Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The book formerly known as "Curious George Gets a Talker"

Welcome, friends, to the former home of the book "Curious George Gets a Talker." 

(If you're brand new and don't know what I'm referring to, it was a super neat PowerPoint book that I wrote about Curious George using a communication device, and then I cut up photocopies of our George books with my kids and we put talkers in them. It was pretty neat :) )

If this disappearance is coming as a shock, let me explain.

When I made the book, it was for my kids (my daughter, Maya, who uses a communication device by necessity, and her little brother, Will, who uses a communication device because we are an AAC family). We had fun doing it and they *loved* the finished product. Per usual, when I create resource-y things, I put it up here to share with the intent of supporting other AAC users. AAC folks loved it and all was good. It was translated into multiple languages! I received touching emails with photos and videos of their kids reacting to it! Until . . .

The next day someone asked about copyright. Knowing nothing of copyright stuff, I had no idea whether it was an issue. I wasn't selling anything, I saw oodles of homemade character crafts elsewhere online (ahem, pinterest), and other friends chimed in citing fair use law, so I thought it was probably fine. But, being a fine upstanding non-thief-y type of person, I emailed the Curious George people (actually the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt people) to self-report the usage. I explained the project, sent them the book, and asked whether it was permissible to leave in place or whether it should be removed. (This is also why I didn't repost the link on Facebook or share the translated versions---I thought it was wiser to wait to hear back from HMH.) After a few days I got a reply that my email had been passed to a different department, and I didn't hear anything else until today.

(Side note: I can't help but wonder how many emails they get self-reporting potential copyright infringement. Not many, I would guess. Ha.)

Earlier this evening I received a very polite email from the HMH folks saying that, while they appreciated the effort to provide resources to the disability community, there are "strict editorial standards for creating new stories featuring the character," and they requested that I pull the file down. 

And so . . . 

*poof*

But wait, there's more.

While HMH requested the removal of the booklet due to the copyright, they were "inspired by [our] story" and as a gesture of appreciation they have offered to make a donation in Maya's name of 100 HMH children's books to a nonprofit of our choosing. (They also are sending us a small gift basket of books for Will and Maya, which is lovely.)

That's pretty cool. Considering that not only did they have no obligation to be charitable, they actually could have been righteously indignant, it's very generous.

So the book isn't here anymore. I'm not really bummed about it, though. It reached some kids (most importantly to me, my own). The books that will be donated will reach some more kids. My kids and I had a blast making it. If only I could draw, we could have made it with other characters to begin with . . . which brings me to the next point:

While the character images in my book belonged to HMH, the story was mine. It was a pretty good story from an AAC perspective: there was modeling, multiple communicative functions, multiple communication partners, multiple communicative environments, etc. Curious George, while beloved and adorable and well-known, is not essential for the story to work. The main character could really be any animal (I'm particular to Parker the poodle, but Sara the squirrel or Harry the hamster or Carl the cat or really anyone could work).

But I can't draw. 

And so if you, dear reader, happen to be an illustrator, or happen to know an illustrator, or just like to draw (simple, emotive, child-friendly) characters in your spare time . . . well, get in touch (uncommonfeedback@gmail.com). If anyone can make it work, I'd be happy to attach the story to someone new.  

Our kids need more AAC stories.  (And I can't help draw them, but I can happily help with the stories----so if any book folks out there want to run with this, well . . . it's a good idea. And I'm happy to help.)

----

(Totally unrelated side note: this is the first week of my new semester, and posts have been pretty thin here since I started back in grad school. If you want to keep up with us, our Facebook page is really the place to go!)

13 comments:

Deana said...

I found your blog through the Curious George story. We've said for years the reason our son loves Curious George so much is because they speak the same language. We were able to print off your story and will continue to read it to him.

As for your idea of using different characters, maybe you could contact a local art school and see if there is anyone who would like to take on the project.

http://www.maxwatson.org/

Anonymous said...

I wish that Houghton would take on this project and make it one of their Curios George books!

Debbie Moss said...

Would it be possible to get a copy of your story (without the pictures and Curious George's name)? It would be so useful for students on my caseload and I'm kicking myself for not printing it out when I could.

Unknown said...

Yes, that would be amazing! I'm so sad it's not available anymore.

Julie said...

I wish I had saved a copy while I had the chance, but I was very excited to hear one of the other therapists at my daughter's Communication Clinic using it in her session!

It is an excellent idea, and I hope to see a version of it in print one day soon.

ZippadeeZazz said...

I've just emailed you regarding illustrations :)

Sarah Lynn said...

A few years ago, a blogger, and I can't remember who it was, used Miffy the bunny to illustrate some posts, and the Miffy Bunny publishers came down like a ton of bricks. It would have been wonderful if Houghton had allowed your book or supported you in making it public, but under the circumstances, this is a good response.

Bridget Gilormini said...

Have you considered writing a Tar Heel Reader version of this book? if not would it be okay to take your story, give you credit and create the story using the framework?? www.tarheelreader.org

Anonymous said...

You should use your Kristi Yamaguchi connections to get your story illustrated and published! We've had one of her books out from the library this week....

Ann said...

I almost wept this evening when I clicked on the link I had emailed myself, and finally had time to open it to print your book. My son uses a "talker," and I'm an SLP. I wanted to print two copies, for my son, and for a new student. If you are willing to share some or all of the wording (with credit!), so that I can try to replicate the book for my son and for my student, please advise.

cortney schulte said...

Here is a crazy idea, why don't they pay you to publish your book. Do you know of any books featuring characters with talkers? I don't but as a mom of a 6 year old who just got one, I was really hopeful when I clicked on this link. Thank you for your efforts

Dana said...

Ann, email me. I can pass along the wording. (uncommonfeedback@gmail.com)

Elizabeth Harp said...

Would using photographs of your family for the story be an option?