On March 1, 2016, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair announced the results of the 5th Annual BolognaRagazzi Digital Award: a global search for excellence and innovation in digital children’s publishing. Once again, four jurors met in February 2016 to review and discuss 177 entries from 30 countries. Each title had a 2015 (or newer) copyright date. Note that CTR is paid by the Bologna Fair to coordinate the judging. In addition, we run (and sell tickets to) a half-day Dust or Magic Masterclass on the day before the book fair, as well as a three day retreat in Eastern Pennsylvania with an agenda heavily influenced designed around the entries.
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The jurors selected two winners, four mentions, and eight short list selections. Each chosen title represents an important contribution to children’s publishing by leveraging the potential of emerging technologies for the benefit of children.
Wuwu (Step In Books, Denmark)
This innovative, bewitching, 360-degree immersive story uses minimalist illustrations set in a virtual world that can be freely explored with the physical motion of your tablet. This lets you move through the story in a non-linear fashion. Quality sounds and illustrations follow your path as you shake and search your way through the story. The app uses motion in a sometimes touching and funny way. While the jurors had concerns about the usability, these were were more than offset by the aesthetics and innovative, interactive techniques.
Attributes by Math Doodles (Carstens Studios, USA)
The essence of mathematical problem solving is captured in a single app by way of seven hand-illustrated activities. The challenges are presented with grace and honesty, as part of your quest to unlock mathematical thinking via attributes. This work sends the message to a child that math is something beautiful, that can be presented without gimmicks.
Boum! (Les Inéditeurs, France)
A delight for both the eyes and the ears, this is a story presented in one continuous scroll. As you swipe, bold illustrations unfold; set to a fascinating audio environment. This entry has a refreshing cinematic feel, and the point-of-view keeps changing, stretching the restrictions of the conventional frame. There is no overt narrative, which some might find to be strange. But there is an implicit message about the power of imagination overcoming monotony. And in the end, there’s a smile.
Goldilocks and Little Bear (Nosy Crow, England)
This is a [literal] twist on the classic fairy tale that has been expertly infused with intelligence and humor. Well-engineered features take advantage of the motion sensing potential of tablets so that you can quite literally flip the narrative upside down (by physically rotating your screen like a steering wheel), to track the two main characters (the bear and the girl) on the fly. In the end, everyone meets and new friends are made, providing a clever modern adaptation of the classic story. The entire experience is a delight from the beginning to the end, with expert music, graphics made for the interactive medium, and state of the art child narration. This title represents Nosy Crow’s best work to date.
Loopimal by Yatatoy (Lucas Zanotto, Finland)
Even the youngest children can program the movement of six animated animals, simply by dragging and dropping blocks onto a timeline. The result is a playful, no-fail musical rhythm experience, with endless combinations and an invitation to dance along.
MoonBeeps: Gizmo (Moonbot, USA)
This innovative app turns a tablet into a prop for imaginative play, helping a child build their own pretend submarine or spacecraft. The combination switches and toggles — and resulting sound effects — are deceptively simple. Jurors liked the idea that a tablet can be a prop to enhance play, rather than taking over and directing what a child does.
THE SHORT LIST
These titles received a special commendation from the jurors for making a unique contribution to children’s digital publishing.
Chomp (Fox and Sheep, Germany)
A clever video app puts live video of your face into a range of humorous cartoon environments. This app makes excellent use of the features of the medium, to stimulate social interaction — and provide a few laughs. Jurors appreciated the way this app leverages the power of the camera to pull you into the illustrations. It will be welcome on every child’s tablet.
Hilda Bewildered (Slap Happy Larry, Australia)
A thoughtful and intelligent work for older children and teens about sometimes dark, but important subjects. Jurors commented: The interactivity is limited, but the design works well to pull you into each scene. The excellent audio atmosphere is particularly noteworthy.
Janosch: The trip to Panama (Mixtvision Digital GmbH, Germany)
If there was an award for the best table of contents, it would go to this app. The app starts with a superbly implemented 3D globe that unlocks a beautifully-illustrated story. Jurors noted that the audio is also excellent although the English translation could be improved. The interactive features nicely support the narrative.
Lucy & Pogo (Catsndogz Studio GbR, Germany)
This nicely illustrated story fits together well on the screen, offering a balance between narrative and interactivity. This is much more than a book that has been translated to the digital medium. The graphics are cinematic and the audio works to expand the power of the intentionally rough, thoughtful illustrations. Jurors appreciated the humor, and the positive moral at the end.
Milli: A Small Snail in a Big World (Honig Studios, Germany)
A beautifully illustrated and well-executed story with a strong narrative and a message about self-acceptance. Jurors commented: “The interactivity is limited but appropriate, rather than distracting. There are some imaginative techniques that match the medium. The audio is rich and excellent.”
Monster Mingle (Cowly Owl, England)
This is a free-form sandbox where colorful, zany monster parts can be mixed and matched as they automatically snap into place. There’s some good audio, though some minor design issues include looping background sounds and an invisible wall. Also it can be hard hard to tell one part from another. It’s always nice to discover an app where the child’s finger directs the action, and not the other way around.
With a Few Bricks (Cléa Dieudonné, France)
Elegant though brief, this title contains bold illustrations and mesmerizing interactive design. The excellent music and sound effects help to create a special atmosphere. Jurors noted that this is a “rather abstract storyline that may be difficult for a younger younger children to interpret, but the story it tells is unique and engaging.”
The 2016 Award at a Glance
- 177 entries from 30 countries.
- Selections were made by four independent jurors.
- Two winners plus four mentions (two for fiction, two non-fiction).
- Eight short list selections.
A GLOBAL REACH. Winners were selected in a face-to-face meeting by independent jurors selected for their proven expertise in digital media. Any publisher from any country can enter a product for any platform – the jurors make a conscious effort to be blind to the size and origin of the publisher.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE PAGE. Technology can detract from a story, cluttering the experience with animation, sounds or clever effects. Other times, a product is no more than a digitization of a printed product, with pages that turn, and perhaps some text scaffolding tools. Some may even have some animations “sprinkled” on the page. In a few instances the magic of the interactive technology was woven perfectly with the highest quality “old fashioned” illustration, craftsmanship and narration, creating a rich experience that was a delight to explore. It is these that are the finalists and winners of the 2016 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award.
The prize is sponsored by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and managed and directed by Children’s Technology Review’s Editor, Warren Buckleitner. The winners are determined by a rotating annual jury comprised of international experts in digital publishing, writing and illustration. There is one vote per juror; the debate takes place in the fall and spring. Judging concludes with a face to face demonstration session in which the short lists and winners are selected and a toast to excellence is proposed.
2016 jurors were Warren Buckleitner, Editor of Children’s Technology Review (USA); Paulien Dresscher, Head of the New Media Department, Cinekid (Holland); Valeria Petrone, Illustrator (Italy); and Max Whitby, Co-Founder, Touchpress (UK).
About the Jurors
Warren Buckleitner has been reviewing children’s interactive media since the 1980’s. He teaches Interactive Design at The College of New Jersey, and is the editor of Children’s Technology Review and creator of the Dust or Magic Institute and the Mediatech Foundation. He’s covered children’s tech for The New York Times for a decade, and is a former preschool and elementary school classroom teacher, who holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.
Paulien Dresscher is working as a researcher, writer, filmmaker and educator in the field of media and digital culture. Currently, she is working as Head of the New Media Department at Cinekid and curates the Cinekid MediaLab. She is affiliated as advisor with the major Dutch cultural funding organizations. She holds a Bachelor degree of Media and Fine Arts from Minerva Academy in Groningen, as well as both Masters in New Media and Research Masters in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam. Specialities: New media and digital culture, screen cultures, fine arts, media art, storytelling, the technological imaginary. Paulien Dresscher lives with her husband and daughter on a sailing ship in the center of Amsterdam.
Valeria Petrone lives between Milan and Rome, but she grew up professionally in London, where she started illustrating her first books for children. Since 1988, she has published over 40 titles in Italy, The United States, France and Great Britain. Her works range from children’s literature to illustrations for advertising, newspapers and magazines, apps, animation, paintings and sculptures. She has exhibited in Italy and abroad. Her work has received recognition from Society of illustrators NY, American Illustration, Communication Arts, Original Art Show NY, Creatively Quarterly and Italian Illustration Annual. In 2008 and 2014 she was awarded the Gold Medal by 3×3 Pro Show Annual.
Max Whitby founded the app development company Touchpress Ltd with Theodore Gray in 2010. He was CEO for the first four years when Touchpress published many ground-breaking apps, including The Elements, The Waste Land, The Orchestra, and Disney Animated (named by Apple Best iPad App 2013). Max has a PhD in Chemistry and started his career at the BBC where he led an early collaboration with Apple. He co-led a management buy-out and subsequent IPO of the BBC’s pioneering Interactive Television Unit. Max has recently embarked on an ambitious new venture at The Red, Green & Blue Company Ltd (an independent production house he founded in 1987) to produce a digital high school chemistry course. He has a lifelong interest in natural history, which takes him filming around the world.