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The Living Books series was a series of interactive animated multimedia children's books produced by Broderbund and distributed on CD-ROM for Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows. The series began with the release of Just Grandma and Me (an adaptation of the book by Mercer Mayer) in 1992.
The games in the series, in order, are:
- Just Grandma and Me
- Arthur's Teacher Trouble
- The Tortoise and the Hare
- The New Kid on the Block
- The Art Lesson (Rescued from Keep Circulating the Tapes after The Learning Company decided to re-release it)
- Ruff's Bone
- Little Monster at School
- Arthur's Birthday
- Harry and the Haunted House
- Dr. Seuss's ABC
- The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight
- Sheila Rae, the Brave
- The Berenstain Bears in the Dark
- Arthur's Reading Race
- Green Eggs and Ham
- The Cat in the Hat
- Arthur's Computer Adventure
- D.W. the Picky Eater
All of the games have the option to either have the story be read to you, or let a read a page and then allow you to click anywhere to bring inanimate objects to life. Pretty much everyone who played the games went with the latter option.
They are notable for featuring Easter Egg-laden stills of each page.
Tropes featured include:
- Adaptation Expansion: Some games have extra scenes that aren't in the original books.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Just about everything said in Dr. Seuss's ABC.
- Animal Talk: Ruff in Ruff's Bone can only bark, but is able to talk to the player.
- Anti-Frustration Features: According to this article, the running guy cursor during the load screens was used to keep the players distracted while they wait.
- Art Evolution: The early titles feature more computer-ish graphics (the characters are very basic in design and have no shading). Eventually the characters started to look more like actual illustrations, and the animation gets progressively better as time moves on.
- Blatant Lies: On the title screen for The Toroise and the Hare, the Hare introduces himself by sayig this:
Hare: And I'm the Hare! And this is the story of how I beat him in the race! It all began one day when the tortoise was just lying around not doing anything, and I was trying to help get him moving! (Checks watch) Oh, gotta go!
- Brick Joke: In Dr. Seuss's ABC, Page Y has the girl yelling "Are you there out yonder?", followed by a voice saying "Yes!". This turns out to be the voice of the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz on Page Z.
- Arthur's Computer Adventure has one page where a couple of mice order a large cheese pizza with extra cheese, hold the pizza. A later page has a man at the pizza parlor calling Arthur's voice mail confirming the order.
- Call Back: It wasn't uncommon for a game's click point to feature a Call Back to an earlier game.
- Harry and the Haunted House features the return of the epic paper airplane from Arthur's Teacher Trouble on Page 8. One of the bugs folds a piece of paper to form it, and when he tosses it off, it plays the same heavy metal it was known for.
- Dr. Suess's ABC has a Call Back to the same game -- on Page K, clicking on the kite reveals the small yellow guy (Zed) sliding down the string and creating a hole. He tries patching it up, but it still shows a little bit. Clicking on the hole forms a spider, playing the same music it went along with in Arthur's Teacher Trouble.
- The Recurring Riff in Arthur's Birthday is an upbeat remix of the tune from Arthur's Teacher Trouble.
- Dub Name Change: D.W.'s name in Spanish is Dorita, since "W" isn't used often in Spanish.
- Dummied Out: The first four titles, on their V1.1 releases, only feature Ruff's Bone as the preview. However, previews for Arthur's Birthday and Harry and the Haunted House also exist in the files, but can only be accessed by modifying the outline file.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Just Grandma and Me has much more basic click points, and has no Running Gag (V2 remedied this with a grasshopper). One moment of notice is when clicking on a radio causes it to play the same noise as when you click on a menu button. Later games only used this noise on the menu and nowhere else.
- Easter Egg: Lots of them.
- The End: Every game ends on this.
- Episode Title Card: After the logo, the book cover will show up along with the title being announced.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a book that is living.
- Expository Theme Tune: The Recurring Riff in Sheila Rae is this.
B-R-A-V-E spells "brave"
That's what they call
- Fade to Black: Between just about every screen.
- Feelies: Almost every title came with the book it was based off of, and a parental guide in a few cases.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: The words were highlighted as they were read.
- Follow the Leader: The series inspired quite a few clones, like the Disney Animated Storybook series and others.
- Foreshadowing: A book on Page 12 of The Cat in the Hat foreshadows the events of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
- Funny Background Event: With all the things to click in the background, this is basically happening ALL THE TIME to the characters in the story.
- Guide Dang It:
- The paper airplane on Page 24 of Arthur's Teacher Trouble is hidden in an extremely obscure spot. As in, the last place you'd ever expect to look. On top of that, the click box is very small. The location of it is just barely above Mr. Ratburn's head.
- The dragonfly in The Tortoise and the Hare is hidden in some very obscure places, and is commonly used as the yardstick for levels of obscurity when it comes to other Guide Dang Its. For example, on Page 11, he's hidden on the far left, a place that looks like there's nothing to click on there.
- Here We Go Again: In Ruff's Bone, after Ruff FINALLY retrieves his bone from a long journey, his owner throws it again. His reaction is...less than satisfying.
- Hypocritical Humor: A kid on Page 3 of Sheila Rae mentions why he was sent to the principal's -- through talking too much. This, of course, prompts him to start getting very talkative about it.
- Interface Spoiler: On many occasions, during a huge plot twist or something along the lines of that, the text would always be displayed as the twist was being worked.
- Iris Out: Sheila Rae ends on this.
- Licked by the Dog: On Page 3 of Sheila Rae, a click spot has a dog coming up to Wendell, while he's tied up in a jump rope. He tries to get the dog to untie him, but he gets licked on the face instead, and he finds it disgusting.
- Mini Game: Some later games included one, and even later games included several.
- Musical Nod: A record player on Page 7 of Arthur's Teacher Trouble plays the Recurring Riff from Just Grandma and Me.
- Oddball in the Series:
- The New Kid on the Block is the only one to be based on short poems rather than a whole story. Much of the interaction also comes from clicking on the text.
- D.W. the Picky Eater is the only game that doesn't use the Mohawk engine.
- Once an Episode: The title screens are always done in the same format - the main character explains what to do, and then they dance to the Recurring Riff.
- Pop Up Video Games
- Recurring Extra: A few stories have minor characters who don't have much to do with the story, but show up on almost every page. The birds in Sheila Rae are an example.
- Recurring Riff: Every game has one. The character will always dance to it on every title screen after explaining what to do.
- Running Gag: Every game has an element that shows up on every page. Specific examples:
- Arthur's Teacher Trouble has a paper airplane, complete with heavy metal music.
- The Tortoise and the Hare has a dragonfly, who is hidden in very obscure places.
- Arthur's Birthday has party supplies pop out of random objects.
- Harry and the Haunted House has a spider.
- Dr. Seuss' ABC has a yellow fuzzy guy (Zed).
- The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight has a bee.
- Sheila Rae has butterflies. It changes from page to page, but there's always a butterfly somewhere.
- The Berenstain Bears in the Dark has a firefly.
- Arthur's Reading Race has an orange cat.
- Stellaluna has a moth.
- Green Eggs and Ham has a green bird.
- Just Grandma and Me V2 retroactively added one -- a grasshopper.
- The Cat in the Hat has a purple bird.
- Arthur's Computer Adventure has a couple of mice.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In Arthur's Computer Adventure, the lamp near Arthur's computer keeps begging you to not click on him. He pulls this on his final page by hopping off the table and leaving when you click on him too many times.
- Same Language Dub: Much like how Humongous Entertainment got entirely redone dubs for the UK, Living Books also got several UK dubs.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The paper airplane Running Gag in Arthur's Teacher Trouble gets some heavy metal music, despite just being an airplane being made of paper. This is exactly why it became so well-known.
- Updated Rerelease: Just Grandma and Me and Arthur's Birthday have one. They increased the resolution, and the former added a UI for languages while the latter added minigames.