Living Books

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Living Books

Post by Retrodude on Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:49 pm


The Living Books series is a series of interactive animated multimedia children's books, first produced by Brøderbund and then spun off into a jointly-owned (with Random House) subsidiary, which were 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; other titles in the series included The Tortoise and the Hare, Arthur's Teacher Trouble (and other adaptations of books by Marc Brown), Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears titles.
Did anyone else out there play these years ago? I still have most of mine and I thought I'd open up discussion about them.
Some interesting facts:
Living Books often outranked Humongous Entertainment in terms of the popularity of their software, likely due to Living Books being more popular in schools than Humongous (the Macs that used to be in the computer lab at my elementary school had Just Grandma and Me, for example.)
The Living Books run off of the Mohawk engine, which was also used in the later editions of famous adventure game Myst. The one exception is D.W. the Picker Eater, which runs on a different engine. Several of the Carmen Sandiego titles also run off of Mohawk too, as well as the Rugrats Adventure Game.
The developers may have hidden easter eggs throughout the series. Right now the only one I know of is that, in Arthur's Birthday, clicking the letters that spell out "HELP" in the pin the tail on the donkey game changes the graphics to look Christmas-themed.
Several of the games are supported under ScummVM, though many of the minigames, especially those in Green Eggs and Ham, are not functional... yet.

A word of warning: Never ever EVER post footage of the Living Books on Youtube, because Scholastic does not take kindly to it. User Resulka already has had her (very very funny) Let's Plays of several titles removed.

Also, in case anyone's curious, my favorite Living Book would be Arthur's Computer Adventure.

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:52 pm

Yes... Still have several of these lying around... Considering making a dailymotion account just to post footage...

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Re: Living Books

Post by MrEightThreeOne on Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:55 pm

I had The Cat in the Hat, The Tortoise and the Hare, and my personal favorite, Sheila Rae, the Brave. Though that's a little biased because that's one of the first games I ever played. The only thing that sucks is that the game is rare nowadays, and I don't see myself buying it because it'll be too tempting to leave it off YouTube.

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:42 pm

Dang egoking, those are pretty much the ONLY Living Books I NEVER had at any point in any form! :(

EDIT: You guys might want to see this video too...

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Re: Living Books

Post by MrEightThreeOne on Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:51 pm

GeorgeQGreg wrote:Dang egoking...

I hate your guts.

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Re: Living Books

Post by Retrodude on Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:01 pm

legoking831 wrote:I had The Cat in the Hat, The Tortoise and the Hare, and my personal favorite, Sheila Rae, the Brave. Though that's a little biased because that's one of the first games I ever played. The only thing that sucks is that the game is rare nowadays, and I don't see myself buying it because it'll be too tempting to leave it off YouTube.
The only one of those I've ever had is The Cat in the Hat. My younger brother actually got it in a pack with Dr. Seuss' ABC and another game that I can't remember. Cat in the Hat is the only one in that pack that hasn't been broken and tossed out.
The other games I have or have had in my collection at some point are: every Arthur game they released except for Reading Race and Picky Eater, both Berenstain Bears games, Green Eggs and Ham, Little Monster at School, and more recently I uncovered Just Grandma and Me and Stellaluna at the library, which I promptly checked out and made copies of. If you're wondering, NO, it's not illegal! At least, that's what the librarian said...

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Re: Living Books

Post by MrEightThreeOne on Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:47 pm

I actually do remember at my sister's school when she was in first grade (we moved to another school after that; I was two years younger and never got to go there) they had Ruff's Bone playing on one of the computers. It wa so tempting not to leave it sitting there, but I resisted.
I also once played Green Eggs and Ham at a library at one point. That, I don't remember much about.

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Sun Nov 27, 2011 7:59 pm

Look at what I found! http://www.classsource.com/livingbooks/main.html

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Re: Living Books

Post by Hondo20132 on Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:28 pm

Hoo boy, where do I begin with this...

Here's all the games I owned as a kid (I still have most, if not all, of them still!).
Arthur's Teacher Trouble (the old version with the insanely long load times - as far as I know, this is also the longest Living Book by far)
The Tortoise and the Hare (always one of my favorites)
Ruff's Bone (early 2000s repackaging - who knew they still made them around that time?)
Little Monster at School
Arthur's Birthday (It's been scratched pretty badly for as long as I can remember...)
Harry and the Haunted House
Stellaluna (I used to do the Bat Quiz all the time for some reason)
Green Eggs and Ham (THE first computer game I ever played... at least, that's what my Mom says - so, naturally, it's one of my favorites).
I also have Dr. Seuss's ABC and the Cat in the Hat on a repackaging called Dr. Seuss Reading Games, which basically combined them into one application and put in new (and rather neat-looking) menus.

I also played "The Berenstein Bears Get in a Fight" (funnily enough, this isn't the easiest volume to find these days - unfortunately, I barely remember it), "Arthur's Reading Race", "New Kid on the Block", and "Just Grandma and Me" at school a long time ago.

So, basically, I had a LOT of nostalga for this series.

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Re: Living Books

Post by MrEightThreeOne on Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:12 pm

Hondo20132 wrote:Arthur's Teacher Trouble (the old version with the insanely long load times - as far as I know, this is also the longest Living Book by far)

I had the old version of the Tortoise and the Hare, despite getting it several years after the sped up version came out. I always found that weird.

Hondo20132 wrote:The Tortoise and the Hare (always one of my favorites)

Same with me.

Hondo20132 wrote:Ruff's Bone (early 2000s repackaging - who knew they still made them around that time?)

Technically, they stopped making them, but they were still putting them in print. In fact, several are still in print!

Hondo20132 wrote:Arthur's Birthday (It's been scratched pretty badly for as long as I can remember...)

Was that V1 or V2? If it's V2, it ran at a higher resolution and had the gift mystery minigame.

Hondo20132 wrote:I also played "The Berenstein Bears Get in a Fight" (funnily enough, this isn't the easiest volume to find these days - unfortunately, I barely remember it), "Arthur's Reading Race", "New Kid on the Block", and "Just Grandma and Me" at school a long time ago.

That's one of the games that isn't in print anymore. That's why it's difficult to find. To my knowledge, the others that aren't in print are Sheila Rae, the Brave, The New Kid on the Block, The Berenstain Bears in the Dark, and D.W., the Picky Eater. I'm sure some of them might be caused by legal issues. As for Picky Eater, I think they want to leave out the "black sheep" - it's the only one not to use the Mohawk engine, as Retrodude pointed out.

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:41 pm

I've got New Kid on the block... it be the most awesome thing in the world...

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Re: Living Books

Post by MrEightThreeOne on Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:59 pm

Yeah, that one's the rarest of all the out-of-print games. It happens to be the one I'm least interested in. XD


Last edited by legoking831 on Mon Dec 19, 2011 5:49 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:10 pm

Then you will never get to know how awesome (and unfriendly) alligators are...

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Re: Living Books

Post by MrEightThreeOne on Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:38 pm

...except I already did in the demo.

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Re: Living Books

Post by Hondo20132 on Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:39 pm

To answer Legoking's question, my copy of Arthur's Birthday is version 1. It has got to be like the second or third volume I owned since I don't remember getting it.

Also, my local library has a couple of Macs that contain Just Grandma and Me (V2) and a couple other volumes, among many many other childrens computer games, believe it or not.

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Re: Living Books

Post by Retrodude on Wed Dec 14, 2011 9:04 pm

Yeah, libraries seemed to promote the Living Books a lot. Living Books and the later Backyard Sports titles are pretty much the only pieces of software still at my library that are worth checking out. I also wouldn't have known about Pajama Sam LRS if it hadn't been for the fact that they installed it on the computers at another library I used to visit.
I actually saw some Living Books for sale as recently as 2004 in the $1 bin at a Target store. None of them peaked my interest since they were mostly the titles based off of more obscure books.

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Wed Dec 14, 2011 9:17 pm

Legoking will kill you if they had Sheila Rae!

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Re: Living Books

Post by Pizzaking27 on Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:50 am

Let's see... I had Dr. Seuss' ABC (1995), Just Grandma and me (1992), the Tortoise and the Hare (1992), Arthur's Teacher Trouble (1992), and one of my personal favourites, Arthur's Reading Race (1997)! Yeah, I know I didn't have a lot. <:'-( ABC had a special Alphabet song, with the protagnists, which can be found at the main menu. I rebought this game from Oxfam today, and I'm just going to recap what it's like...;-) Just Grandma and me had a very fun game to play, where you can build your own sandcastle! I'm unsure if Tortoise and Hare had anything, but I do know that Arthur's Teacher Trouble had a little something. It had a very slapstick spelling book in the middle of the story, where you can click on the words, and then the picture of the word would do a little animation. Some objects have an animation where they will interact with others (e.g. snake scares skydiver, thunder kills kitten, etc.). And last, but not least, Arthur's Reading Race had more than just 1 game, it had, in fact, 2. One was a Mario Party-style board game, where you race as Arthur or D.W. against each other. The other I can't remember what it's about, but it's there alright! The whole game was one of the few Living Books not to have the Living Books intro or theme song.
EDIT: Some more interesting facts:
Like Humongous Entertainment, the Living Books had most of the sounds in Telephone quality, with the exception of (I think) D.W. the Picky Eater.
Just Grandma and me was originally going to be a SNES game, which would port other Living Books to another console. The idea was soon scrapped because the SNES had limitations.
The Living Books based on the Arthur trilogy, according to Wikipedia, were developed long before the actual cartoon aired, which debuted in September 2, 1996. This is because the actual books by Marc Brown were written before both the actual video games AND the show itself! (the first Arthur book came out in 1979)
There were originally going to be Living Books based on the Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry (which inspired Britt Alcroft to create Thomas the Tank Engine in 1983), but were strangely not released.
A sound bug found in some Living Books is this: when a sound plays, it cuts off when another one plays. This has been fixed in ScummVM.

Phew, that's a lot of facts!


Last edited by Pizzaking27 on Sat Apr 21, 2012 4:39 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Here comes more facts!)

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:12 am

I know Tortoise and the Hare had UK voices in the UK release, and I think at least one release of Grandma had them. But I'm not sure about the others. Can you spill what sort of voices these games had?

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Re: Living Books

Post by Pizzaking27 on Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:20 am

GeorgeQGreg wrote:I know Tortoise and the Hare had UK voices in the UK release, and I think at least one release of Grandma had them. But I'm not sure about the others. Can you spill what sort of voices these games had?

Oh... speaking of the UK, you should see my BBC topic! ;-)

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:44 am

I saw it, but didn't have too much to say...

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Re: Living Books

Post by Pizzaking27 on Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:49 am

GeorgeQGreg wrote:I saw it, but didn't have too much to say...

Well, that's OK, I forgive you!

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Re: Living Books

Post by Pizzaking27 on Tue May 22, 2012 2:06 pm

Hondo20132 wrote:
Arthur's Teacher Trouble (the old version with the insanely long load times - as far as I know, this is also the longest Living Book by far)

When I was your age, I didn't quite understand that it, up until I got a compliation with Commodore 64 classics. It used to take FRIGGIN LONGER TO LOAD THAN TO PLAY!!!!!!!!!! GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! The loading screens in the 3D console versions of LEGO Island 2 were long, too, but not as long as the C64's loadings. The PlayStation version of Worms Armageddon took an age to load, as well... at least I thought it did, anyway! The most egregious example, however, is the loading screen in Sonic the Hedgehog '07, which took so long to load, you could make a cup of tea while you wait! A downright awful flaw of an otherwise excellent game!

Hondo20132 wrote:
The Tortoise and the Hare (always one of my favorites)

The Living Books do look cute, don't they?

Hondo20132 wrote:
Ruff's Bone (early 2000s repackaging - who knew they still made them around that time?)

Exactly, who?

Hondo20132 wrote:
Arthur's Birthday (It's been scratched pretty badly for as long as I can remember...)

Did you have to toss it out and sell it? (I think you did)

Hondo20132 wrote:
Harry and the Haunted House

Yeah, that one's the cutest out of all the Living Books! It seems to be the one I'm really looking forward to buying! :'-)

Hondo20132 wrote:
Stellaluna (I used to do the Bat Quiz all the time for some reason)

What was your favourite question in the quiz?

Hondo20132 wrote:
Green Eggs and Ham (THE first computer game I ever played... at least, that's what my Mom says - so, naturally, it's one of my favorites).

That book wasn't featured in my version of the sampler, so I'm unsure if I get how this would become a Living Book.

Hondo20132 wrote:
I also have Dr. Seuss's ABC and the Cat in the Hat on a repackaging called Dr. Seuss Reading Games, which basically combined them into one application and put in new (and rather neat-looking) menus.

WOW! Impressive! What did those menus look like? If you still have it, can you give me a screenshot of the menus? And another question. Were the sounds in AM Radio quality instead of Telephone quality?

Hondo20132 wrote:
I also played "The Berenstein Bears Get in a Fight" (funnily enough, this isn't the easiest volume to find these days - unfortunately, I barely remember it), "Arthur's Reading Race", "New Kid on the Block", and "Just Grandma and Me" at school a long time ago.

Oh, I've seen it, but only in the sampler. (this will still make all Living Books gamers jealous) Maybe I'll keep an eye out for the full version in swap meets, and get to know the game more. I would send it to you, but I'm worried that might be illegal!

Hondo20132 wrote:
So, basically, I had a LOT of nostalga for this series.

I didn't. :'-( What were the the only Living Books you didn't have or play?

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Re: Living Books

Post by GeorgeQGreg on Tue May 22, 2012 3:28 pm

6 of the LB games were actually released in the UK with different voices! I have one of them actually, Harry and the Haunted House. They were even dubbed in England at that! :O

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Re: Living Books

Post by Pizzaking27 on Wed May 23, 2012 11:54 am

GeorgeQGreg wrote:6 of the LB games were actually released in the UK with different voices! I have one of them actually, Harry and the Haunted House. They were even dubbed in England at that! :O

A Harry and the Haunted House WHAT?!?!

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Re: Living Books

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