Summer Reading Challenge [2003 – 2005]

Films & online panoramic habitats

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In 2003, I was commissioned by the Reading Agency to develop a concept for an interactive website to accompany the Summer Reading Challenge. The SRC is the largest national reading promotion for young people [aged 4-12], running in 94% of UK public libraries, and involving more than 650,000 children annually. It is based on a different theme each year. For the 2003, 2004 and 2005 Summer Reading Challlenges, I have directed and produced 13 panoramic film habitats, featuring 15 top children’s authors and illustrators, such as Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo [author of War Horse], Anthony Horowitz and Nick Sharratt:

2005 – The Reading Voyage: Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Martin Waddell
2004 – The Reading Rollercoaster: Michael Morpurgo, Nick Sharratt, Valerie Bloom, Nick Arnold
2003 – The Reading Maze: Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell & Paul Stewart, Debi Gliori, Michael Rosen, Korky Paul, The Two Steves (Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore)

Author & illustrator Nick Sharratt in his favourite diner. CiCi Blumstein 2004. Habitat illustrations © Nick Sharratt 2004.

Author & illustrator Nick Sharratt in his favourite diner. CiCi Blumstein 2004. Habitat illustrations © Nick Sharratt 2004.

My brief was to portray children’s authors and their work in an imaginative and accessible format, providing an interactive experience for children to explore. My creative concept is based on the idea of a panoramic, 360 degree author habitat, with film clips about the author hidden within it. Hotspots are embedded in the habitats and when triggered, play the film clips.

Habitat for author Anthony Horowitz, Hampstead Heath, London. CiCi Blumstein 2005.

Habitat for author Anthony Horowitz, Hampstead Heath, London. CiCi Blumstein 2005.

Visitors can explore the habitats by navigating and zooming around the scene, finding their own viewpoints and paths. In this way, each journey through a panorama is different, and children may discover another new detail about the author with every visit. Whilst the panorama interface allows simple and direct access to the habitats, its multiple layers of exploration and interactivity give a sense of discovery, mystery and suspense, encouraging users to return several times. This keeps the curiosity alive, and puts children in control of their own learning experience.

Habitat for author Debi Gliori, Pucks Glen, Scotland. CiCi Blumstein 2003

Habitat for author Debi Gliori, Pucks Glen, Scotland. CiCi Blumstein 2003

As a basis for creating the panoramas, I asked the authors to choose and describe their favourite writing, thinking, reading environment – their natural habitat. Each habitat was then designed to reveal a unique author profile.

The chosen habitat could be a real location, for example a favourite café, or it could be imaginary, for example a scene from one of the author’s books. I thought of each environment as a film set, which could be layered with detail and enriched with props significant to the author or their books.

Habitat for author Michael Morpurgo, Farms for City Children. CiCi Blumstein 2004.

Habitat for author Michael Morpurgo, Farms for City Children. CiCi Blumstein 2004.

Habitat for author Nick Arnold, Appledore. CiCi Blumstein 2004.  
Anne Sarrag, creator and project director of the Summer Reading Challenge, says of the concept and delivery of the author habitats:

Working with the clients / partners – CiCi’s Blumstein’s proposal (linked to developing on-line children’s reader development resources for the Summer Reading Challenge on the People’s Network) arrived via our tendering process and was in a league of its own. It demonstrated not only a well researched understanding of both the funding sector and the audience, but an imaginative and innovative interpretation of the brief, exploiting the unique medium of the internet, whilst illustrating how it was both strategic and deliverable – which she went on to do to budget – still meeting absurdly tight deadlines imposed by the funding cycle. The continuation of the project (now in year 3) is in part due to the success of the inaugural pilot year and the quality of the content (evaluated by the Museum’s Libraries & Archives Council’s Inspiring Learning Framework)

Working with the artists – The authors and artists selected to feature in this project (including the past & present Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo & Jacqueline Wilson) were highly complimentary of CiCi; they appreciated her attention to detail, consideration for the way they were portrayed, respect for their craft, her prior consultation and involving them at each stage (“not even my editor does that!”) and incorporating their own preferences and ideas – and it was clear CiCi brought out the best in them.”

Summer Reading Challenge Habitats credits:

Conceived, directed, filmed & produced: CiCi Blumstein
Habitat photography: Kevin Harper
Camera: CiCi Blumstein, Kevin Harper
Lighting & sound: Kevin Harper
SRC website design: The Reading Room
Project manager @ The Reading Agency: Anne Sarrag, Director, Summer Reading Challenge
Commissioned by: The Reading Agency