Guest Post by Pavel Mamaev of Elfishki

This week we have a guest post by Pavel Mamaev of Elka Palka Production, LLC., based out of Los Angeles, California.  They have created such apps as Elfishki and The Giant Cake and Elfishki and The Unwelcome Guest.  Mr. Mamaev writes about why he decided to get into the business of developing apps and what other developers should be focusing on when creating new storybook apps.

 “Books just can’t beat iPads,” my 7-years-old son Gabriel told me. “Who wants a plain old book when there are iPad games, anyway?” It is really difficult to explain to a 2nd grader why he has to read books. For interesting stories? Here they are, in cartoons on TV. For information? Well, kids of that age are smart enough to reply with “I can use the Internet for that, Dad.”

 But how do you explain to a 2nd grader that without regular practice of his reading skills he would never become a full-fledged Internet user? If he can’t cope with large amounts of written information, he will limit his knowledge sources to blog posts and short articles, staying away from in-depth articles and analysis. There is also the matter of emotional and moral development, which comes from reading great pieces of literature.

 We can’t deprive our children of modern devises—they are a part of our life, period. But we don’t want the iPads and computer games stealing precious hours of reading time from our kids either. If this time is wasted, it will be much more difficult for Gabriel to catch up to his peers later in life. I realized we needed a new generation of books that could compete with iPad games and teach our son reading skills.

 We tried downloading several books for iPad with interactive illustrations, but every singe one had its own problems. Some were beautifully illustrated but the stories were poor or not suitable for Gabriel’s age. Some were fairy-tale classics, but with unattractive pictures and amateurisms animations, or stories that have been already read and re-read a million times.

Gabriel was looking for Disney-like animations and illustrations, a lot of interactivity, and a new engaging story with appealing characters and funny details. And we as parents did not wanted to search for one book at time, but get one reliable source of reading material. Plus, we needed teaching aids and information on how to inspire a love of reading in elementary school children.

 So, not finding good solutions to Gabriel’s needs we decided to create our own stories. My wife, Elvira Baryakina is an established writer. She and her friend, a terrific book illustrator Inessa Kiryanova, a mother of three, created a world of Elfishkis, little fairy tale creatures, who live on the beautiful Rainbow Island in the middle of the Sparkling Sea. These little guys can fly like butterflies, swim like mermaids and get into interesting situations and make funny messes, keeping the kids truly engaged in the stories.

 We wanted to create something unique, a world without any “bad” characters in the stories. A world where each character has his or her perspective, so that children can learn to appreciate the differences in the points of view and figure out a way to come up with win-win solutions. On top we wanted each page of our books to have comprehension questions and to make sure that the stories nourish the skills described in Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.

 We recruited our team from all over the world choosing best of the best: our illustrators are from Russia, our sound engineer – from Indonesia, our programmers are from Germany and Ukraine, and our translators are from New Zealand. And here we sat in Los Angeles, coordinating the whole process.

 As soon as we showed Gabriel our very first storybook, we knew we had a hit.  He was involved in the story, wanted to learn more about the characters, answered every comprehension question and actually preferred reading over his “Angry Birds” for the very first time. Reading Elfishki fairy tales at bedtime is now a welcomed tradition in our household.  Now, if we could only make them as fast as Gabriel goes through them, that would be great!

Thanks Pavel for sharing your story with us! 

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  1. My kids (and myself included) absolutely ♥love♥ ALL of the Elfishki books and agree with Gabriel! “Churn them out faster, please!” I know it is a lengthy process because the dedication shown in the illustrations floors me each.and.every.time!

    I’m the one screaming “please turn this into a cartoon or a movie” – I told you once before, that is how “Peppa Pig” started as a mini-cartoon and look at her now – she’s a sensation all over *SNORT* I can visualize the same for Elfishki and hope that comes true.

    Your stories are beautifully written (thank you – Elvira) and the magic in the stories takes my kids and my own breath away. I love that they are new and refreshing. I love the games attached to each one (so far the cake building is the fave here in our household – icky icky fun *lol* from “Elfishki and the Giant Cake”) and I love that you have now created the option of purchasing the games as a standalone app with all three.

    I keep going back to the illustrations and I cannot help it. Anyone who has yet to experience your books – they’re missing out. Kids can take for instance their iPad and move it to make the swing – actually swing. Push the red light and the cars stop (eeerrrrkkk!) or yellow they slow (beep.beep) and green they go (vroom.vroom) and so much more (“Elfishki and the Performance in the Fountain”).

    You deliver the Disney quality your son wanted – animation that you just don’t see much of anymore. Please keep making them – even when Gabriel gets older :-) or maybe then even extend out to something that appeases an older child – as I can see Elfishki’s or another / other characters coming to life from y’all and being as big or bigger than that little sponge that I want to throttle *lol*

    Thank you again and I really enjoyed the guest post!

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