The idea of turning some of my children’s drawings and writing into book form has always been of interest to me. And with today’s myriad print-on-demand options, I knew I would eventually get around to it. So when Tikatok, a Barnes & Noble company that allows you to make books of your kids’ stories and drawings, contacted me to try out their service, I was excited. I just had to help my kids come up with what to put in the book.
At first, my kids were going to write a special story together, with illustrations specifically for the book. We brainstormed some options, and my son dove right in, writing his nonsensical part of the story. But my daughter was less inspired. She always has plenty of ideas, but not on command or under pressure. I told her to write whatever she liked, and I’d work on tying it into what her brother wrote. But still nothing.
Whenever my kids are trying to write something special, it just doesn’t happen. They create wonderful things when they aren’t trying. I’ve tried to capture and save those moments, typing many a story or poem for them. So I made the decision to turn this book into an anthology of some of their stories, poems, and songs, including my daughter’s fantastic song about Simón Bolívar. Unfortunately, since I file everything they do away at the end of each school year, almost all of their artwork, including the really special stuff, was packed away, and many of their writings as well (though a few more of those are on my computer). So I put together the book with what I could find, alternating spreads for each kid, and including a few drawings.
Putting the book together on the Tikatok website was fairly straightforward and visually-based. It was all there on the screen, with just a few editing options. Each page already had a format to use, with text on one side and a spot for an image on the other. You can change this around, though deleting text boxes and image spots. Other layout options include text and image integrated together, and you can also have multiple text boxes or images on each page. You can add or delete pages, too, though adding more increases the price of the book slightly.
It is best to plan out the book’s pages, format, and layout ahead of time, because it is impossible to rearrange pages in any logical fashion. You have to copy and paste content or reinsert images. You can change type size for each separate text box, but the interface doesn’t use point size; there is a slider that goes from small to large. This makes it very hard to make all the text size consistent in the book. They seemed to try to get around this by having a Match button, which matches type size to the other text boxes. But any time you go back into the text size changing screen, it undoes whatever size you chose last time. You can resize images and text boxes easily, but it is obvious that this interface is for inserting elements and not so much for editing them or rearranging items in creative ways. The book’s cover can also be edited. You can add a title and author, and even a background color and/or image.
When you put the finished book in your cart, you can also include a blurb for an About the Author section. Then you can order your book in hardback or soft cover (with a starting price of about $18 and $15 respectively). You can also order an eBook copy of the book for only $2.99.
We received the hardback book in a timely manner, and it has the kind of look and feel of a Dr. Seuss book. Shiny on the outside, thick pages on the inside. The cover image does not go all the way to the edge of the spine, but rather to the spine’s hinge on the front. The images look as they did in the print preview during the ordering process, including the About the Author section on the back cover. There are also page numbers on each page.
I’m very pleased with the final product. I just wish I’d managed to find more images to put inside. I highly recommend adding several more pages than the base book gives you, since that doesn’t allow for a very long book. I added two or three, and it still seems too short.
Tikatok books cost about $18 for the base hardback, $15 for the base softcover, and $2.99 for an eBook download version. Then what you add will make them great (or not)! In the end, I wish I’d been collecting more of my kids’ creative endeavors digitally. That would have made it easier to create a satisfying collection of their work.
Note: I received a free hardback book for this review.