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Author Illustrator Roxie Munro – 12 X 12 Featured Author June 2015

Author Illustrator Roxie Munro – 12 x 12 Featured Author June 2015

Author Illustrator Roxie Munro in studio

Our June featured author, Roxie Munro, is doing some of the most exciting work in children’s books today. She is an author, illustrator, innovator, and tireless advocate of learning through literacy, no matter what form that learning takes. She is equally as passionate about helping fellow authors and creatives in this brave new world of publishing. I first “met” Roxie when I called her to ask for advice prior to publishing my own digital storybook apps.

I own several of her books and apps, and I never fail to be a’MAZED! 🙂 Last summer, I had the pleasure of presenting with her on the topic of digital publishing for nonfiction. I can assure you Roxie is nothing short of a superstar.

These days, it’s almost impossible to catch up with Roxie, busy as she is on so many projects across the globe. But she was kind enough to stop for a moment to talk to 12 x 12 participants about creativity in children’s books, and how to stretch ourselves to embrace new possibilities. 

Roxie has an outrageous schedule this summer, but since I am so familiar with her work and a digital author myself, the prize for this month’s winner will be a consultation with me to answer your questions about the possibilities in publishing today, including crowdfunding, digital books, games, etc. 

Now, please welcome Roxie!

The wonderful thing about children’s books is the broad latitude in which our creativity can function. There are many forms content can take, and now, increasingly, many platforms in which we can express ourselves. One of my favorite ways to deal with nonfiction informational content: making interactive books using “gamification.”

People don’t always think of print books as being interactive, or using games, but they are and they do. I create mainly nonfiction and concept books, as well as interactive apps.  To engage children, keep them interested, and to impart information in a fun way, my work uses a form of “gamification”: lift-the-flap, mazes, guessing games, hidden objects, inside-outside concepts, search-n-find, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, matching games, word/noun object recognition, and so forth.

These are a device, a construct, to impart information in a new, fun, and creative way of looking at the subject.

I didn’t realize, until recently, that almost all of my picture books, starting with the very first works – a series of six Inside-Outside books – involve “gamification.” My four lift-the-flap books are finding games; six others use mazes; and recently I’ve been writing about science in a guessing game format.

EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures uses mazes to explore and understand ecosystems, and a finding/counting gameBusy Builders  by Roxie Munro to learn about which animals live in the habitat. In Hatch! an egg or clutch of eggs is shown. Children guess what kind of bird it is from hints (“The bird that lays these eggs is found on every continent except Antarctica.” “This one never drinks water” “…fastest running two-legged animal on Earth. But it can’t fly.”).

In Busy Builders children see the giant bug, and then turn the page to check out the unusual structures certain bugs make, and why. And in Slithery Snakes they are encouraged to figure out what kind of snake it is from close-up scaly skin patterns, along with tantalizing facts about the critter: “Its common name comes from its skin pattern (like a precious stone) and its unique tail (which sounds like a child’s toy).” Turn the page and the answer appears, with fun facts, and the snake in its home, with other creatures that live in the habitat.

In Mazeways: A to Z, the letter of the alphabet forms a maze … A for Airport (ever been to HeathroMarket Maze by Roxie Munrow or JFK?), H for Highway, L for Library, P for Parking Lot, and so on – you are playing, but also learning about the places and how they work. In Market Maze children explore where food comes from and how it arrives at their town greenmarkets.

Many subjects lend themselves to game-like interactive formats. Authors and illustrators of children’s nonfiction materials should consider these devices for learning about a person, an animal, a historical period, science, a place, or even a fictional character.

Engaging in games helps with concentration, setting goals, problem-solving, working together and collaboration, perseverance, and celebrating achieving goals. Many games, mazes in particular, also help children learn decision-making and critical thinking skills – planning steps in advance, thinking ahead. Mazes teach alternative ways to solve problems and judge spatial relationships. For younger children, they help develop fine motor skills; for older children, maneuvering through mazes helps improve handwriting. Game formats are particularly suited to reluctant readers, boys, and special needs children.Apps from Roxie Munro

And it makes sense that interactive game-like books would make good apps, so in the last few years I’ve also been making apps. Not fantasy or digital video-type games – mine are mainly adapted from a book or a book series: Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure (interconnected mazes, seek-n-find, counting games); Roxie’s Doors (a direct book-to-app adaptation; seek-n-find/naming/vocabulary w/word highlighting); Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure (16 interconnected jigsaw puzzles).

Using games in apps, like in picture books, enhances learning, engagement, and collaboration. And, they’re fun!!! In the educational community, and among parents, learning via games has gained credibility, respect, and lots of interest in recent years.

Ocean by Roxie MunroInterested in new media, I’ve also gotten involved with a fun project – creating giant (5 ft high by up to 14 feet wide!) walk-in books… a huge wordless picture book, about Castles, Rainforests, Oceans, more (KIWiStoryBooks.com). Included are curriculum, plays, and an app with lots of cool content and games. They’re also being made into desktop fold-out books.

Think about ways that new media opens up possibilities for you.

Consider all of your hard work a tangible asset – your creativity and ideas, research, craft and production – all your intellectual property. Its value does not end when the print book or an ebook is published. Think of it as unique content, available to be “exploited” – taken crossmedia, sometimes in an adapted form.

This is a wonderful and exciting time in publishing – there are so many ways to create great original work, and to raise your profile, enhance your creative presence, and have your ideas discovered!

Roxie Munro was born in Texas, and grew up in southern Maryland, by the Chesapeake Bay. At the age of six, she won first prize in a county-wide contest for a painting of a bowl of fruit. She has been a working artist all her life, for a while freelancing in Washington DC as a television courtroom artist. It was great training for life drawing, concentration under pressure, and making deadlines. Clients included CBS, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press. Fourteen of her paintings have been published as covers of The New Yorker magazine.

Roxie is the author/illustrator of more than 40 books for children. Her most recent books include MARKET MAZE (Kirkus Star), SLITHERY SNAKES; ECOMAZES: 12 EARTH ADVENTURES (Starred Review, School Library Journal; Smithsonian’s Best Science Book for Children);  DESERT DAYS, DESERT NIGHTS; HATCH! (Outstanding Science Trade Book, NSTA and CBC; Society of International Librarians Honor Award; Bank St College Best Books of 2012, with Outstanding Merit); BUSY BUILDERS (Bank Street CCLL Cook Prize Honor), and a series of nine nonfiction fold-out KIWi Jr. Storybooks.

Would you like to own a piece of Roxie’s artwork?

Time Traveler Tours & Tales  Kickstarter artwork

This gorgeous map of Florence was created expressly for the Time Traveler Tours & Tales Kickstarter campaign by world-class picture book & app illustrator, the amazing Roxie Munro. It can be yours through this campaign in a variety of prices and formats. Our own Marcie Colleen is part of the team behind Time Traveler Tours & Tales as well as friends of 12 x 12 Sarah Towle and Mary Hoffman. Check out this Kickstarter campaign HERE.

Looking for an agent or editor for your own picture book(s)? Grab this free 7-Step Submissions Checklist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Post Has 140 Comments
  1. I know her work and was excited to see her connected to the Time Traveler Tours and Tales program. You guys have all the fun.

  2. Engaging and inspirational work! I can’t help but feel intimidated, though, because I’m only an author, not an illustrator.

  3. Awwww….you folks make me feel so wonderful. You make all these years of plugging away (with my share of rejections and economic issues!) worth it. Will add that, although it seems like I do a lot, I’ve been around for a while ;-)) And, didn’t get married till my late 30s, and have no children, so focusing on art was not as tough as it is for those of you have demanding families, distractions, and other issues. I so respect creative people who are able to get things done on top of having such responsibilities!

  4. Thanks for a very enlightening post. It’s hard to imagine a child that wouldn’t enjoy learning through all those exciting games and puzzles. This gives us lots of ideas and inspiration!

  5. Thank you for such a great post, Roxie! I especially enjoyed the information on “gamification” of picture books. I have quite a few picture books that have mazes, puzzles and word searches in the appendix at the end of the books. I’m definitely going to go back through them and see if I can sprinkle them throughout the books, instead. I absolutely LOVE your idea of walk-in books

  6. Thanks, ladies, for the great interview. Thank you, Roxie, for showing us all the ways we can make our stories come alive and for the students to interact with them!

  7. Excellent post in so many ways, but I’m particularly fascinated by the picture of Roxie working. For such intricate illustrations, she really doesn’t work all that large. And as a lover of all things maps, I can’t stop looking at the beautiful map of Florence. Just gorgeous.

  8. What great information and inspiration. Have always loved interactive mazes, searches, etc. in books. The walk-in book idea? Brilliant! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  9. Now I really want to experience a five-foot book. I’m only 5’2″, so it will be total immersion. So fun. This post makes me think about my stories in new ways—Thanks!

  10. Very inspiring! It really is a great time to be creating work as there are so many ways to present it and share it. I’ll be looking up your apps too, Roxie. They sound like they would be good for my kids. Thanks!

  11. This truly is a unique time in publishing. Instead of telling us that it is just the luck of the draw on whether your book gets published, you’re now showing us where we can produce our own book apps and make our product interactive. Lovely thoughts about how the traditional way is a good way to seeing your work seen by others but also giving us great ideas about thinking out of the box. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us.

  12. Roxie, You are amazing and have turned education into playtime, most fun way to learn. I can’t imagine you as a child, sitting quietly, reading a book, but thanks so much for your flaps, aps, mazes, and the iPad doors to grab the minds of children who will surely dream bigger because of your work.

  13. Thanks, Roxie! What a great post encouraging us to all take it a little further and push the boundaries of convention.

  14. Your amazing illustrations really make your books come alive for children (and me)! The interactive books are so fun!

  15. Roxie, your blog post has enticed me to seek out your books. And – makes me want to learn more about writing non-fiction pbs. Do people ever tell you they want to be you? ;-}

  16. Very interesting article Roxie. I would be interested in having this alternative for my PB (when I publish it ) hehe Great stuff ! Thank you for the info 🙂

  17. Roxie, I love your philosophy that literacy learning comes in many forms. I am a big fan of sit next to me and read but I too think sitting and learning through interaction is also a way for children and parents to converse. Thank you for your post!

  18. So cool…now you’ve got my imagination bubbling with some ideas for my just finished June draft! Second one of the year, but at least I’m moving forward. Thanks, Julie and Roxie 🙂

  19. Thank you for sharing and taking us to pages and beyond, Roxie! Children love opportunities to interact with all media, so I’m positive that readers and doers everywhere are enjoying all of your offerings! I can see why you have an “outrageous schedule this summer.” Whew!

    A walk-in book – fun! Talk about “Busy Builders!” I want an adult version of a walk-in book – my own book cave of sorts!

    I know Julie also wanted us to comment on our goings-on: I have been working on two PB ideas that have both taken some detours along the way. Will they make it to the end of the road? Hmmm… all road signs point to….
    I’ll channel my Little Red Engine!

  20. Thanks for sharing a bit about your work here with us. You are inspiring! I remember meeting you at the Princeton, NJ Book Festival a few years ago–you’re inspiring in person too 🙂

  21. What a variety of publishing ideas and walk in books. Can’t wait to see the size of those books.
    Thanks for the new ideas Roxie.

  22. Julie & Roxie,
    One of the great things about month-end check-ins is that it acts as a prod to encourage me to go back & read the Featured Author interview. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this interview! Roxie, your insight into the role & possibilities of picture works is so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing!

  23. Great work Roxie! Reminds of all the things I liked to read when I was a child. I even liked going to the dentist because I got to read Highlights For Children Magazine with all their puzzles, mazes and searches. Bravo!

  24. Children love non-fiction and is often a great way to get kids involved who are reluctant readers on a topic they love

  25. Thanks for sharing all these amazing possibilities with us! I want to walk through a picture book!

  26. Thanks for taking time out of your whirlwind schedule to “visit” us at 12 x 12, Roxie!
    It’s so wonderful to see your gamified books beckoning children to enter the world of hold-it-in-your-two-hands book reading, in addition to the two-finger techno-approach! Congratulations of your new digital venture – so exciting!!!

  27. What an interesting post – the choices are endless for creating works for children. Thanks for sharing so much Roxie.

  28. Roxie you are so creative. How do you keep all that inside? I guess that was a silly question because obviously you are letting it all spill out in a cascade of fun. Awesome!

  29. Note to self: get some Roxie books! Truly inspiring. I never thought of myself as capable of all that, and yet here I am already jotting down some app ideas. As my mom used to say, “Who’d a thunk it?” Thanks, Roxie!

  30. What a new way to look at picture books! I love stretching my thinking and this did just that! Thanks!

  31. Wow. Very cool and a ton of good work! It’s a brave new world in technology open for so many possibilities. But it is the idea of a huge wordless picture book that has now caught my imagination (as a former scenery designer turned new media graphics designer and illsutrator). Thank you!

  32. I love how Roxie’s books and apps make learning fun. That’s a sure way to get kids’ attention!

  33. I love the idea of embedding games in stories to make learning fun. I loved doing mazes as a kid and all kinds of puzzles. Thank you for sharing innovative picture book formats.

  34. Roxie, thank you for an inspirational post. Your artwork is beautiful and you have really stretched the boundaries and worked outside the box. I’m especially interested in learning more about apps and look forward to checking yours out.

  35. Crazy about your approach to the work, Roxie. Was lucky enough to catch your presentation at SCBWI NY a few years back and it knocked my socks off. Rock on! Julie, thanks for this point of view.

  36. Love the “gamification” aspects to make books more interactive and engaging for children! Am in awe of anyone who can adeptly wear the dual hats of author and illustrator!

  37. Roxie, I’ve enjoyed all your insights about digital books and apps, both here and at the 21st Cent. Nonfiction Conf.

  38. Thanks Julie for featuring Roxie. She is amazing at what she does. She’s so talented and so dedicated to creating books that kids will love and do love.

  39. Great post. I’m enticed to delve back into this. When I first became interested in writing for kids, I was creating crossword puzzles, word games, and rebus stories. (I wonder if I still have them tucked away somewhere?)

  40. I really enjoyed reading about gamification and the different creative ways to share information with children. Thanks for a great post!

  41. Brilliant, innovative, incredibly talented… and humble, too. I feel both excited and intimidated by all the possibilities Roxie mentioned. What a powerhouse! Thanks for sharing with us, Roxie!

  42. Thanks, Roxie, for sharing this interesting and eye-opening information. So many options to consider!

  43. You got my creative mind going, with ideas that have been bubbling beneath the surface now coming to the forefront. Thanks!

  44. Great ideas! I love the giant walk in books. I have some puzzle book ideas that I am working on. You have inspired me.

  45. My students love to guess the birds in Hatch! Thank you, Roxie, for making fun and beautiful books that make them say, “Wow!”

  46. Thank you for your wonderful post! My kids were given a copy of one of your maze books and they love to find all of the hidden treasures. Thanks for reminding us to create interesting ways of interacting with books.

  47. How terrific to be introduced to your work, Roxie! I’m inspired and encouraged by the scope of your projects. It is a very exciting time in publishing, and you are clearly engaging kids on many levels. Thank you!

  48. You kind people! Thank you so much for all the great comments. It is so encouraging, because, as you all know, there are up and down times in our industry, so it’s wonderful when we help each other. And super to reconnect with some of the folks I’ve met at conferences. For those of you who are interested in doing apps, my developer, OCG Studios, builds great apps. They also have a framework for DYO (Develop It Yourself) which saves you development costs. You supply most of the assets (art, text, maybe narration, etc) and they make the app for you. Here’s the page on their site (it can all be done via email, which is the way I did it): http://www.ocgstudios.com/dyo-develop-your-own/ (You can mention my name; ask for Omar.)

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