When I was younger, back in the heydey of the CD-ROM, when PCs were creeping into homes and Mac was still a plasticky beige nerdy brand, my father bought me and my sister some edutainment software. “Just Grandma and Me” and “Arthur’s Teacher Trouble”, produced by the very aptly named ‘Living Books’ company. I remember them so very well.

They were, at their very heart, interactive books on tape where children could follow text along to the dulcet tones of a narrator. They were obviously intended to help primary school pupils to read, but that’s not why I remember them. To me, the main appeal, and the reason I kept on going back to the programs, was in the interactivity. After each page had been read out, you could then click on various bits and bobs in the illustration. There were always so very many items that would spring to life, do a little animation, and play a little sound. What amazed me then, and still fascinates me to this day, was just how detailed these tableaus were, and how incredibly imaginative they could be. These events ranged from the simple (Radiator xylophone!) through the wonderfully bizarre and delightful (a tray of cookies that sang like a soul choir), through to the just plain brilliant (that recurring paper plane that had the awesome metal soundtrack).

I was browsing TVTropes the other day, when I noticed that Living Books had their own page there. The idea of going back to these stories that I had loved so very much as a child had not occurred to me at that point, but when I read about them and remembered how much they had enriched my life by sparking my imagination, a veritable torrent of nostalgia hit me. Reading on, you can imagine my delight in discovering that a company called Wanderful had resurrected the Living Book collection for iOS and Android! I decided to revel in the nostalgia a little bit, and purchased Arthur’s Teacher Trouble – US English version, as that was the only one available back when I had it.

You know what’s really odd? I remember EXACTLY how the story read. Not the text; the sound. Even though it’s been just under 20 years since I last heard the narrator speak, I can predict exactly how the melody of her reading is going to flow. It’s startling how effective the mind is, sometimes. Of course, I remember where all my favourite interactive objects are – and although I thought it to be ground well-trodden, there are one or two that escaped the young me’s attention that I’m only finding just now!

So, readers, if you have children (or have a love of wacky, quirky, gentle fun!) I can highly recommend the Wanderful series of Living Books. They may last your child a lifetime, in inspiration and fond memories!

Now, to round off today’s post, a few of the experiments/improvements I’ve made on this page:

  • Increased the saturation of the background colors, but also darkened them to provide contrast with the characters and foreground objects.
  • Stopped using the gradient tool as literally (or ‘realistically’) as I was doing, and have started using it to provide a steeper gradient to give a more interesting, but unobtrusive background.
  • Tweaked TKO’s skin color back to give her a healthier glow. Also tweaked Sassoon’s skin to be darker, to closer match her original coloring.

That’s all for now folks! Have a great weekend!