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'Cowzat' the cream of the crop

"Cowzat", an interactive story written by Bruce Atherton, has won the Children's App Category at the 2014 Digital Book Awards in New York.

PT2M37S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30uy2 620 349

If Australians require even more cricket glory this year they could look no further than Cowzat.

A digital version of the picture book by Melbourne author Bruce Atherton has won an international award for the best children's app.

The story tells of a herd of cows who invented cricket, in Atherton's fertile imagination at least. It has already won the support of Cricket Australia, which promotes Cowzat to educate kids about the game.

Children's author Bruce Atherton.

Winner: Author Bruce Atherton, who wrote Cowzat. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Atherton wasn't in New York for the Digital Book World award presentations on Tuesday, but will celebrate and ''share a few lemonades'' with the app's developer, Richmond firm Colour Me Play.

''It's quite an achievement as far as we're concerned to dack Captain Underpants,'' Atherton said of the competition in his category.

Atherton was approached during the National Year of Reading in 2012 when an animator at Colour Me Play was reading the bovine tale to his children and saw the potential for an interactive game.

''It was very much a brave new world for me and also for the fantastic illustrator Ben Redlich,'' Atherton said.

Comedian Tim Ferguson was asked to do the narration and numerous functions were added as the story made its way from the dressing room to the digital pitch.

''The difference from the book is words drop onto the page as the app scrolls along, it has a number of interactive features, you can touch and tickle the animals and they make animal noises or the chook drops an egg or the cow wields a bat in a particular fashion,'' Atherton said. ''Because there's so many interactive functions, children play for some considerable time. So it's introducing them to storytelling without the violence … that other games have.''

Parents battle-wearied by trying to haul children away from screens need not fear, he believed. A well-designed app can enhance the experience of reading.

Several of Atherton's books, mostly aimed at under 10s, have been nominated for national awards. ''I still support picture books … it's a different experience. Reading a hard-copy book to your child sitting on your lap before they go to bed is obviously a bit different to the child playing on an iPad. I think there's always a place for the book.''