When the books talk back.

As you may have surmised after spending any time here, I like books.

As a consequence of me being their daddy, my kids like books, too.

Of course, they’re still learning to read. My 6-year old handles herself pretty well, and her younger sister isn’t content to stay in her shadows on that front, either. Reading before bedtime is a regular ritual at stately Ward Manor, and the focus has shifted from Mommy and Daddy reading everything to reading books aloud together and (in the elder daughter’s case, with sibling also breaking into this game) now letting them read to us.

A couple of their books come with stuffed animals, or “interactive story buddies” that talk back to them as they read. You read the book which comes with the animal du jour, and when you hit key phrases, a voice recognition chip built into the animal responds with various pre-programmed phrases of its own. Hallmark has been making and selling these things for a while now, and thanks to their “Uncle Kevin,” the girls each have their own story buddy. Older daughter likes “Jingle the Husky Pup” whereas her sister prefers Scooby Doo.

Then, we have the books that just do all the talking themselves.

First up? It’s not a kid’s book, but it’s still a bit of interactive whimsy, and it even tickles my Trekkie funny bone a bit:

While I’m sure the blood pressure of all the uber-serious Trek-fen is already boiling merely in reaction to this book’s very existence, I thought it was pretty nifty. Basically, How to Speak Klingon has ten “common” Klingon phrases and their accompanying explanations, all designed to arm the would-be warrior with everything he or she might find a need to use while going about daily life and other hilarity. You know…playing golf, navigating a security checkpoint, and so on.

Hey, scoff all you want, but one day you may be in a situation where this book could save your ass, and you won’t have one because you think it’s “silly.” Don’t think I won’t laugh at you, should that ever come to pass.

The illustrations by Alex Fine are humorous as is the text by writer Ben Grossblatt, and the book has a built-in voice chip with the phrases ready for deployment with the press of a designated button. The incomparable Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen, our warrior-pal from the Klingon Language Institute, was brought aboard to provide the spoken word components, with sound engineering by another friend of ours, Emmett Plant (who provided me with the girls’ copy. Nootch.). This is a light, fun book that makes the perfect gift for your die-hard Trek geek whom you’d like to see with a big pulsing vein popping out on his forehead.

Next up? Another book from Uncle Kevin at Hallmark:

The girls really dig this one, as it plays into their current interest in cartoons, comics, and other this-n-that featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Power Rangers, and so on. This one’s neat because as you read the story aloud and hit the key phrases, Batman’s on hand to guide you through the “mystery” to be solved: finding the Joker and the diamond he’s stolen.

In addition to the story text providing prompts for the voice chip, “Batman” also asks questions of the reader that require spoken responses in order for the story to move forward. It has music and other sound effects built in, as well, making the whole thing an interactive adventure with the reader as Batman’s sidekick. The book features a story by Hallmark writer Andrew Blackburn and illustrations by local artist Ralph Cosentino, who’s created art for several other books that I really like. As for Batman and the Fun House Jewelry Heist? I can only provide a rough estimate, but I’m pretty sure the girls have read this thing eleventy bazillion times in the two weeks they’ve had it.

I kinda want my own copy.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking interactive voice chips might be just the thing to spice up some of the reports I create at work. What say you?


3 thoughts on “When the books talk back.

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