Sunday, 26 December 2010

Monkey Jack-in-the-Box

Lately, I have a slight issue with the term 'educational' toy or game. Everything seems to have to be educational to address the parents and thus to get better sales numbers. But I say every toy and game is educational to some extent, even if your kid plays with bottle caps, cars or a rug doll, a wooden spoon or a ludo board game set. Some toys have (or are supposed to have) a direct educational impact on you kid - especially when they involve numbers, colors, letters or shapes. That's what people hear and that's what they therefore want for their kids and what' they believe will help their kids in school later on. I am not sure that the kids care and that the educational effect is always achieved.

So being brainwashed by this media propaganda, I was picking toys for my boys at the toy store for this year's Christmas. And I came across this little sweet thing - a sock monkey in the box. You play a funny street organ like tune by turning the handle on the side of the box and in few seconds a monkey pops out at you. Hmm, nice little nonsense, I thought, but then I couldn't resist and I bought the thing. I was wondering if it was not a waste of money, no educational addition for my kids, no real use for this little trinket, no shapes, no first words, no nothing, just a nice melody and then SURPRISE!

So when we found this little box under our Christmas tree I was kind of curious to see how will everybody react. And I was happy to find out that not only the kids but also all the adults wanted to try it, to turn the handle themselves and see what happens. Everybody grabbed the box and went round and round and then HOP! smile on their face, and again and again. So the old little trick of organ grinders with a real monkey on their shoulder still works. Little of magic and some fun. Not everything needs to educate, entertain is good enough.

Friday, 10 December 2010

December Summary

If November was a busy month,  December proves to be a crazy month, you probably noticed too. So just a short sumary of what is going on at Okenko Books.

We published two more stories within our subscription - very popular Lizzie and The Phone Call (S. Canzoneri, J. Tiller) and our first animal story Pug and Pig (J. Linden, L. Latti). You can read more at our books section of our website. We are happy that everything is going so well, we reached more then 2.5k downloads on Androids and nearly 1k on iTunes. Also as of two days ago, the Okenko Books subscription is available to Windows 7 phones users.

We incorporated a gift option into our website, so now you can easily give our subscription to anyone dear to you, it's easy as 1,2,3, you just register with your email and pay and then we'll send a gift note and an activation code to the happy person's email. See our front page for the quick link. Also, over Christmas holidays we are going to re-invent our website, expect more friendly, more structured website with new, cool design.

Finally, we launched a series of standalone ebook apps based on the most popular stories from our subscription. You can see our first swallow, Andie Plays pretend, on iTunes, three more apps are with Apple waiting for approval so they are coming out shortly, hopefully before Christmas. We call these eBooks for iPhone/iPad because they stay true to the original media and they look and are like books, just pictures and texts, and they are meant to be read. Hope you will enjoy these!

And last not least, we are going to host in next few weeks 4 members of our big family from all over the world for holidays so you can imagine how excited (though slightly tense:) we are about the upcoming holidays. Hope you will spend them among your dear ones too and that Okenko Books will help you to spend some quality winter evenings with a good children picture book.

Next time you can expect a Christmas story, Lizzie and The Christmas Tree (S. Canzoneri, J. Tiller) and in the beginning of the new year we have a farm story for our little ones I Think I'm a Cow (C. Montgomery, S. Anca).

Thursday, 18 November 2010

MomsWithApps 1year Anniversary

In the beginning there was a gut feeling, four women with iphone apps found themselves lost in the jungle of 200 thousand of other apps. Gut feeling that they should do something to make their apps more visible, to mobilize other people's energy and in a joint effort make their outcry - Hey, look we've got few nice apps for kids here. So they founded Moms With Apps Google group, started to utilize social media to attract more helpers, more members and the snow ball started to roll. It rolled and rolled (we were caught on in shortly after the launch), it went from kids apps to family friendly apps, it went form Moms to Moms, Dads, Uncles etc and it went from husband-wife teams to family friendly corporations. The idea is to attract attention to the apps we are making with our kids/families on our mind.

Now I'll start to be slightly controversial because I am not an American and I don't feel that bound with political correctness and equalities of so many kinds. The change came when dads become involved - they brought their left hemispheres into the process. So now we have a forum for sharing information with million threads with hints and tips of all kind, there is a written program of the group, we will have a badge for distinguishing better apps from the worse ones, the group is intertwined with the educational crowd, with critics and reviewers etc. I am just saying that's how this world works, the men take always over, for better or worse. And I like to watch it, women with gut feelings cooperating with men on a hunt for success.

The four women were Lorraine from My Little Suitcase, Lynette from PicPocket Books and Jill&Alesha from MomMaps, and their first blog post was this. Now the Momswithapps forum can be found here and is open for anybody. I am really thankful that I met this inspiring group of people because they helped us to gain confidence, they made us feel a part of a community not just standing helplessly alone in the middle of the app  storm and whenever we have a technical issue, there is an answer for that on the forum. So, having the thanks giving season around the corner, I am saying THANK YOU, MOMS WITH APPS.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

November is a busy month so far

 On Friday, we published another book for our subscribers called Kids Riddles and it is a selection of classic riddles with colorful pictures as answers. It is not exactly a book to read from the beginning to the end but we hope that in this rainy, fall weather it provides some quality entertainment for families cuddled on a sofa and spending time together.

Within the last two weeks, I attended two social meetings in the area. The first one was an official announcement of NookColor by Barnes&Nobles in San Bruno (they have their development labs down in Palo Alto). It will be really interesting to watch how their Nook will catch up on with other tablet readers and we are especially interested in their development program which will enable indie developers to sell their 'books' for that device. And it seems they really mean it with children content thanks to the hi-tech full color screen.

The second one was a meetup of Silicon Valley Kids Apps developers in San Carlos, held by Creativity Inc. It was a small event with Lorraine from MomsWithApps, which we are a part of, as a main speaker, followed by 5 people demo-ing their apps in various stages of done-ness. It would be interesting to take their place next time and show Okenko Books to this app-obsessed crowd to see what are their experienced comments.

As you probably noticed, Okenko Books also entered the big iDevices market and is now available on iTunes at for iPhone/iTouch/iPad users. We are very happy that we made it happen before the holiday season comes and we welcome iTunes customers among our subscribers. We released a PR on PrMac (here) on last Tuesday about this and it was followed by a number of news about Okenko on different channels. We also got a very nice review at and few more reviews are in progress.

Speaking of a holiday season, our developers are working on implementing a gift option into our website, so that relatives can easily buy a subscription for their grand kids, nieces and nephews just by paying for their books. The administration of the gift will be facilitated using a promocode which will be sent to the email address of kids' parents or carers. And regarding Thanksgiving, my next post will be a thanks giving one about the already mentioned supportive group of family friendly apps developers called Moms With Apps. Till then all the best, Jitka

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

First not-happy-ending experience

So it just has happened. Till now I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly and seamlessly every hire and outsource went, everybody communicated, was on time and the overall impression was more than good. Recently I contacted The Lamb Studios / India for our next picture book called 'Falling Leaves and the Foolish Brothers'. They replied to one of my public job hires on Elance earlier this year and I didn't use them that time but remembered them and when a story which seemed to resonated with one of their styles, I got in touch with them.

In the beginning everything went smoothly, they were happy to do the job, they preferred to be paid afterward via PayPal skipping the Elance part (10% rebate), and they sent first sketches quickly and even a color study, I really liked their work. They had slightly longer response than I had experienced before but you think, they are half a world away, it takes time (I know...). After a month into the job - and by that time the job was supposed to be done - they stopped responding. I sent a message calling for some response, some explanation or at least an announcement they quit every week for four weeks, and then I gave up. In the end, I didn't loose any money, I just really liked their pictures which were perfectly in synch with the hilarious story. Take a look for yourself...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Mike Rides His Bike to School

Okay, so it's publishing Friday here at Okenko Books. But don't be fooled I don't have to do it now and manually. Fortunately, my beloved developer Laku made everything so nice and easy for me that I just have to any time produce the final format of our new book, in a book-creator he wrote for me too, and then it goes automatically live on the day I stated. It's so nice to have working tools, and of course a relationship too.

Today we present you with a cute story about one boy's ordinary adventures on his way to school. Mike Rides His Bike to School (by Julie Musil and Julia Tiller) is about children's never ending curiosity, budding responsibility and their urgent sociability. The story is accompanied by beautiful whimsical illustrations by Canadian illustrator Julia Tiller, which remind me of my childhood's Czech illustrator and film maker Jiri Trnka. You can look forward to see another book with her pictures later this year which are even crazier and more colorful.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Andie Plays Pretend - another picture book in the Okenko Books collection

So this is how our home screen looks now in Okenko Books Reader on an Android phone. You can see all four thumbnails of our so far published picture books. Today we published a new cute book 'Andie Plays Pretend' about the most serious business kids do - play pretend game. See the description and more at our website.

We also released an updated version 2.0 of our reader, sporting tabs 'Current Books' and 'Coming Soon' so that our readers can look forward to another adventure coming in two weeks to Okenko Books. Within the update, we also made some enhancement in downloading the books. And for more clarity, our free book 'Lindy Lee' is now marked with a 'Free' badge. Hope these changes will make our app even easier to use.

The next book on our publishing plan is 'Mike Rides His Bike to School' by Julie Musil and illustrated by young talented artist Julia Tiller. It is surprising how many things you can learn while going to school, you just need to look around and ask questions, just like Mike.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

David Drew - our third acquisition

We are happy to let you know that a blue sequel to our pink story of Lindy Lee called 'David Drew Likes Blue' by J.S.Kittinger and S.Hallett is live as of Friday. The history behind this book is slightly different from the other ones, usually we get a manuscript from an author and we either like it, or not. This time, we had a manuscript of Lindy Lee by Jo and it organically came out that we cannot have only stories about girls (and unfortunately the major part of kids stories are about little girls) and only for girls and that we have to have boyish stories on our menu too. As sexist as this might sound, try to say your six year old boy that you will be reading about a girl who loves pink before bedtime. We know our onions. 

So we asked Jo to write a similar poem either about blue or green colors. And we liked more the blue one with David Drew. We hired the same illustrator, Sonya from Great Britain, to make pictures so that it was clear from the first sight that these two books make a pair. I have to say that I am really happy with the result, they look cute next to each other, thanks to both artists. For more info about the writer and the illustrator you might want to visit their websites (respectively and


On a different topic, we started with three short stories which are now spent. Next time we are bringing longer stories where there are not only picture pages but also text pages - always one picture followed by a text page. Their names are - Andie Plays Pretend, Mike Rides his Bike to School, Falling Leaves and Foolish Brothers, Lizzie and the Phone Call. And we are tenaciously working on and on. There is a lot to expect :)

If you would like to have access to our children books line, go to our website  for subscription options. So far, we run on Android phones, but our service is coming to i-devices in few weeks, stay with us.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Sip'n'Cup coming to Okenko Books library

Tomorrow, we are releasing another book within our smart phones subscription line of children picture books, this time it's based on my comics idea that came to me when I saw one of the illustrator's standalone pictures. So we teamed up and created this short and abruptly ending strip about two guys Sip'n'Cup going on a vacation. In fact I don't know what are these guys, I was thinking potatoes, my friend guessed teeth, what do you think they are? I just think of  them as of Sip and Cup, my red and orange friends.

Our books are simple as books used to be - just pictures and text, you will not find any games and puzzles, nor moving pictures and
interactive features. We believe that colorful illustrations and engaging story is enough to spark child's imagination and keep it occupied.

Hope you and your kids will enjoy Sip'n'Cup Go On Vacation by Jitka Adeleke, illustrations by Katka
Hustaty. If you haven't signed up yet for our story line, go to, it' easy and quick and perfect for a modern family.

Saturday, 4 September 2010 gets a mobile look

Its been a whirlwind of activities this past couple of weeks that lead to the launch of Okenko Books. As you know we opted to go live with our basic site and reader for Android devices. Our iPhone reader is currently under development and will be submitted for certification soon.

We designed the Okenko Books site to be as clean as possible and have hopefully achieved in making it easy to use for all activities related to accounts and subscriptions. During development we constantly checked compatibility across different browsers. One of the decisions we had to make is how much effort to put into a mobile screen optimized version. We wanted our site to be usable at the very least from the devices we support with readers.

I must admit that with the current capability of browsers on iPhone and Android devices the bar was not set too high for us. Indeed we verified the functionality of the site on the default browsers shipped with iPhone 4.0 and Android 1.5 & 2.1.

The above notwithstanding we decided to push forward with a site optimized for the small screen. We now have a first version out. The mobile optimized site is limited to a couple of scenarios:

  • browsing our catalog of stories
  • displaying the faq
  • a contact us page
  • a how to join page

When browsing from your mobile phone the optimized version of the website is automatically presented to you. You can then browse select areas of the site or go to the full desktop site, which as I mentioned is fully usable.

If browsing the full version on your mobile phone you'll be presented with a link to return to the mobile optimized version.
The link is at the bottom of the page below the copyright text.
The screenshots to the right are from an iPhone 4.

Hope you enjoy browsing.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Off we go - Okenko Books launch for Androids (letter to our editor)

Hi Michelle,
please find below few points we think that are the most significant for Okenko Books children books subscription line (and site) launch and need to be at the core of our press release.

The Okenko Books app is launched for Androids only now, iphone/itouch/ipad support will follow soon.

The Okenko Books app is free on the Android Market and offers one free story for the starters, Lindy Lee Loves Pink by Jo S. Kittinger and Sonya Hallett.


Okenko Books offer a unique subscription model based on micro-payments via PayPal, every two weeks a new story will be downloaded directly to your phone. With one subscription you can have registered as many as 5 devices. We hope that parents will appreciate hassle-free-ness of our subscription.

All published books are contained in one Okenko Books app and once they were downloaded they are accessible offline at any time and stay on the user's device even after the subscription ends.

Our first story is called Lindy Lee Loves Pink and a boy version of this short rhyming story is coming in few weeks to your phone, as well as a funny comics called Sip'n'Cup Go for Vacation.

All our stories, they cannot be found anywhere else, they are based on author texts and complemented with traditional illustrations. We do not reproduce hard-cover books.

Our intention is to stay as near to the book medium as possible so we do not offer any distracting interactive features and games, we keep things simple - just text and pictures. Our books must be read, either by a budding reader or by his older fellow.

The subscription, sales and customer services are managed via our website at

Reviewers/editors/bloggers can ask for a promocode for one month subscription directly at jitka at okenko dot com.

We hope that kids and their families will enjoy Okenko Books.

Thanks and regards, Jitka

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Another two stories ready for our kids

The moment of the launch is getting closer. Most of the team is back from their vacations and we are ready to make few last pushes and get things going. The Androids have their turn first, shortly after them iPhone&iTouch-es will follow. As mentioned before, we are preparing a subscription line so parents/carers need to look&find our apps in the marketplace just once, after that they will get two stories for their kids a month delivered directly to their phones, no more looking up for new books, new apps.

Another two assets to our line are books David Drew Likes Blue and Mike Rides his Bike to School. First being a short poem, the latter a longer picture book for budding readers. Both illustrations turned out beautifully, though the styles are very different. What do you reckon? That reminds me, we will also include in near future a rating feature to our website so that you can have your say and we all see how are our books doing on their own. So stay tuned, all this exciting stuff is coming in few weeks!

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Rush Before Vacation

Lately, as the rule goes before going on holidays, everything is spinning around my head in high speeds. Children's last weeks at school, a grant submission for Huggies (keep fingers crossed for us please), finalizing the website texts, testing the e-commerce server, sourcing the illustrations for even more stories, feature week at MomsWithApps and daily dose of social media marketing, you get the picture.

There are few things (apart from my private life) that make me happy in this scud. And they are both of a visual nature - the arriving illustrations and the design of our website. The comic strip about Sip'n'Cup is finished and those guys really make me smile. As a boy counterpart to Lindy Lee Loves Pink we are going to have David Drew Likes Blue, same author, same illustrator, I find both stories very cute. Few days ago I also made a new discovery, a young Canadian artist Julia is going to illustrate a longer story for independent readers Mike Rides His Bike to School. As I told her, her pictures remind me of an illustrator and still-motion movie maker of my childhood Jiri Trnka (few his works can be seen here) and you know how it is when it comes to childhood reminiscences, I just adore her style.

Another thing is the website, I am really very curious how this will come out. As I am very fond of nice, clean, modern designs here, I hope that San Francisco artist turned into a website designer/developer Tamara will get the right grip on what we need our website to look and feel like, I mean the mainly children-friendly design and aesthetically top-notch quality as a kind of guarantee for our illustrated children stories. Cannot wait to see it in whole - the content with its new shiny coat.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

World beyond apps








Check out our host blog post at Momswithapps blog, about the World beyond iphone apps, one of the ways to keep our kids and ourselves sane.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Two new books are on their way to our library

Within the last two days we got back the artwork for two of our prepared stories, Andie Plays Pretend and Lindy Lee Loves Pink. Andie is illustrated by a young talented artist from Singapore who goes by LittlePinkPebble. A sample is on the left. She already illustrated for us The Staircase That Swallowed People book which we released for Kindle at Amazon last year, as you can see, she is great with colors. The story is again by Jade McBlade but this time is meant for younger kids 3-6. This is our first book in landscape orientation so we'll see how that is accepted.

Short poem Lindy Lee Loves Pink is illustrated by the British artist Sonya Hallett. Sonya really gave her inner-child into these pictures, note all those funny companions of Lindy, a cat, a rabbit, a teddy. The pictures are so cute and so believable! The poem itself is by Jo S. Kittinger and in a playful way it takes us on a tour around a little girl's pink ornate house. There is a blue boy version of this poem which will come later on in our schedule and will be illustrated by the same artist. Hope girls and boys will love these as much as I do:)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Ongoing work at Okenko

Spring is here so when we are not working we spend time outside, or outdoors, with the kids enjoying the green part of the year here in California. So there's not much time left to write blog posts and maintain other social media and social contacts. So this is just a little patch.

Anyway, right now our development team is working on the technical background of our new website and they are also coding the reader application for iPhone/iTouch/iPad, while our marketing team is preparing thorough marketing campaign which will start soon, before the site's launch. Our editors are preparing a publishing scheme for the coming year and they communicate with illustrators who are working on three new books for our in-July-launched book line. Also, admins just sent out first batch of contracts for our talented authors. And the user experience experts are working on use-cases our clients could go through, so that the developers have it all covered to make Okenko Books a nice and easy experience for our users. These all teams being just me and Laku:)

The three books under development are Sip'n'Cup comic strip about their travel to Caribbean, Andie Plays Pretend about a girl who pretended to be various animals and Lindy Lee Loves Pink, which is a lovely short poem about a pink obsession. We are very excited about these little progress steps towards the final book apps and are looking forward to see the art done so that we can produce the final apps.

Hope you are all well and stay tuned please, I'll try to update things here more often.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Riddles for $0.99 this week only

We have a promotion going on for Kids Riddles for Android phones this week. It is a joint effort with Moms With Apps collaborative group and My Little Suitcase iPhone kids application. Check us out on Android Marketplace and iTunes and leave us a rating afterwards! Nice day everyone.

Kids Riddles
book of 10 illustrated riddles
Android Marketplace

My Little Suitcase
travel kit game for kids

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Kids Riddles for Android goes live!

Kids Riddles is a book of riddles suitable for kids 5-99 with beautiful full-color illustrations as answers. First you see a page with the text of the riddle and then you proceed either manually or automatically to the next picture answer page.

If you want something nice and small for Easter Monday for your kids, this is the right app to try. Find Kids Riddles on Android Market from you phone and share your review with the others. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Riddles next from Okenko Books

Hey, do you like riddles? The way they trick you asking about something obvious and then revealing that they were in fact talking of something else under a same name? So then keep watching Okenko Books next titles.

Our next Android book application for children is called simply Riddles and it includes 10 classic riddles with a picture answer to each. Don't worry, your child (or you) will have to think really hard first before you will be prompted to the next one. Colorful, frolicsome pictures are the reward for each correct guess. Fingers crossed everybody!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Staircase is live on Amazon under Kindle Books!

Yay! Our first book The Staircase that Swallowed People went live after approval by Amazon yesterday. Of course we hope you'll take a peek, buy it and leave a good feedback for us if you are so inclined.

It took us more than two months to edit the story, source the illustrations and prepare the materials for publishing on Kindle. The result is completely worth the effort, we offer a wonderful book for kids 5-8 who will enjoy this slightly detective (but not scary) story set in an old London house.

An interview with the author Jade McBlade was just published on Little Nutmeg and we hope to have more mentions to share with you on some other children's books blogs very soon.

If all goes according to plan, we will also publish this book as an app for iPhone/iPad on iTunes and on Android MarketPlace so stay tuned if you don't have a Kindle device. (But even without Kindle you can read on your hand-held device or on you computer by using free applications as Kindle for PC/Mac, and Kindle apps for smartphones.)

Another title in our line up coming soon will explore classic riddles. There will be ten riddles with friendly picture answers. This will be great fun but hey, no cheating, you have to think hard first and not give up right away! Stay tuned. We'll let you know when they are out.

Till then,
The Okenko Team

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

First Release is Coming

The Staircase that Swallowed People is our first book. It was written for kids 5-8 years who love mysteries and are happy when their children heroes can help the world to be a better place to live. Illustrations were done by a young talented Singapore artist who uses a nickname Little Pink Pebble. She is very good with colors and hid a mouse in each picture for kids to find.

This story will appear on Amazon for Kindle first, versions for Android and iPhone will follow very soon. We hope you will enjoy reading it with your kids and that they will love to come back and go through the pictures again and again.

Hello world, OKENKO is here!

Here we would love to share our ideas, our achievements and our views with you. We are a small publishing company which would like to converge to hard copy books one day but right now we are at the beginning of this long journey starting from the digital side. Check us out on Kindle, iPhones and Androids:)