Curator Commentary: The Future Catalog

from “The Mighty Pen” by Caroline Godin

Zoobean: The Future Catalog of Children’s Books

A few months back I received an email from my brother in Texas stating something like, “Hey, you’re a mom and you like children’s books. Check out this cool idea my former boss is doing.”

[Such was my initial introduction to Zoobean.] I followed the link to a survey which asked me about buying children’s book, my thoughts on the quality of children’s books, and how easy to find I felt good children’s books were. I answered as best I could finishing with a ‘yes’ on whether or not I’d like to be contacted further. I was interested, not only because I valued my brother’s opinion of ‘cool’ (a little sister’s habit, true,) but because I liked the implication of a website that made finding particular children’s subjects, down to the character demographics, easier. By the way this targets ages 2-8, and since my kids are 4 and 5, well, obviously…

I did what any interested mother/writer/person-with-free-time (wait-that’s-not-me) would do. I applied to help build the database of books. Building? Books? Lots and lots of data? So up my alley. I started working with Felix and Jordan and many other wonderful curators as we poured through children’s books cataloging and posting and helping to create a database of children’s books the likes of which the web has never before seen. Truthfully, I was a little over-zealous at times and probably curated a little more quantity than quality at times. Thankfully, Jordan was checking for the utmost quality and has only allowed the best books to move onto the site. [Check out the Zoobean Blog for the story of how Felix and Jordan thought up this creative venture!]

Little vague still? For example, I pick a book… Let’s use Emilie P. Bush’s Steamduck Learns to Fly for instance. Yes the author and illustrator, William Kevin Petty, are listed. So is the Lexile measure (which indicates reading level and such,) character backgrounds, settings, subjects, language, format, and so much more. Emilie’s book is cataloged with inventions, physics, rhymes, robots, transportation, how to, identity, and more. Every tidbit of information is considered in every book so that parents can search on all aspects and choose the book that’s best for their child based on their needs. It really can’t get more specific. [By the way, awesome book!]

I was completely sold on the concept and wanted to see it, well, fly. I guess I wouldn’t be writing about Zoobean now if I wasn’t convinced it’s a great new way to find great books for your kids. And it’s not just for the newest books out there. Classics like Ferdinand or Where the Wild Things Are are in there too. This isn’t just for promoting new titles, but for sharing loved titles which we remember from our childhood. My BFF and I love seeing our kids light up as we turn the familiar pages of our youth.

While everyone worked towards making the database, Felix and Jordan worked towards plugging in every book to the site. As if that weren’t enough, they created the Love Collection. This involves a group of books which have been particularly singled out as being especially great and a portion of the proceeds from these books will go towards a children’s literacy charity. A different book is featured each month from a list chosen by the curators. Making something awesome and giving back? How cool is that?

Okay, Caroline, it’s totally a sales pitch… There’s another reason I’m extra excited about this, and wish it existed ages ago. An older friend of mine recalls a book from his childhood which he loved but the title escapes him. It was about children who went on a raft and got stuck down the river. The whole story is about getting unstuck. The last line of the book, when they’re all in bed and their mother is tucking them in, is something like, “‘Stuck,’ said little Bill.” I’ve searched high and low to help him find this book and it’s nowhere! No catalog anywhere has the details needed to weed through countless books, in print or not, to find this book. Granted I have very little to go on. Zoobean is a new concept that solves this issue, if only there were a time machine.

Interested? If nothing else, it’s a database of books and what’s the loss in hunting through a database? We search Amazon and Barnes all the time, right? There’s nowhere near as much detail there and those books haven’t been as hand-picked by parents as the books on Zoobean. And besides, Zoobean… it’s such a cute name, isn’t it?

Well, thanks for reading through my story, and excitement. I really think Zoobean is on to something big. The database is constantly growing and with the countless hours, and love, put into the site, it can’t be anything but great. Seriously, check it out and see for yourself, and for your kids. This was well worth my time and blog-space to get the word out.