The future of storytelling is all about voice!

Today is a big day here at Novel Effect… We’re excited to announce the release of our voice-driven interactive video showcase on our free website and mobile apps!

We’ve all been there: shouting at our favorite characters to watch out, or groaning as they make a decision that spirals out of control… they’ve always ignored us. Now, for the first time with Novel Effect you can talk to, influence, and see or hear characters respond.

We listened to what you loved about reading books out loud with Novel Effect and your thoughts about kid’s video and tv as we brought this new format for entertainment to life. Thank you, especially to our beta testers, for your expertise, feedback, and applause, as we continue to elevate the power of storytelling.

Now, voice, literacy, and video blend together and let kids (and grown-ups) take a key role in the story. It brings the element of active play into a traditionally passive experience, and puts you in control. The results are a unique way to engage, inspire, and delight children and improve educational outcomes.

Be a part of the story
It’s the same “magic” we use to make reading aloud with books interactive, applied to videos that are perfect for 7 to 10 year-olds just beginning to read. Younger kids with a parent are sure to have fun as well – my own 4-year-old can’t get enough of Interactive-Chef Matt. 

Pick an experience and take an active role in a story together – we know you’ll be delighted!

You want me to read this line here?
You can try our videos on any microphone enabled computer or mobile device. We’ve even made it possible to pair your mobile device with our website so you can use it as a microphone if your computer doesn’t have one.

Click or tap play and voice-driven videos begin like any other video, except sometimes speech bubbles appear on-screen. Reading the text inside them out loud continues the episode, with interactions that range from narrative to actual conversations with characters.

Your voice. Your choice.
Natural back-and-forth interactions have been imitated by children’s television shows for the last 50 years, and kids love it. We found they want to be a part of the story and expect their favorite characters to speak and respond to them. Our existing “magic” made this an easy task. To make our videos more interactive, we went a step further and included branching storylines. How do you like your  omelette? Give Cooking with Matt a try and choose the ingredients you prefer! 

Boost reading confidence
Continuing our mission to get kids excited about reading and tell great stories, voice-driven videos are designed to engage kids in a reading activity that motivates them to read more and is fun to try over and over again. With branching stories you get to shape the story as you go and make different choices every time. Participating in the experiences together is an opportunity to inspire and engage kids while improving educational outcomes.

We’d love your read on it
Novel Effect is free to use on iOS 11+ and Android 6+ and includes hundreds of soundscapes for children’s books, as well as the new video showcase. On our website, voice-driven videos are best experienced using Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Opera.

At the end of the videos you can leave a review and let us know what you think, we can’t wait to hear it!

Celebrating Our Differences: Q and A with Simon Calcavecchia

I needed a way to get back to feeling like me again…My spirit came back, I was full of life and loved my purpose. 

They say, “write what you know,” and no one exemplifies this better than Simon Calcavecchia. Simon is a Seattle-area indie author who has used challenging experiences to inspire positive character creation and effective storytelling. In addition to being the author of three books with a fourth on the way, he’s also a motivational speaker. Simon travels to schools around the Pacific Northwest to share his story, his challenges, and his positive message.

We had the pleasure of having a Q and A with Simon this month as we celebrate our differences and look forward to International Day of People with Disabilities. This United Nations (UN) sanctioned day sets the intention:

To promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

As we reflect on all that we’re grateful for this month and throughout the coming holiday season, let us also take time to understand how we treat one another, biases we might have, and ways that we can promote positivity and peace in our everyday practice. 

Simon Calcavecchia: Author & Motivational Speaker

Q: Can you give us a little bit about your background and your injury?

A: I played football in high school, but I wasn’t really supported in that and I didn’t stay passionate. This led me to play rugby and I fell in love with it. My coach was from Australia and when our season ended he offered to hook me up with a team in his hometown. I went for it and I loved it. I lived with a bunch of rugby players, visited beautiful beaches, and was training and just living it to the fullest. While I was there, a player gave me advice that I didn’t realize was dangerous, and I applied it to the scrum— the most dangerous part of the game. I broke my neck and my opponent’s shoulder and woke up with c5/6 quadriplegia. I was paralyzed from the chest down. I had numerous surgeries and when they were completed I got some movement back in my arms. I had tons of support from my family, my team, and people I’d met in Australia. 

Q: What did you do once you were done with rehabilitation?

A: When I came home from the hospital I found that I needed purpose. I decided to go to school and graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Bachelor of Arts. I then faced the challenge of finding a career. I worked with agencies who couldn’t even get me an internship and I was very discouraged. I reached out to a counselor. I needed a way to get back to feeling like me again. I began volunteering in my community and with kids in classrooms. My spirit came back, I was full of life and loved my purpose. 

Q: Was that what inspired you to start writing books?

A: I spent a lot of time volunteering with kids in classrooms. I wanted to become a children’s book author and write my own stories. Not once when I was volunteering did I ever come across a book with a character using a wheelchair and I wanted to create one and create change. Then I met Arturo Alvarez, an illustrator, and now one of my best friends, and we committed to making “The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Stuck in the Mud.” My fourth book called “Monster Truck’n” will be out in January of 2020. I’m also working on a board book and thinking about branching out from Frank and Mustard a bit. 

Q: At Novel Effect, we were so lucky you already had voices for your characters… How do you think voices impact the reading experience and what are the benefits of doing read alouds for you as an author?

A: When I released the books, YouTube was becoming a pretty big deal. Kids really love the books, but they might not have the resources to buy the books. I wanted to share them with kids all over the world and YouTube presents an opportunity to do that without financial barriers. Also, I really thought it would be fun to create voices and become the characters. I had some experience doing audio production and creating content in college. I do the voices with my read alouds when I present to schools. But now that I have three books and lots of characters, it’s difficult to find the voices and bring unique qualities to each character. 

Q: You are a motivational speaker now and you speak at schools. How do you know that your story is making an impact?

A: I go to schools, talk to kids, and share my story. I see the books are making an impact because they’ve opened up conversations that teachers didn’t know how to approach. How do we work on inclusivity in environments? How do kids with differences feel included? I had been a public speaker, and a toastmaster; I love the experience of talking aloud, but what really drives me is the impact I’m making. In my speaking engagements, I show kids how I go about my day-to-day routines. I really give them insight into living life with quadriplegia. The kids feel sad, but they see that I’m passionate and living my life to the fullest. I show them videos of my adventures— flying, driving a monster truck, and a race car. I’m doing more than people do with a fully-abled body and showing that it comes down to a positive mindset when facing these challenges. My favorite part is teaching kids about kindness and inclusion. I think that students have an emotional reaction to my talks. These might not be emotions they’ve experienced before and they empathize with me. This might change their approach to differences.  When I’m done sharing my experience, I finish with a call out— I want to know I have the support that we can impact and make changes. I have the whole school screaming about kindness and inclusion. It’s an incredible feeling to know that they’re feeling it too!

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is on December 3. You can find Simon’s book, “The Adventures of Frank & Mustard: Stuck in the Mud” in your Novel Effect app here.

Be a Part of Our Storytime Squad!

With the American Library Association (ALA) holding their Annual Midwinter meeting in Seattle, what better time (and place!) for Novel Effect to mix and mingle with librarians, educators, publishers and indie authors! For the second year in a row, we will be attending the conference and are super excited to be at Booth #1204 and welcome folks to our hometown.

In addition to showing off our voice-driven storytelling platform at our booth, we will also be unveiling two new initiatives during the show: Storytime Squad and Storytime Sue.   

Continue reading “Be a Part of Our Storytime Squad!”

January is National Braille Literacy Month!

We’re celebrating National Braille Literacy month!

At Novel Effect we appreciate all learners and readers. The truth is we all use different modes to learn. No one is just a “visual” learner or just an “auditory” learner, but rather the processes we use are task-specific and reading calls on us to use many of them. Integrating multi-sensory literacy experiences in the classroom is a wonderful way to help all your budding readers.

Continue reading “January is National Braille Literacy Month!”

Novel Effect’s 2019 Reading List

Here is a list of our recommended titles to read out loud this year! Packed with fun sound effects and lively music from Novel Effect, these popular books are sure to keep your little one engaged for the entire story, whether they are reading themselves or just listening.

Make a resolution to read aloud more and join in on our pursuit to get every child to love reading in 2019!

Continue reading “Novel Effect’s 2019 Reading List”

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Traditions!

My favorite part of the holiday season are the traditions we revisit year after year. Our family crowding around the dinner table to enjoy grandma’s famous mac and cheese recipe, driving around with warm blankets and a thermos of hot chocolate to see the neighborhood lights. This season is all about spending time together and doing things we love with the ones we love.

holiday blog melissa

Continue reading “‘Tis the Season for Holiday Traditions!”

Holiday Activities from Novel Effect

The holidays are all about spending time together – which is why we think these five festive activities are great fun for the whole family!

Novel Effect is celebrating The 5-Days of Bookmas!

Each day we are featuring a holiday title found on Novel Effect via social media and pair it with a family-friendly activity to get into the spirit of the season.


Continue reading “Holiday Activities from Novel Effect”

Happy Holidays, Novel Effect Educators!

As you are Fa-La-La-ing your way to…V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, we thought you might like to ease some of that countdown-to-holiday-break craziness with titles that explore different seasonal cultures and traditions. Good news, there’s a little elfish-luck in your corner, all the titles below are available in the Novel Effect app!

Continue reading “Happy Holidays, Novel Effect Educators!”

Blast Off to Storytime!

Your little space explorers are in for a wonderful treat. Novel Effect is pleased to announce the release of our first title from our new partner, Gibbs Smith. 3-2-1 Blast-off!: A Journey to our Solar System introduces space travel to children in an engaging way with fun facts, wonderful illustrations, AND interactive flaps to lift!

Reading this new release from Gibbs Smith with Novel Effect adds an extra level of engagement. You and your little ones will get to hear real astronaut sounds, interstellar music, and all the best robot noises you can imagine!

After reading the book with Novel Effect, you can keep the conversation going to really reinforce all the educational benefits! Here are some discussion questions to help you get started:

  1. One of the elements of space travel is cooperation. What are some ways people work together to get a big job accomplished?
  2. How does the astronaut communicate with people on the ground? What are their main jobs?
  3. How does the astronaut describe the moon? How do you describe the moon?
  4. Do you remember some of the other planets mentioned? What were they like?
  5. What are some places you’d like to travel to learn more about?




This week we celebrate Banned Books Week, an annual celebration for the freedom to read. See our “Banned Books Week” shelf in the app with titles from our collection that frequently appear on banned or challenged lists.