fantastic-flying-books-of-mr-morris-lessmore-storybook-app/
The Review Wire (2013). Retrieved from http://www.thereviewwire.com/2012/07/27/fantastic-flying-books-of-mr-morris-lessmore-book-and-app-review-the-review-wire/
iTunes (2013). Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bullseye-by-polyphonic-spree/id448080302?mt=8
Silicon Bayou News (2013). Retrieved from http://siliconbayounews.com/2012/01/12/moonbot-studios-unveils-the-numberlys-an-epic-interactive-storybook-app/
YouTube (2013). The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore Short Film. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XrvZN6B2UM
YouTube (2013). 84th Academy Awards. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9rme79ptdA
Mary Beth Scumaci is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York.
This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).