Recently Jens Hewerer of Giddio.com kindly sent me some review copies of his radio-type plays for children. “The Adventures of Billy Brown” are not traditional audio-books where an actor simply reads a story, but fully produced radio plays with music, sound effects, and different actors playing each part.
Apparently German children have been enjoying this form of entertainment since the 1970′s. Fond childhood memories of German audio adventures and a lack of anything really similar in the US, prompted Jens Hewerer to found Giddio and create his own “Hoerspiele” (literal translation: “hear plays”).
The stories bring to life the adventures of a big bear named Billy Brown and his best friend Emma. They are non-violent, not frightening, and short enough for young attention spans (30-45 minutes). Each adventure involves a problem that needs to be solved, and also has a few educational tidbits of information woven into the story.
One thing that makes these an interesting alternative to TV or videos is that they sound a lot like videos. With my eyes closed, I would not know the difference. However, lacking the visual component allows children to use their imaginations to visualize the action. For that reason, I think these might especially appeal to children who are used to TV and video.
One thought I had while listening to these, was that for parents trying to wean their children off TV or videos, these CDs might be a useful tool. The sounds will be familiar, but your kids will be using their imaginations instead of their eyes to take in the action.
When we tried the first one out, my 5 and 7 year-old both seemed to enjoy it. My impression was confirmed when, the next day, they remembered it and asked to hear another one. They lined chairs up in the playroom and sat and listened as if they were at a play!
There was a disagreement over listening to CD number three. I wanted to save it for an upcoming long car trip, but my 5 year-old didn’t want to wait until then. My 7 year-old thought we should wait so that she could “be surprised” on the trip. My 5 year-old “won” and they ended up listening to it at home, but they have since heard it (and the others also) again a few times, both at home and in the car.
Honestly, I am astonished at how much my children love these CDs. My 5 year-old is especially intrigued (the series is recommended for ages 3 to 7). I expected that they might enjoy hearing them once, but I really didn’t anticipate the eager requests for Billy Brown on a daily basis!
The formula must be just right for them. They laugh at the child-oriented humor, seem interested in the informational bits, and want to hear the stories over and over.
The other day we listened to Billy Brown and the Frog Tunnel in the car. Later that afternoon I heard my 2 year-old chanting “Save the frogs, save the frogs,” a line from the play, while she played with her toys. Obviously she had been listening with interest too.
You and your children can try out Billy Brown by listening to a free download of Billy Brown and the Mystery Package from the Giddio website. While they listen, your kids can color some free Billy Brown coloring pages. If they like the audio play, you can order the CD version of it, plus the other two adventures, at the Giddio site too.
Personally, I am hoping that Giddio can continue the Billy Brown series. My children have already been asking for more, and obviously wish that there were more than three adventures!