Bumpbump Books: Creativity meets product development

A passion project. My love for high quality content for kids morphed into creating and releasing four wonderful animated book apps, early in the evolution of touch technology products and markets. In the process I got a hands-on immersion in product development and code.


Soon after the Ipad launched in 2010 the app market was flooded with children’s picture books for mobile devices. There was an enormous range in the quality, complexity and interactivity of titles.

With more than a dozen illustrated books to my name and my background in technology and journalism, I knew that I wanted to develop products for this new ‘wild west’.


The biggest barrier to entry was development cost. Was it possible to build a high-quality product economically, and at scale?


Meredith Hamilton: illustration, animation, project management

Peter Velikonja: audio, code, project management


What I did

• Researched and identified appropriate development platform, Cordova/Phonegap

• Contextual audit of the market

• Created proof of concept version of the first app using a contract developer

• Recruited a permanent co-founder

• Illustrated and animated four apps

• Recruited audio talent

• Created collateral, including website


The year we released our apps I presented the project at a symposium at MIT Media Lab and gave a birdseye view of the children's app market.


1. Technology audit

To identify development options I taught myself about the evolving technology landscape. Luckily the internet made the research deeply accessible—foundational terms and concepts are always one click away (and no one is looking over your shoulder when you have to look up something again and again!).

I identified a platform that allowed developers to create apps with a single codebase. Apps built this way don’t have nearly as many capabilities as native apps but they are economical to produce.

2. Competitive audit

The marketplace for children’s book apps was diverse. Some legacy print publishers had entered the market with beautiful apps and been disappointed by their returns vis a vis high development costs. Other publishers were flooding the market with poor quality products.

Some products were minimally interactive: basic page-turning experiences that closely mimicked a print book. Others experimented with unconventional blends of words and images, or letting the user choose the narrative arc.

3. A rough action plan

The only way to test the technology’s capabilities was to start to use it. I outlined a content plan for four initial apps, selecting titles that were unique in the marketplace and had rich historical context to draw from: Bluebeard, Hermes, Baba Yaga, and Punch.

With the help of a contract developer I created an initial proof-of-concept version of one of the stories.

At that point my partner Peter Velikonja entered the project, a developer with a PHD in music. Our shared philosophy was to make sophisticated content with simple materials, and not to talk down to kids.

4. Story boards, then development

We moved through the storyboarding and word-smithing quickly.

Peter created a production system, with some trial and error.

I created the art assets and uploaded them to a shared server.

I coded the animation and pages using a series of spreadsheets. Each animation had a defined origin point, simple action (move left/right, appear, disappear) and a time period for the action to happen. These simple steps resulted in a wide range of possible animations

Peter’s system ‘automagically’ compiled the files of art assets, audio assets, and animation directions multiple times an hour, making it easy to rapidly see and modify content and actions. Shown below: screenshots from Mr. Punch app.

5. Release

In January of 2013 four apps hit the Itunes App store, then the Google marketplace..

One of the apps was awarded “Best of 2013” by Kirkus Reviews.

Fun fact: a mock hanging scene from the Mr. Punch app got us a age 18+ rating from Apple, higher than the NRA shooting app for children. (We successfully appealed).


Soon after we released, the freemium model began conquering the marketplace. We eventually joined the crowd and made all the apps free.

In order to scale we needed a different business model. We realized, alas, that the project was not sustainable. However, the experience that we both gained provided a key foundation for other projects.