Sunday 3 November 2013

Sycamore Family Tree

Two iPads featuring images from the book: one depicts a girl holding up a camera as if to take a picture of the reader, the other is of an old man in a chicken costume.
We are always on the look out for stylish, 
off the wall contemporary and inventive apps and this one absolutely ticks all the boxes. 

If you think your family is crazy let me introduce you to the Sycamores, the most barking family you will ever meet!

Brought to life by the dynamic duo of Rebecca and Ben Manley
, Sycamore Family Tree takes you on a guided tour of the Sycamore family home where the family are as much bonkers as they are awesome!!

With Hannah Sycamore as your guide you can explore all the rooms in the house and meet all her wacky relatives including a rock star mum, a strictly ballroom dancing aunt and a former Grand Prix driving granny!! 

Navigation of the app is simple, the home page displays a map of the house where every room is
numbered and a different colour. You then just have to tap a room and be taken to that part of the house, easy peasy!

When you’ve seen and explored a room you can either go to the next room by turning the page or go back to the home page and choose another part of the house.

Now we love storybook apps more than granny Sycamore loves Formula 1, but sometimes we can get so distracted we forget we are reading a story. So what we like about this app is that it still stays true to a book format, it looks like a book, the pages turn like a book and its even available in the iBook store…hurrah!

The illustrations and animations are charming and funny I mean what’s not to love about a grandad dressed in a chicken suit) and the story rhymes making it memorable for a child and great fun to read aloud. Each room of the house also has exciting things to explore and discover; look out for the jars full of bugs in the attic and the rabbit that pops out of the toilet in the bathroom!

Overall we loved this app and we hope we get an invitation to the next family gathering!

Highlights include:
  • A speedy sandwich.
  • Listening to rock music in the laundry room.
  • A parrot that thinks it’s an answering machine!

In conversation with creators Ben and Rebecca Manley ...

This is Rebecca.. not Ben 

The Sycamore family are a kooky bunch of folk, are they based on your own family?

Ben & Rebecca: There are bits of us in there somewhere, but we're not quite as outlandish as the Sycamores! The core idea of the book is to get children thinking about their relatives' real lives, so we tried to make their stories as unusual and intriguing as possible. 

Ben: That said, the crazy baby bears a striking resemblance to my two year old.

What was the most enjoyable part of making the Sycamore Family Tree?

Ben: They all have their moments. Collaborating in the planning is a really fun and creative time. Writing the text is short, but sweet. The coding is actually quite addictive, like solving a fiendish cryptic crossword – I was dreaming in code by the end of it all! But, the most magical part was seeing the illustrations Rebecca had put to my text. 

Rebecca: I liked the character design stage. Drawing all the family members was really fun. It was a pleasure reading each section of the story as Ben sent it to me, and imagining all their different personalities. The animation process was interesting since it all had to be done in code. It meant that Ben had to do the animation, under my direction, which was a bit topsy-turvy since he isn't an animator! Seeing the whole book come together was a great feeling as well.

When designing the app, was it important for you to keep a book format?

Ben & Rebecca: Many picture book apps feel drowned out by a cacophony of interactive bells and whistles. It was always our intention for Sycamore Family Tree to be a story first and for the interactive elements to enhance that story. We put a lot of thought into ensuring that the animations either complemented the text or added another dimension to the characters. 

In the best picture books, the text and the illustrations are distinct but inseparable and we tried to extend that idea to the interactivity.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Ben: Baby Jacob is probably the character that makes me laugh the most. On the other hand, I empathise a bit too closely with hapless Uncle Mike. 

Rebecca: Baby Jacob makes me laugh too. I like his mono-tooth and crazy, infectious cackle. But I also have a soft spot for Hannah, our narrator, in her basement darkroom. Perhaps because I can relate to her. Essentially she’s a creative young girl from an eccentric family, hidden away from the world, making images in a dark studio!

This app is APPsolutely TOP NOTCH!

You can purchase this marvelous inventive and captivating app here - Please please check it out and recommend it to your friends 

With Huge Thanks to Ben and Rebecca (@ManleyRebecca) and also to Secret Agent Amy Ellison - you can find her on Twitter @amyellison25

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