Celebrating Great Children's Books

Every week, we see great children's books get funded on Kickstarter. In honor of Publishing Month, we though we'd share a few of our favorites, past and present, with you.

Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas

Linda Liukas connected with more than nine thousand backers to make Hello Ruby, a gorgeous illustrated children's book about technology. Ruby has adventures, makes friends with Snow Leopard and a cute penguin, and helps teach kids basic programming skills along the way. The book will be published by Macmillan in October.

Horace the Eighth and the Great Marvellos by Helena Marlinspike

Horace is the youngest member in a circus family, and he's looking for his hidden talents. He's small, and shy, and not the most coordinated, but it turns out he's rather special after all. The illustrations are rich and the story is one of personal triumph — what's not to love? 

Furqan's First Flat Top by Robert Catalino Trujillo

An Image from Furqan's First Flat Top
An Image from Furqan's First Flat Top

Furqan's First Flat Top is a bilingual picture book about a boy getting his first haircut. The author/illustrator, Robert Catalino Trujillo, says "I want to reflect some of the children and families I see; I love children’s books and think diverse stories like this one need to be seen. As a parent, I understand the importance of encouraging reading at an early age, and this book will be in both Spanish and English, as I know the positive impact it can have when children are exposed to more than one language."

Wee Beasties by Andi Smith

The Wee Dragon
The Wee Dragon

Dreamscarred Press published Andi Smith's Wee Beasties, a must-have book for any hardcore geek with kids (or nieces and nephews!) It's a bedtime story about baby versions of the monsters that typically populate dungeons and maul adventurers in Dungeons & Dragons, such as the Wee Cyclops and the Wee Troll. If you look carefully, there's a D20 on each page.

Wollstonecraft by Jordan Stratford

Jordan Stratford wrote Wollstonecraft, an illustrated steampunk book for kids 8-12, in which he invents an alternate history where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency. It was just published under the title The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Random House Kids this month.

Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet

Jonathan Tweet rallied over 1000 backers to help him make Grandmother Fish, a beautifully illustrated book about evolution for pre-schoolers. The interactive text encourages kids to get involved, asking them if they can wiggle like a fish or hoot like an ape.

Peter Pan and Wendy by Allen Morris

Sometimes an old story deserves new illustrations to bring it to life for another generation. Allen Morris created 50 new images for this well-loved story. 

This is just a small sample of the wonderful children's book projects that have been made with the help of our community. There are over one hundred children's book projects live on the site now, so maybe you'll find your next favorite kids' book here!

20 Questions with Children's Book Author Laura Numeroff

If you were a child born in 1985 or later, you probably learned about the idea of cause and effect by reading a little book called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. With four million copies in circulation, it's safe to say that it's a children's book classic. Now the book's author, Laura Numeroff, is now working on a new series all about dogs with jobs, called Work for Biscuits. The first book in the series, Raising a Herohas one day left to go.  

In order to get to know a bit more about her world, we asked Laura to answer 20 questions. In the process we started to really want a soda, learned about an amazing arts day in NC, and realized that the trees in Los Angeles actually do turn colors in the fall.

Tell us about the last great meal you had: 

Cheeseburger, french fries, and a diet Coke! Perfection! Burger was grilled, fries were slightly crispy, and the Diet Coke had just the right amount of syrup and fizz!

First movie you saw in the theater: 

Snow White! Scared the crap out of me!

How do you start each morning? 

Wishing I didn’t have to get out of bed!

Music you loved as a teenager:

Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Phil Ochs, Richie Havens, The Beatles, Sonny and Cher, and The Rolling Stones, any sixties British band, including Gerry and the Pacemakers!

What do you carry with you every day? 

My phone, (although I often forget to charge it! Aaargh), a little Moleskin notepad and a Flair pen and Orbit Cinnamon gum.

Favorite place to eat: 

My sister Emily’s house! She’s a great cook, plus I’m eating with my best friend! It’s a “two-fer”!

Place you wish everyone could visit: 

Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain: 

I know this isn’t exactly an idea or factoid, but this quote has stayed in my brain. “Dogs aren’t our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire: 

Hilary Thompson, illustrator of Eloise.

Favorite thing about the place you live: 

Even though I’m in Los Angeles, the trees around me turn red and yellow in the fall, so I feel like I’m not in Los Angeles! (Another “two-fer”!)

Favorite time of day and why: 

Whenever I don’t have writer’s block, is my favorite time of day!

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen?

Michelle Obama, and her daughters, reading an oversized copy of IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE at the White House Easter Roll!

Last thing you made: 

Bookmarks with kids at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

An experience you’ll never forget:

Two art teachers in North Carolina created Very Special Arts Day, for kids with disabilities. Every year they based creative activities on children’s books — Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are — and had them spread all over a high school football field. They asked me if they could use my If You Give series for the upcoming event! The day of the event, over 600 kids with disabilities arrived and sat with 400 high school volunteers in the bleachers waiting for the activities to begin. They were all wearing a t-shirt that had a drawing of my characters that were drawn by a young boy with cerebral palsy. The volunteers wore red, and the kids wore blue ones.

A marching band paraded around the field. Following the band was a person in the mouse costume, another person in the pig costume, high school girls wearing chocolate chip cookie costumes, and then me in a tricked out red Camaro, bringing up the rear, like the Little Red Caboose!

Driving slowly past the bleachers, waving to the crowd, who waved and cheered back, got me seriously choked up. To start off the official events, a little boy with Downs Syndrome sang, “I’ll Fly Away”. He was so excited to be on stage and applauded that we couldn’t get him offstage! Then the boy with cerebral palsy, who designed the t-shirts, sang “This Land is Your Land,” and that moment was when I was sorry I had worn mascara!

Afterwards, the kids and volunteers poured onto the field, visiting various booths to play games and do craft activities based on my books. There was ‘Make a Mouse Macaroni Necklace’, ‘Moose Muffin Toss’, ‘Pig Paper Planes’, and so many more brilliantly inventive games and activities. It was truly the best day of my life.

Six Hours in Pebble Time

A lot can happen in six hours. You can fly from New York City to San Francisco. You can watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Or, if you’re the Pebble team, you can announce your new smartwatch and raise $5 million. Here's how it went down:

At 9:44 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Pebble Time launched on Kickstarter.

At 10:00 a.m. news of the launch broke. Medium published this in-depth, behind-the-scenes piece.

At 10:17 a.m. the project was successfully funded, hitting its goal of $500,000 in about 32 minutes.

At 10:32 a.m. the project's funding total hit $1 million dollars, making it the fastest project ever to hit that milestone.

By 10:33 a.m. Pebble’s founder Eric Migicovsky was unapologetically tweeting about momentarily breaking Kickstarter. (Thanks a lot Eric.)

By 10:51 a.m. both Pebble Time and Kickstarter were trending on Twitter.

By 1:52 p.m. 600 comments had been left by backers on the project page. One of our favorites was this amazing time-lapse.

At 2:26 p.m. Pebble Time exceeded $5 million. The previous fastest to $5 million? Coolest Cooler, which took over a week (7 days 6 hours) to hit that mark.

It’s now 3:44 p.m. EST and Pebble Time has been live for exactly six hours. They’ve raised over $5.5 million and gathered a community of over 27,000 early adopters.

We’re astounded at what Pebble Time has been able to accomplish in just six hours. We can’t wait to see what they do with the next 31 days.

Making Major Progress on Net Neutrality

If you’ve been following the debate over Net Neutrality, which we’ve been talking about in this space and others since last summer, you know that a remarkable, inspiring, and kinda crazy thing happened: We won!

Well, almost. Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his plan to put forward strong Net Neutrality rules, including the crucial Title II reclassification that we’ve been pushing for all along. We’re so glad that our government is doing what it’s supposed to do: listening to us, and to you, and to the millions of people who filed comments. We’ve made clear that the Internet needs to be open and free — a place where people can say and see what they want, a place that isn’t divided into fast and slow lanes. Even President Obama agreed

And so the FCC listened. But, as you might imagine, the cable companies aren’t happy. And they’re still trying to get the FCC to change the plan before the vote on February 26. It’s important that we all rally behind the Chairman’s proposal until the final t’s are crossed and i’s dotted. The devil is in the details, after all, and the FCC needs to include some important technical specifics in its final proposal.

Title II reclassification is essential because it gives the FCC authority to adopt good rules, but it isn’t enough. The rules themselves have to be really good. Without bright-line rules against discrimination and also against zero-rating, the big, incumbent companies will still have an unfair advantage.

In these last few days, let’s make sure that the FCC guarantees real Net Neutrality — without any loopholes. You can speak out on your own social networks, by filing a comment directly with the FCC, using Tumblr’s tool to call your representative or joining Demand Progress’ Battle for the Net. See, you’re free to use whatever website you like! Let’s make sure it stays that way.

Kickstarter Films at the Oscars

You may have heard that some award show called The Academy Awards is happening this Sunday. This is, needless to say, always a big thing for film, but it's also a big thing for us. Every year since 2011, at least one Kickstarter-funded film has been nominated for an Oscar, and this year is no different. Congrats to Finding Vivian Maier for its nomination for best documentary feature! 

To get prepped for the event, we gathered all of the previous nominees in one place along with the trailers for those films. You can head over to our Watch Now page and get them all in before Sunday night if you start now.

Finding Vivian Maier (nominated for best documentary feature 2015)

The Square (nominated for best documentary feature 2014)

Inocente (winner, best documentary short 2013)

Kings Point (nominated for best documentary short 2013)

Buzkashi Boys (nominated for best live-action short 2013)

Incident in New Baghdad (nominated for best documentary short 2012)

The Barber of Birmingham (nominated for best documentary short 2012)

Sun Come Up (nominated for best documentary short 2011)

The Headlines: Five Great Journalism Projects

Journalism may be one of Kickstarter's newest categories, but writers, editors, and publishers are already launching great work into the world. From conflict reporting to new storytelling platforms, here are some of the most exciting journalism projects live on our site right now.

GlobalPost Senior Conflict Correspondent

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Award-winning GlobalPost is behind some of the most important and dangerous journalistic work out there, creating a fearless team to continue telling human stories in violent conflicts all around the world.

The Riveter Magazine: Longform Storytelling by Women

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The Riveter — a women's longform lifestyle magazine in print and online — has sold out of every copy they've printed. Now, they're ready to go steady and make it a quarterly publication, bringing more women's voices into the media.

Reports from the Energy Battlegrounds

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Last year, the Vancouver Observer ran a project to report on the tar sands in Canada. Their new project is taking it national, launching a new publication focused on tackling energy politics and the environment. 

Femsplain: Feminism Full-Time

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Femsplain is a space for anyone female-identified to share experiences, connect and learn together. In order to continue elevating important and diverse conversations, they're now looking to pay their contributors.

Massively Overpowered

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Massively.com recently lost their corporate sponsorship, but no matter: they're now turning to their fans and readers to create a new independent site to continue delivering news and editorials about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) genre. 

Exploding Kittens Is the Most-Backed Project of All Time

Tonight a project called Exploding Kittens made Kickstarter history.

With 219,382 backers, it became the most-backed Kickstarter project of all time! It more than doubled the previous record of 105,857, held by Reading Rainbow since last summer. Wondering what the backings leaderboard looks like?

The Most-Backed Kickstarter Projects of All Time

1. Exploding Kittens - 219,382 backers
2. Bring Reading Rainbow Back for Every Child, Everywhere! - 105,857 backers
3. The Veronica Mars Movie Project - 91,585 backers
4. Double Fine Adventure - 87,142 backers
5. Torment: Tides of Numenera - 74,405 backers
6. Project Eternity - 73,986 backers
7. Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android - 68,929 backers
8. Mighty No. 9 - 67,226 backers
9. OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console - 63,416 backers
10. COOLEST COOLER: 21st Century Cooler that's Actually Cooler - 62,642 backers
11. Wasteland 2 - 61,290 backers

Exploding Kittens isn’t only the most-backed project, it’s also the most-funded Games project ever, raising $8,782,571. That makes it the third-most-funded project in Kickstarter history. Not bad for a humble card game, huh?

Earlier this week, the Exploding Kittens team (Elan Lee, Shane Small, and The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman) shared a thoughtful update with their backers. Here's what they had to say:

“We’ve never seen anything like you guys, and neither has the planet. You have proven beyond any doubt that you are unstoppable. There’s nothing we can put in front of you that you can’t do. There is nothing too great, nothing too hard, nothing too outrageous that you incredible group of incredible people can’t accomplish as a community."

We'd like to extend a sincere congratulations to Exploding Kittens, and every one of you 219,382 amazing humans that made it happen.



Ornament is Crime: an Interview with Don Moyer

At first glance, Don Moyer's plate designs look like something you've seen before: classic prints in classic colors. But then you look closer and notice the details. Each of his plates depicts different destructive monsters on classic blue-and-white china. Recently he's also gotten into head wear, making bandanas covered with rage-filled paisley designs and rogue pixels, as well as coffee cups. We asked Moyer a few questions about his work, life, and the inspiration behind the angry little things that he designs.

How did you get into making classic blue-and-white china with disaster pictures on it, anyway?

I was trained as a graphic designer and have worked in that role for more than 40 years. Drawing has always been an important part of my job. I've gotten into the habit of drawing a little every day and posting my drawings on Flickr.

In 2011, I inherited a traditional blue Willow-pattern plate that belonged to my mother's grandmother back in Ireland. I had an urge to redraw that plate and crank up the level of excitement. I added a pterodactyl.

As I drew additional plates that were spiced up with different calamities, and posted those drawings on Flickr, people kept saying they'd like to have real plates. In 2013, I launched a Kickstarter project to see if enough people wanted plates to support a production run.

Kickstarter is a great tool for artists because it allows wacky ideas to find sponsors. By simply describing a half-realized dream, Kickstarter allows supporters to add the momentum of a crowd to let the dream take flight. Everyone wins. The artist gets to make things that previously would have been impossible. And the sponsors get to enjoy things that previously would never have existed. Sweet.

Why do you think people love dinnerware with disasters?

This is easy to answer because Kickstarter allows my sponsors to tell me what they are thinking. I get messages that are very specific about what people are doing with their Calamityware plates. What they like is the element of surprise. A seemingly boring, traditional plate, rewards closer scrutiny by revealing something unexpected. This thrill-of-discovery idea pops up in almost all my fan mail. Some people talk about watching dinner guests clear their plates and make the discovery. There's talk of astonishing grandchildren.

A few sponsors talk about the plates as a filter—guests who don't notice the plates will not be invited back.

Some people think it is fun to mock grandma's plates. And others are in love with robots, monsters, or UFOS.

In general, I'd say that my sponsors enjoy laughing and stand a little closer to the fringe rather than the center of the distribution curve.

Describe your workspace and your process.

I wish I could tell you about a magical process with fairies or astounding technology, but my process is actually pretty mundane:

  • In my Moleskine notebook, I start with a drawing of the whole plate, or the plate center, to see if the calamity will make me laugh. A plague of frogs was funny. A snowstorm was not. 
  • Next I audition elements of the design by drawing them several times in my notebook. For example, if I need a shrub, tree, or fence, I draw 10 or 20 and pick the best. 
  • I scan these elements and bring them into Adobe Illustrator to make a composition. In Illustrator, I can draw additional elements like bridges and pagodas, which are more crisp and mechanical looking.
  • Then, I invent borders. Instead of copying a specific traditional design, I look at some old plates and then make a new design that captures some of the spirit of old plates and mixes it with the spirit of my notebook drawings. 
  • I hang printouts of my designs on my dining room wall and try to see them fresh each day. Over a period of several weeks, this allows flaws to become visible—too dark, too light, too thick, too thin, etc. I fix the flaws. 
  • If the Kickstarter project is funded, the ceramics workshop that supports me produces transfers and then applies my drawing to blank porcelain plates with vitreous inks and fires them.

For me, there are two parts of this process that are great fun: the original drawing in my notebook is a treat, especially when it makes me laugh. Building the gaudy borders is also fun because it deals with excess. My training as a graphic designer was all about "less is more." We were taught that ornament is crime. Willow-pattern plate borders would earn you a life sentence with the Modernists. To me, that adds another layer to the joke.

Have you found or made any surprising connections with people as a result of your projects?

I like this question because it recognizes that often, the greatest benefit of a project will be something that wasn’t within the scope of the project. I think of this as the Columbus Effect. His project was to find a short route to China, but he opened up something even better.

My series of Calamityware Kickstarter projects has helped me make some unexpected connections. I found a superb coffee roaster in South Dakota. I formed a strong bond with two friends who came to my rescue with improved business systems. I met someone who makes jewelry out of broken plate fragments. I've met entrepreneurs doing their own projects who have offered advice to help me cope with rough spots. I've been invited to exhibit my drawings. I met one of my favorite New Yorker cartoonists. And I've corresponded with dozens of charming, kind, and funny people who were strangers to me before.

It's also possible that many more connections are germinating and will bear fruit months or even years later. You just never know.

What's the weirdest or most interesting thing that has happened as a result of Calamityware?

Here's one odd angle I didn't know anything about before I started the Calamityware projects: 

Several archeologists have told me that shards from broken transferware plates are a valuable tool to date historic sites. I'm told that all sites in North America have broken china and that experts can date the site by scrutinizing the fragments. By looking at porcelain type, colors, and images, it is possible to calculate when people arrived at a site and even where they might have come from. Long-gone global trade routes can be sussed from the broken bits.

I'm told that archeologists have timelines that show when changes in the technology of porcelain occurred. By matching the shards from a site to the time line, they can determine when the site was occupied. Archeology students are trained to match samples to these time lines. To mess with the kids, teachers are now including a few shards of Calamityware among the old pieces. I love the idea of a student trying to understand why the shard they are studying has flying monkeys on it.

Then I project the idea forward another thousand years. Imagine the robotic archeologists of the future sifting through the rubble and trying to make sense of a piece of Calamityware. I like to picture them good and truly mystified.