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Bic Kids's new colouring book + app is impressive

Remember how you felt when, as soon as you left school, they built some amazing new library/playground/computer room? I have that feeling daily now I’m a parent. I see something cool and my first thought is, ‘My son would love that,’ but I admit that my second thought is often, ‘*I* would have loved that’.

One of my prized possessions as a girl was a storybook in which the main character was called Lisa. My sister had exactly the same book, but the main character had her name instead. We didn’t care it was a marketing ploy; we were thrilled, and re-read the books till the words faded and the pages thinned.

Just like a child might be happy to see themselves in the mirror, seeing themselves in a book - even in name alone - can turn a normal bedtime story into an engrossing page-turner. In fact, an Open University study revealed that children were more likely to remember new words if they were introduced as part of a personalised passage in a book. It’s powerful.

The market bears this out. Etsy’s digital shelves are bursting with adaptable titles and, in December, the Lost My Name company - of Dragons’ Den fame - announced it had sold one million of its personalised books in two years (to put this into context, 'Dear Zoo' has sold two million copies in nearly 10 years). Great for the three entrepreneurial dads who set up Lost My Name, not so great for the kid who got three copies for Christmas.  

And now we reach a new frontier. By itself, Bic Kids’s latest colouring book 'Marty & The Alien' is unremarkable: several pages of blank planets, spaceships, and join-the-dots constellations. But it comes with a free iPad app which launches it into another dimension.

Picture this: children can colour in their alien, scan it in and see it play the main part in the story as it spins and bounces across the screen with the help of some clever augmented reality crafted by Engine Creative.

The effects gather pace as the story – a charming tale about a martian landing on Earth, by Elissa Elwick – unfolds. At one point, the child can import an entire chorus of their felt-tip creations into the book, and move the iPad up and down to get a panoramic view. It’s not quite virtual reality, but it’s getting there. Not bad for something with a £9.99 price tag. Not only that, but this page also uses the iPad’s camera, so the child’s own surroundings make up the backdrop of the ‘scene’.

The product has its issues: the colouring book has been created for a multi-territory release, meaning it is weirdly devoid of instructions and, as an adult, I found it quite hard to know what to do. But, as an adult, I also found it fascinating. I would have LOVED it when I was little.

:: BIC Kids Marty and The Aliens Interactive Colouring Book costs £9.99 from Amazon or bookshops, you can also just download the app for free in the Apple Store.








Dadah to one
I always had books with someone else's name in the front...