Children’s Audio Books #3

Content Quality :
My research made me question what passes as satisfactory, adequate and appropriate material for children’s reading. I scanned comments on Amazon about the books recommended by one American website and concluded that story content must be a minefield for responsible parents. It also made me aware that recommendations cannot be taken blindly!

In-car journey entertainment or not, it is still imperative for stories to have standards. I accept that when researching American sites there will be some degree of cultural difference. But I could not help but be extremely underwhelmed at the samples I was able to hear. Not one book recommended for 4 up to 8 years seemed very good to me.

I looked at loyalbooks.com for a comparison website. The freebies annoyed me – I believe the narrators should be paid something even if the story is out of copyright. Non payment devalues their work and others like me. But after the gripe I came across stories produced by the BBC like the Railway Children – obviously using the BBC sound library which was delivered to an excellent standard and reasonably priced. A good option.

It seems to me that parents need to be shrewd when choosing material for their children and not blindly follow recommendations. The little people are totally at the mercy of the adults who choose what literature they are exposed to. We are all aware how things from childhood either enrich or haunt us for the rest of our lives – including the words and music we are exposed to.

Criticism of Authors:
Disturbingly, there are other problems with the material widely available which is deemed acceptable for children. It is just as well that some parents are not afraid to say so. Scanning Amazon feedback pages of what are supposed to be our best loved authors, I found criticism which was no less than scathing. Dahl, Rowlings and others all get a good dressing down for sloppy work.
There are so many other children’s authors out there and the classics from back in the day. Admittedly, the old classics feel dated but I am wondering whether new authors are locked out of the industry. Literary agents don’t seem to want unknown material and miss the point about audio books as far as I can see. I am certain that they reject some excellent authors.

What do people want from an children’s audio book?
Firstly quality – it is a terrible oversight not to give information about the length of the story on the cd – its the first thing I looked for.
Sound effects improves the narration – it takes more work, but I can hear the difference.
Too much, too expensive – I am referring to the ‘play, listen and read’ concept. This expensive option includes the audio story, a book to follow the words and what looks like fuzzyfelt for the ‘play’ aspect. It looks like a good quality product – but again no indication of the duration of the audio book. At over thirty quid I would want to know. However, the feedback for products such as this is positive – or that is the way it seems. I think it is another facet to the market which is interesting, but whether it is value for money is questionable.

Making A Children’s Audio Book #1

Children’s Audio Books #1
Having spent a good deal of my life as a singer songwriter and author, I am about to break into the world of Children’s Audio Books.

The problem with music is getting people to listen to it. The problem with e books is getting people to read them. But Audio Books seem like a totally different animal. The quest to find a safe medium in which to placate and safely entertain your child seems like a major issue for some parents. I don’t know – I am not a parent, but my research shows that parents are concerned about their kids in that they want to entertain them and educate them, and audio books fall into both these categories.

Audio Books link here

I began to research what I was getting myself into when it became apparent that my audio version of ‘Barney the Musical’ has the potential of becoming a huge hit with kids. With the help from my producer, Spon, we brought the story alive with some very entertaining sound effects.

As I have mentioned before, I write stories that I think I would have enjoyed reading as a child, and as a kid I loved funny noises. I have an enduring memory from childhood, and that is of myself and my sister sticking a finger in one ear and pretending to be folk singers. We were not immune to the comedy of this lark, and others, that involved silly noises.

Research on the net took me to many sites for parenting. Some were better than others. The best site I found in the limited time I gave myself was mumsnet.com – Sensible parents discussing sensible topics.

I was able to compile a list of recommended audio stories from mumsnet and other sites. Best of all I found conversations which showed how important audio books are for children who are reluctant to read. I also identified the environments that kids like to listen to audio books.

Other research showed me how disappointed customers could be when their CD audio books were poor quality or wrongly packed. I read a lot of criticism; from dislike for the accent of the narrator to the irritation of having to change a CD half way through a story. I also noticed that just about every children’s story ever written had at least one criticism. Not everyone is going to like my story, or my accent.

From this research I am able to get a measure of my own caliber. I am able to see where I may fit into the market and how to manage this product. The research has left me feeling quite confident as I believe that the story is good – it is politically correct (!), it is well paced and entertaining. My English accent is obviously not BBC – I think my slight cockney twang may become my trademark. I think I nailed the voices of the characters and the sound effects have animated the story. In short I think Barney The Musical can stand proudly with other children’s audio book products!

Gwubbins the Witch Stories For Children by Ella Jo Street

Aside

Ella Jo talks about her series of Children’s Books, A Witch Called Gwubbins.

“My latest project is writing children’s fiction about a witch called Gwubbins. I wanted to write stories that I would have enjoyed reading as a child, and created a character who makes mistakes and embarks upon adventures!

I have enjoyed writing and honing the story-telling skills that even simple children’s tales require. Four stories are now available, and I am presently working on another.

I am delighted to collaborate with illustrator Mary Lou Springstead who has supplied the artwork for the first three e book covers. A gallery has been set up on line for children to send in their pictures relating to the Gwubbins stories.”

Three stories about Gwubbins the Witch

Three stories about Gwubbins The Witch by Ella Jo Street

Click below for the link to Gwubbins The Witch Website!

GWUBBINS THE WITCH WEB SITE IS HERE!

“The Exploding Birthday Cake” is an introduction to the world where Gwubbins lives and the reader meets her closest friends, the Pirate Twins and the Wonky Wizard. An audio version is planned with accompanying music and songsBirthday Cake link

“Gwubbins Winter Adventure” is for older children – of up to about twelve. I envisage this story as a sparkly Christmas movie and plan a part two where the characters have another adventure in a magical underground ice world.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, The Iceman, The Rover Raven Winter Adventure link

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

“Barney the Musical” was really fun to write – the epitome of Gwubbins magic going awry and the comedy effects this has on the musical. The tale of Gwubbins sister, Alidusta, and her celebrity dog Barney, really comes alive in the audio book version and I am planning another story to feature them in the future.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, Alidusta (Gwubbins’ sister), Barney the celebrity dog, Barney The Musical link

“The Zombie Pirate Children” is for older children. The story features Blackbeard the Pirate and was written to explain where the Pirate Twins came from. It is a fast moving plot through time and space – the fiction is magical, but the truth behind the 16th century slave trade is revealed as Gwubbins must save the Pirate Children from that unforgiving world.
This story will make a fantastic adventure film, as it deals with many different levels. There are issues of trust, bravery, cleverness, cruelty, and friendship, as well as magic. Even though they are provided with clues, the characters have to trust in fate to lead them to their destination.

The settings are clearly identified, and easy to relate to, (Shambala – a utopian world where they go to find wisdom, then Liverpool in the year 1717, followed by a sea voyage and a remote island). Journeys between worlds and through time are provided by the Time Turtle and they witness space through the turtles eyes.

The plot involves other strong characters such as the escaped slave called Nebulous, and figures from history such as Sir Isaac Newton. Interspersed with magical creatures and events, the ending is a literary soup of pirate speak and zombie threats.

Children with fair reading ability will enjoy this edgy story and learn some history from it. The shanties and pirate language are based on authentic material. Also, nobody dies.

Characters in this story include: Gwubbins, Wonky Wizard, Pirate Children, Mittens the Sheep, Professor Rowrick, Nebulous the escaped slave and master mariner, Sir Isaac Newton, Blackbeard and his pirate crew. Magical creatures:- The Hairy Hand, The Rover Raven and Ethel the Dragon.  Zombie Pirate Children link

The Zombie Pirate Children

A Gwubbins the Witch Story called The Zombie Pirate Children

FIND THE ZOMBIE PIRATE CHILDREN E-BOOK HERE!

MORE ABOUT GWUBBINS THE WITCH STORIES BY ELLA JO STREET

The Exploding Birthday Cake – This story can be enjoyed by children as young as four and as old as ten.
This is the first story (and the shortest) about Gwubbins the witch, and her long standing friend the Wonky Wizard. The tale is set in Gwubbins house where she is hosting a Birthday Party for her good friends and neighbours, the Pirate Twins.

The story is related by a little mouse who lives under Gwubbins’ stairs and he tells us what it is like in Gwubbins world. This story illustrates Gwubbins personality, how she means well, but sometimes makes magical mistakes.

At the Birthday Party, Gwubbins’ friends notice that the cake she has baked for the Pirate Twin’s birthday is behaving strangely. There is a huge explosion and the aftermath is messy. Gwubbins must do some magic to clean up, then find out why her cake exploded. The Pirate Twins are very forgiving and all is revealed in the end.

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Find the Exploding Birthday Cake HERE!

Gwubbins Winter Adventure should appeal to children between the ages of 8 and 13 years.
All seems safe as Gwubbins sets off into the wintery forest with her sledge to look for firewood with her friends. But when the weather takes an unexpected turn for the worse a snow storm prevents them from finding their way home.

Gwubbins uses her special intuition, and follows her twitchy witch’s nose through the snowing woods until she makes a stunning discovery. Deep in the ice is a cave where the companions take shelter, but this is the domain of a mysterious being. While the friends sleep they are studied by this being who sails into the cave across an underground lake.

The friends are already suspicious as this lake does not reflect peoples noses. But when they wake up a breakfast has been provided, and despite being rather peculiar the friends think this is an act of kindness.

When the mysterious figure appears again from the lake they wonder if the encounter is dangerous. In the depths of the ice all will be revealed.

This story is a fast paced and includes dialogue, allowing the children’s characters to ask questions. Thus the story provides smart explanations interspersed with humour, an entertaining combination for inquisitive children. Find The Winter Adventure Here!

Barney The Musical – for children aged four to eleven
In this humorous story, Gwubbins is invited to see her sister star in a musical with her celebrity dog, Barney. At the theater Gwubbins is seated in the audience with her friends, the Pirate Twins, the Wonky Wizard and Mittens the Sheep.

Gwubbins tries to magically improve the show, with disastrous effects. The singing becomes yodeling, the music becomes jazzy and the dogs all misbehave and forget that they are celebrities for a while. The actors keep dancing, but Barney loses his spots and tries to run away in embarrassment.

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theatre

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theater

Find Barney the Musical HERE!

The show becomes a terrible mess, and Gwubbins and the Wonky Wizard need to put things right before the end. The audience is unsure whether it likes the unusual music and peculiar singing – only at the very end will the reader know if the show is a success or a terrible flop.

This story provides an insight into the world of theater, and allows children to grasp the concepts of acting and performing whilst enjoying an entertaining storyline.

The audio book is a delight (1 hour duration).

Find Barney the Musical AUDIO BOOK here
Beware – Barney the Musical contains some growling!

Zombie Pirate Children – For older children – eight to twelve years
Accompanied by the Wonky Wizard, Gwubbins searches for the Pirate Children who are marooned on a remote island.

Gwubbins must learn her destiny and find clues to locate the Pirate Children. She visits a wise Professor in the magical land of Shambala who directs her to planet Earth in the year 1717. The friends arrive in a dangerous world where they meet Nebulous, an escaped slave, who takes them to Liverpool.The Wonky Wizard finds them a boat and they prepare for a sea journey.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Find the Zombie Pirate Children ebook Here!!!

Once at sea Nebulous discloses the dark truths of slavery in the sixteenth century, and reveals some magic of his own. They encounter a terrifying sea monster but are assisted by magical beings – a strange hand and a special bird.

With the help of these creatures and Nebulous, who is also a master mariner, they find the Pirate Children, but all does not go to plan. There is an out of control dragon on the island and the children’s trust needs to be won over. Then, just as things begin to work out, the pirates appear on the horizon. Blackbeard, the most fearsome pirate of all, is returning to claim the children and his treasure – and he needs to be stopped.

When the pirates land on the island there is much pirate talk and singing of shanties. The Pirate Children bide their time, then give Blackbeard the scariest night of his life. The story reaches a gripping climax as Gwubbins and her friends use all their powers to scare away Blackbeard and set the Pirate Children free, which is no easy task.

The pirates are fearless, but the Wonky Wizard hatches a plan, if they can just pull it off!

This story includes words from original sea shanties and authentic pirate talk. There is a section at the end where the reader can look up the meanings of words spoken by real pirates. Also at the end there is a list of people in this story who really lived – with an explanation of what they did and what happened to them – especially Blackbeard and other pirates that are mentioned in the story.
The illustrations for the first three Gwubbins stories by Mary Lou Springstead are subject to copyright. Please see the Gwubbins website for more information.

The Gwubbins website has a picture gallery enabling children to exhibit their own pictures inspired from the Gwubbins stories.

Zombie Pirate Children – A Gwubbins the Witch story – Now Available!

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo StreetFind this story here

A story with Zombies, Pirates, a witch, a wizard, a dragon and an escaped slave…..

Ella Jo began publishing a children’s series called ‘Gwubbins the Witch’ in 2013. The stories feature a well meaning witch who’s magic sometimes goes wrong. This is most apparent in the story about an exploding birthday cake, and the root cause of the confusion in the story ‘Barney the Musical’. But these endearing characters also embark upon journeys and adventures, as in the entertaining ‘Gwubbins Winter Adventure’ – and again in this latest work, ‘The Zombie Pirate Children’.
This is Ella Jo’s fourth Gwubbins the Witch story, which sees Gwubbins and her friends embark on an epic journey through space and time.

‘Its been a hell of a start to the year’ Ella Jo says, giving this interview from her home in the English Countryside. ‘In 2014 there was a music album to wrap up and the Zombie Pirate Children to finish. It took a lot of effort but both projects have been completed and they were a lot of fun’

Whilst her latest album, Almost Anglo Saxon was released in January 2015, Ella Jo’s latest Gwubbins the Witch story, ‘The Zombie Pirate Children’ was released at the beginning of February 2015.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo StreetClick here to purchase from Smashwords

‘I spent all of 2014 writing this Gwubbins story to explain how the Pirate Twins came to live in Gwubbins village’. Ella Jo explains. In a nutshell this is the story:

‘The Twins were abandoned on an island with other Pirate Children by Blackbeard in 1717 and they sent a message in a bottle asking for help. Gwubbins gets the message but needed a mechanism to travel through time and space – and it came in the shape of a Cosmic Time Turtle who swims across universes. Gwubbins visited the mysterious land of Shambala to learn her destiny to help her find the Pirate Children. When she reaches Earth she meets an escaped slave who takes her to Liverpool where they encounter Sir Isaac Newton. By helping him formulate one of his famous theories, Gwubbins and her friends acquire a ship to search for the island where the Pirate Children are marooned.

On the sea journey they encounter a Kraken, a hairy hand and a Lucky Licky Lollipop – all helpful in their own way, but for all the magical assistance – when Gwubbins finds the Pirate Children they find it very hard to trust her. A dangerous dragon must be placated, then, as they make ready to leave, the pirates turn up. Blackbeard has returned for his treasure and to steal the children away.

They need to figure out how to frighten Blackbeard away – I wont spoil the end, but there is plenty of Pirate Speak and Zombie threats as the finale of the book unfolds.’

‘The book was written for older children between 9 – 14 years. This is because the story encompasses the true history of 18th century Liverpool and the slave trade. I wanted to weave real, gritty history into the story and allow a wider view on those times. It was a challenge to tackle such a grave period and make it palatable, but this explains why the Pirate Children were in danger – and Blackbeard was a genuine character in that world.

So despite writing about Zombies and Pirates, the book has to be pitched to older children because of the real history that it contains, which I find quite ironic. The characters experience the delight of Shambala one moment and the stink of Liverpool the next, and out at sea, in un-chartered waters, magic creeps in. But this story has been written for kids in the modern world, and the Time Turtle was bound to influence events…’

Ella Jo goes the extra mile at the end of the book to explain the words used by the pirates.
‘I found the words used in pirate slang, and for the genuine sea shanties they would have sung. I also included a list of all the real people who feature in the story, so at the end the reader can see who they were and what they did – from Sir Isaac Newton to Blackbeard the Pirate’

It is a truly gripping yarn – and an audio book will be produced for The Zombie Pirate Children in the near future.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo StreetThis ebook can be found here