Thursday, February 25, 2010

There's an app for that!

A good story is a good story. In 1990 or 1991, I heard a Public Radio story about an International Banana Festival held each year in Fulton, Kentucky and South Fulton, Tennessee. It seems that for many years, seventy percent of bananas brought to the U.S. were shipped there by rail from ports on the Gulf coast. In Fulton and South Fulton, train cars were packed with fresh ice and sent off to other regions of the country.

The twin cities celebrated their unique heritage with a Banana Festival for thirty years. The Festival ran over many days, included many different and playful events, and was capped with a long and delightful parade. The last "float" in the parade was a one-ton banana pudding that was served in cups to the crowd after the parade.

Susan and I and our son Michael attended the 30th (and final) Festival in 1992. It was great fun. I took lots of pictures and was inspired to write and illustrate a children's book about the parade, But That Wasn't The Best Part.

I submitted it to several publishers in 1993 and 1994 but found no buyer. In 1995, I published the story online when I launched The story has many qualities that make it good for aspiring and beginning readers. The illustrations and text work well on Web pages. It has been enjoyed by tens of thousands of children over the years.

Last fall, I learned of Jacob and Toni Rhodes, who had recently published two children's stories in the form of iPhone/iPod Touch apps. We discussed building an app around But That Wasn't The Best Part. The simple, linear nature of the story and colorful illustrations would work well on the small iPhone/iPod Touch screens. Jacob could add narration, sound effects and music to make it highly engaging.

After many weeks of hard work, the very entertaining app is now available for sale through the iTunes App Store (Search for "Best Part"). Now children can listen to their parents read it. They can listen to a narrator and click on sound effects. As they build reading skills, they can read it themselves.

We'll see what happens as another generation of children discover The Best Part. This story is far from over.

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