As a mom, I try to promote female narratives as often as possible. As an avid reader, I’m borderline obsessed with instituting family-wide reading times on a daily basis. (If I can squeeze in more than one a day? Golden. I mean, Zadie Smith’s latest isn’t exact going to finish itself.) Turns out, we have a new little pal who’ll help on both fronts. May I introduce: the multicultural (and multilingual!) Roxy.
“Roxy and the Ballerina Robot,” the first in the Roxy book series, is an immediate charmer, utilizing a crisp storybook app to tell the tale of Roxy’s goals, her tight family and, of course, that dream ballerina robot she’s saving up to buy. Readers of all ages and stages will love the app, as it employs navigation for those who wish to go it alone, as well as for those who’ll dig the highlighted “Read to Me” option. (Pro tip: the “tap to hear” option is really, really fun in French. You’ll probably like it in Spanish and English, too.)
I chatted with Slater Collins who, alongside being a Chicago dad, software engineer and ultramarathoner(!), created Roxy in all of his spare time.
Where did the idea for Roxy first germinate?
I watch a lot of children’s shows with my kids and I noticed that most children’s media will focus on friendship and shy away from family. “Jake and the Neverland Pirates,” “Strawberry Shortcake” and “My Little Pony” are great examples of this. I am a firm believer that if we want our kids to develop happy and healthy family relationships, then we need to show them examples of happy and healthy families; I created The Roxy Books because I wanted to provide kids with a model of a contemporary, close-knit and fun-loving family.
Being a mom of two little girls and one little guy, I’ve noticed the usually-glaring marketing that places females in the “best friend” or “overqualified sidekick” categories.
Yeah, I think Izzy from ‘Jake’ and Hermione from ‘Harry Potter’ are good examples of what you’re talking about. Both girls are main characters, but the titular characters are boys. In writing this book, I spoke with someone who had extensive experience in children’s publishing; she told me that girls will often read books with a male lead, but not the opposite way around. “Star Wars: Rogue One” was interesting because not only did it have a female lead, but it also had an extremely diverse cast. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of changes shake up the mass market media in the next few years.
What’s next for this beautiful series?
I have a story in the works where Roxy and her friends spend the summer shooting their own version of a popular music video. Roxy finds out quickly that even simple projects can end up being a ton of work. Once the fun fades, Roxy will need some encouragement from her parents to see the project all the way through.
How does Roxy (hopefully) set the trend for the youngest generation of STEM creators?
Producing a music video is a great activity for kids because the end goal is very concrete; creating an awesome video that can easily be shared with friends and family. Because the end goal is so tangible and exciting, kids will be motivated to go out and overcome the technical challenges involved with working a video camera and using editing software. This instills in them the process of using technology to work towards a long term goal, which is vital in STEM fields. I think to get kids interested in STEM fields, they have to be able to see the payoff.