First, a little about the plot and the characters and the twists and turns that occurred that I didn't see coming. Inevitably though, my mind tends to wander to thinking about the author. How did they come up with these ideas? What is it like knowing the full story at the beginning and having to fill in the details? What does it feel like to hold your own book in your hand?
Because truly, there's just something pretty incredible about books. The story, the imagination, the adventure, it's just all there. So, really, how can they be made any better?
Thanks to Hallmark, that has happened. Because a book is great... but it's just a book, until it becomes an experience with the Hallmark Interactive Storybooks and Interactive Story Buddies.
Although they are best known for greeting cards, ornaments and television programming, at the heart of Hallmark is what they're really about: relationships and the emotional connections their products and experiences represent.
More than just being there to celebrate the happy moments and provide sympathy through the difficult ones, Hallmark wants us to focus on the simplicity of what their motto so clearly points out: Life is a Special Occasion.
After bringing books to life last year with their Hallmark Recordable Storybooks, Hallmark has since expanded and added new features to its collection, giving families more opportunities to bring home the innovation and uniqueness of these products.
Most recently, we were able to start celebrating the holidays early with two new characters found in Bell the Interactive Story Buddy and A Visit to the North Pole.
If you've ever wondered what your child's face would look like if, while reading from their favorite book, one of the characters suddenly spoke up, Interactive Story Buddies can provide that amazement and joy. After all, cuddling up to read a book with a stuffed animal is pretty great on its own... but having the animal join in? Well, that's just magic!
I immediately appreciated that Bell came fully prepared and ready to go right out of the box. There was no setup or installation required, simply remove the packaging tags and press the power button on her ear and you hear a message that she is ready to hear her story.
As we opened Bell's Big Move, the bright colors and cute illustrations had already caught our attention and we marveled for a minute on just how sweet Bell looked and how fun it was that she was in the book while also being here with us.
If the girls suspected that something was up with our soft Bell plush, they didn't let on and instead were content to pet her head gently. I began to read normally... and when I came to the first specially-marked sentence ("Bell was one pretty puppy!"), she chimed right in with a few cute barks!
Both girls' faces lit up and they continued to listen while watching Bell intently for her next story addition. From a dog-barked version of "Thank you" to an "I love you" to more little yips and woofs, Bell has over 40 responses that really turn a regular book into something so much more.
As an added bonus, there are actually four ways to interact with Bell — through this and other interactive books, the included read-along CD, online story time at Hallmark.com/Bell and to the Bell's Big Move app. How great that my girls can enjoy cuddling and hugging Bell (while seeing her magically chime in to the story) while listening to it on-the-go on the iPad or on their own with the CD.
When we haven't been spending time playing with Bell, my kids have both been big fans of our Be a Part of the Story book, A Visit to the North Pole.
Transforming traditional story time into an interactive adventure, Hallmark's newest storybooks remind me of an updated, extremely fun version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books of my youth.
I simply read the story aloud and, when the special lines are spoken, Santa himself chimes in with a question or choice for my girls to answer.
Once the child answers (they have four seconds to speak before Santa Claus will just continue with the story), the tale continues and actually takes into account the choice that has been made! Each time we have read our Be a Part of the Story book, both girls look at me in amazement as they almost get to have a conversation with Santa and determine the plot!
This holiday season, Hallmark has yet again found a way for families everywhere to embrace what truly matters most — spending time and creating lasting memories with loved ones. Each of these would make incredibly thoughtful gifts that can be enjoyed throughout the holidays and long into the future.
Plus, while you're over browsing and shopping at Hallmark.com, be sure to take advantage of their special offer to save money on your customized greeting and photo cards! From now until January 1, 2013, simply enter the coupon code BLOG30 at checkout and you'll save 30% off of your personalized greetings order!
Thanks to Hallmark's generosity, one person will soon get to enjoy the sweetest husky pup you'll ever meet as well as chat along with Santa, because...
One lucky person will win a Bell the Interactive Story Buddy and a Be a Part of the Story: A Visit to the North Pole from Hallmark (total ARV $60)!
(Enter with the Rafflecopter form below. If you have any questions or problems entering, there is a video tutorial found here that can help.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
A big thank you to Hallmark for providing a Bell the Interactive Storybuddy and a Be a Part of the Story: A Visit to the North Pole for me to review as well as for one lucky giveaway winner. The opinions shared are my own and honest and if you really need to see more, click here to see how I roll.