Living Books series
|Parent company||Random House/Brøderbund|
|Status||Currently owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Country of origin||United States|
San Rafael, California
Syracuse, New York
The Living Books series is a series of interactive animated multimedia children's books, first produced by Brøderbund and then spun off into a jointly-owned (with Random House) subsidiary, which were distributed on CD-ROM for Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows. The series began with the release of Just Grandma and Me (an adaptation of the book by Mercer Mayer) in 1992; other titles in the series included The Tortoise and the Hare, Arthur's Teacher Trouble (and other adaptations of books by Marc Brown), Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears titles. Nicely produced "play-through" videos on most Living Books titles can be found on YouTube and Several former Brøderbund leaders are now releasing the titles on iOS and Android as Wanderful interactive storybooks.
CD-ROMs in the series
|Just Grandma and Me||Mercer Mayer||1992||Version 2.0 released in 1997, which included a game.|
|Arthur's Teacher Trouble||Marc Brown||1993|
|The Tortoise and the Hare||Aesop||1993|
|The New Kid on the Block||Jack Prelutsky and James Stevenson||1993|
|Ruff's Bone||Eli Noyes||1994|
|Little Monster at School||Mercer Mayer||1994|
|Arthur's Birthday||Marc Brown||1994||Version 2.0 released in 1997, which includes two games.|
|Harry and the Haunted House||Mark Schlichting||1994||An original Living Books story that is not based on any other books.|
|The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight||Stan and Jan Berenstain||1995|
|Dr. Seuss' ABC||Dr. Seuss||1995||Sing-a-long is included.|
|Sheila Rae, the Brave||Kevin Henkes||1995||A game and 7 sing-a-longs are included.|
|Stellaluna||Jannell Cannon||1996||A game is included.|
|Arthur's Reading Race||Marc Brown||1996||3 games are included.|
|Green Eggs and Ham||Dr. Seuss||1996||3 games are included.|
|The Berenstain Bears in the Dark||Stan and Jan Berenstain||1996||2 games are included.|
|The Cat in the Hat||Dr. Seuss||1997||A game is included.|
|Arthur's Computer Adventure||Marc Brown||1998||Five games are included.|
|D.W. the Picky Eater||Marc Brown||1999||New menu system. Four games are included. Last book released in the Living Books series.|
Computer Gaming World in 1993 praised Just Grandma and Me and Arthur's Teacher Trouble, describing Living Books as "Broderbund's acclaimed series". Publishers Weekly, in a review of Dr. Seuss' ABC, called that title "one of the best children's CD-ROMs to date" and stated that, "[...] the producers' fondness for Dr. Seuss and their fidelity to his sense of refined silliness spill into every sequence." Simson L. Garfinkel and Beth Rosenberg found that the CD-ROMs played better on Macs than on PCs. Although they found the titles to be of high quality in a market flooded with "questionable" releases for children, they stated that not all of them lived up to the company's educational claims (noting Dr. Seuss' ABC and Arthur's reading Race as exceptions) and felt that the added dialogue supplementing the book's text was sometimes "out of character".  Arthur's Teacher Trouble, The Tortoise and the Hare, Ruff's Bone, and Little Monster at School all received a very high score of over 90.00 in the book CD-ROMs Rated by Les Kranz; in the review for Little Monster at School, the graphics and the number of clickable areas were described as positives.
Previews, Credits and Demos Features
On the options pages of these games where you get to click on the arrows to select any page, there are two buttons on the bottom of the screen, Previews and Credits (and later, Demos). The Previews button was only found in Just Grandma and Me, Arthur's Teacher Trouble, The Tortoise and the Hare, and The New Kid on the Block, where there were previews for:
Arthur's Teacher Trouble, in Just Grandma and Me V1.0
The Tortoise and the Hare, in Arthur's Teacher Trouble V1.0
and Ruff's Bone, in both versions of The Tortoise and the Hare and The New Kid on the Block.
It is rumored that the previews for Arthur's Birthday and Harry and the Haunted House were dummied out in the first four games. Previews and Credits were only found on the Quit page of The New Kid on the Block. However, Ruff's Bone, Little Monster at School, Arthur's Birthday, Harry and the Haunted House, and The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight had only one Credits button on the options pages.
Back in Dr. Seuss' ABC and further games, the Previews button was replaced with the Demos button, which takes you to a Living Books Sampler (hosted by Simon the crow from The Tortoise and the Hare) where you can see demos of other Living Books games (The Demos feature was not included on The Cat in the Hat and D.W. the Picky Eater, as well as the newer editions of Just Grandma and Me and Arthur's Birthday, but Arthur's Computer Adventure did include the Living Books Sampler with it, although it's a separate application and not part of the game itself). In the credits, there were cartoon characters at the bottom of the screen with jazz music playing in the background. There were six animations in the credits:
A wizard trying to create a dog with his magic wand (used in 5 games)
A receptionist juggling six shapes when he's on the phone in his office (used in 3 games)
Two artists (a male and a female) fighting with paints (used in 9 games)
A writer who damaged his computer after messing around with the keyboard (used in 9 games, and also in Just Grandma and Me V2)
Three musicians and a sound effect guy performing the credits theme (used in most games, except Arthur's Teacher Trouble and The Tortoise and the Hare)
and People waving with balloons and flags (used in 3 games).
These animations were used in the credits in most games, except Ruff's Bone, Green Eggs and Ham, Arthur's Computer Adventure, and D.W. the Picky Eater, which used their own original credits. The Cat in the Hat was the last game to use the credits animations, therefore using all the animations except the one with the wizard, which was last used in The Berenstain Bears in the Dark. Green Eggs and Ham used the jazz credits theme in the credits, but only displayed storyboards and concepts of the game.
A running gag about the pattern of the credits animations is that in the UK versions of most Living Books games, there were only two credits animations: The artists who fight with paints, then the musicians performing the credits theme.
- Series Review "THE LIVING BOOKS Series by Living Books/Broderbund." McMath, Chuck. Game Bytes Vol 1. Num. 21. 1994. Retrieved March 24, 2007.
- "Forging Ahead or Fit to be Smashed?". Computer Gaming World. 1993-04. p. 24. Retrieved 6 July 2014. Check date values in:
- "Multimedia Reviews: Dr. Seuss' ABC". Publishers Weekly (New York: Cahners Publishing Company) 242 (35): 41. 1995-08-28. ISSN 0000-0019.
- Garfinkel, Simson L.; Beth Rosenberg (1998-02-05). "Bringing kids' books to life". Boston Globe Online. Globe Newspaper Company. Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- Kranz, Les (1994). CD-ROMs Rated: A Guide to the Best and Worst CD ROMs & Multimedia Titles. Laura L. Armer, Adrienne Brown, Joel Gershon, and Pamela Thomasson (Senior Reviewers), and Marjorie Glass, Brian Harrison, Douglas W, Horner, Corolyn Huesman, Dan Laxton, Vivian Laxton, and Josh Sinton (Reviewers). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-912052-0.