The first day of school is tough.
We’ve all gone through it: Peering into the door of an unfamiliar classroom; surveying a group of rowdy new classmates with a trembling lip; maintaining a death grip on the pant leg of a parent (who is most likely running late for work at this point). Just in time for start of the new school year, Austinites Brent Angie and Robert B. Hill have released Chug the Bug: Chug Makes New Friends, an e-book aiming to alleviate some of the stress involved with starting school, especially when it comes to making new friends.
The story follows Chug, a bug of an ambiguous species, through a self-discovering adventure on his way to the first day of school. On his journey, he meets new friends (a ladybug, grasshopper, dragonfly and beetle) with unique characteristics. The story validates that it’s OK to be different and encourages children to have an open mind.
I had a chance to experience the app, and though my primary school days are far behind me, I found it completely charming and insightful.
The interactive e-book allows children (or parents) to read the rhyming story themselves, or have it read to them by a quintessential teacher-like voice-over. The app includes sound effects and an upbeat, twangy musical soundtrack, giving youngsters a multisensory experience the entire way through.
Despite the digital format, the story has the whimsical quality of a traditional storybook (pre-Pixar animation) with old-school illustrations and positive morals.
Angie explains that it’s tough for new authors to launch a traditional, bounded children’s books in today’s market; publishers tend to stick with authors of previous credentials. “We decided to go virtual in order to hit a broader audience right away with the hope of finding a publisher eventually down the road,” he says.
Chug the Bug was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, receiving over $18,000 in donations. “We received a lot of unexpected pledges from those within our extended social network that we hadn’t been in touch with for a while. We found ourselves sometimes watching the daily activities like the stock market.”
Angie credits his experience as a father as inspiration for the book, which started as bedtime story Angie made up to tell to his 4-year-old son. With two young children, he has found “encouraging an open mind and enabling experiences through adventures can help produce positive wonders in helping a child find their way with who they are and how to treat others respectively.”
The authoring duo hopes to eventually make Chug the Bug a series. Perhaps, Chug Tolerates Cafeteria Food? Or Chug Says No to Bug Drugs?
Whatever the future holds for Chug and friends, the series, started right here in Austin, could be this generation’s Berenstain Bears.
Chug the Bug: Chug Makes New Friends is available now for most portable devices.