By Gregory Schmidt
After 50 years of guiding children through wildlife and ecology on his own, Ranger Rick is getting a helping hand in the form of a younger sibling.
The National Wildlife Federation, the publisher of the Ranger Rick magazine, which is intended for children ages 7 to 12, is starting a counterpart for younger readers. The new magazine, called Ranger Rick Jr., will feature Ricky Raccoon, who will serve as a mascot for children ages 4 to 7.
As interest in ecology has grown, the editors at the wildlife federation said now was a good time to engage beginning readers who are curious about animals.
“We are reaching out to them with content they want to know,” said Lori Collins, the editor of Ranger Rick Jr. “It’s not like this is an easier version of the content. It’s totally different content.”
The magazine will feature age-appropriate facts and photography about wildlife around the world and include activities intended to inspire children to explore wildlife in their own neighborhoods.
Unlike Ranger Rick, who serves as an educator, Ricky is more eager and curious, Ms. Collins said. “Ricky is just as amazed and awed by these animals as our readers are,” she said.
The first issue of Ranger Rick Jr. came out Nov. 15. As with its sister publication, it will be published 10 times a year and will be free of advertising. Newsstand price is $3.99, and annual subscriptions are $19.95.
Circulation for Ranger Rick is about 400,000, said Mary Dalheim, editorial director for children’s publications at the National Wildlife Federation, and she expects a similar circulation for Ranger Rick Jr.
Of course, children have grown smarter about technology, and Ranger Rick has kept pace. His publication, already available in digital form, has been repurposed as an iPad magazine app that takes children on an interactive tour of his virtual treehouse.
“We tested this magazine with kids, and they loved the idea of exploring these rooms,” Ms. Dalheim said. “This delighted them to wonder what’s behind the doors and exploring new content.”
The magazine app will include stories, activities and videos curated by the magazine editors and produced by FableVision Studios. Starting with the first issue on Wednesday, it will be published five times a year for $4.99 each or $19.99 for an annual subscription.
Younger readers will get their own iPad app called Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures. To emphasize the difference, Ms. Collins said, Appventures will be a digital storybook that will focus on a single animal each time. The first one, which was released in November, visits lions in the grasslands of
Africa. The app takes advantage of the iPad’s technology by using the internal gyroscope, for instance, to offer panoramic views of the African plains.
The app, which costs $4.99, was developed in partnership with Moonbot Studios, the studio behind the animated short “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” which won an Academy Award this year.