MFM was treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of new picture book website Magic Town. The site offers children and adults the chance to read, watch, explore and play with a story. Once kids enter the site, they can visit the characters’ homes and listen to favourites such as the ugly duckling and Elmer the elephant tell a story. The more kids read, the more stories arrive in Magic Town, all kept safe under the watchful eye of Louis the Lion and his magic tree of stories.
The site caught the attention of children’s author Janey Louise Jones, who wrote the latest in the Superfairies series specifically for Magic Town. MFM finds out why…
MFM: What tempted you to release your latest book in a digital format?
JLJ: “It was a golden opportunity and I’m very open to different platforms. I have another series in the app store so I was in that mindset. It’s good to be proactive and catch the wave– modern families are looking for something more.”
MFM: Are you concerned about kids becoming too digitally-focused?
JLJ: “You have to move with the times, they [children] like it when things do stuff. Once you’ve watched an animated story, you find a normal e-book or flat book takes a bit of getting used to. It’s not going to make children lazy. It’s nothing to be terrified of. It’s just change.”
MFM: Do you think schools will adopt the idea of digital books?
JLJ: “So much thinking has gone into the concept behind Magic Town, it’s been approached in a very academically way. It has an earnestness to it. As long as the quality is there and it’s not just playing mindless games, it’s more than killing time. There are checks and measures in Magic Town, with interactive elements on and off-line. It helps teach things like the character and story themes in a book, which are hard to come to cold.”
MFM: Are you concerned digital books will hinder early reading development?
JLJ: “There’s endless, circular debate about how to teach reading. It’s not confusing to do several things at once. Once you’ve learnt to read, no-one really knows how it happened. It has its own magic.”
MFM: What’s your favourite thing that digital reading offers?
JLJ: “It’s about acknowledging what children want. Finally, there’s something that’s going to excite children, not make it a chore.”
MFM: What inspired you to write the Superfairies series?
JLJ: “I’m up to season three of Superfairies, it’s like Friends now! The idea came from an early love of concepts like Flower Fairies. Girls look for strong characters and are generally warm-hearted towards animals, so there’s a lot of plot lines around that. The fairies would save animals after they’ve got into pickles. Superfairies is an exciting in-house brand for Magic Town, alongside mainly classic brands and stories.”
MFM: What’s your favourite thing about seeing Superfairies in Magic Town?
JLJ: “I love the pink fairy ‘copter”.
Magic Town is the world’s first virtual world based on picture books for young children. At launch we have 70 stories, including 20 free titles, for kids to read and play with. We are also adding 10 to 15 new stories each month. There are fables, fairy tales, original titles licensed from top publishers, and digital first stories from authors like Janey Louise Jones. Janey wrote the Superfairies series for Magic Town, and we’re thrilled to bring her work to life. The Superfairies are fun, engaging and fast becoming a Magic Town favourite for young children.