When you think of Alicia Keys, a few things like Grammy award-winning artist, actress, mom and wife immediately come to mind. Now, with the launch of her latest tech-focused endeavor, you can add app creator to her list of accomplishments.
Created with Bento Box Interactive, Alicia’s app called The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee presents its users with a fully immersive experience in the world of an 8-year-old girl named LeeLee. LeeLee has just moved to a new house in New York City and her room acts as the primary place where all the app's activities take place. Kids can explore LeeLee's new surroundings and do things in her room like write at her desk, play on the piano and pick a book from the bookshelf.
Speaking of the bookshelf, with the help of a special locket that her grandmother gives her, LeeLee transforms into a bird that enables her to take kids (and adults!) through interactive and musical storytelling experiences through different storybooks, the first of which is one called Blue Moon. In this particular story, LeeLee travels to the 17th century and meets another little girl named Abey. Together, they explore Abey’s world together in a quest to find a missing eagle feather and do so with courage, music and friendship.
The app demonstrates the powerful relationship LeeLee has with her grandmother Mama Mae (voiced by Della Reese), and from a user standpoint, provides a wealth of activities and engaging ways to express creativity, enjoy music and explore LeeLee’s world.
In addition to following the stories included in the app, kids can learn different sounds on the virtual piano, listen to original recordings from Alicia, practice creative writing and drawing, and immerse themselves in the joy of music. The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee goes beyond your typical storybook app and provides kids with a highly interactive experience that is truly harmonious.
The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee is available in iTunes for $3.99.
We had a chance to sit down and chat with Alicia and see why she wanted to add app developer to the many things she does:
What inspired you to do an app for kids?
Once you become a parent, your start to see the world differently, and you recognize that there is so much room to learn and grow. I’ve always been an avid reader, it’s something my mother and I shared with I was little, and to which I credit my love of reading today. This app also touches on intergenerational connections to our grandparents, how much they can teach and guide us. We came up with the concept by merging my experiences with my nana, who was and is still so magical to me, and how this character, Mama Mae, helps LeeLee through life experiences.
How long did it take to complete the app?
I’ve been working on it for about a year-and-a-half. I’m really proud, because they’re really nothing else out there that exists like this.
What do you love about the app?
It’s gorgeous! Very beautifully drawn. I love that LeeLee doesn’t know how she’s going to get through this experience, moving to a new city. I can relate. It’s tough meeting new people. I love that she’s so open and honest, you can see it in her eyes and through her body language. I love that it’s an interactive app, with a book your can read, games to play, awards to unlock. Everyone using the app is going to have their own unique experience with it. For example, the journal has 365 questions to prompt kids to write about what’s going on in their life. I wrote in a journal growing up, and it’s why the songwriter I am today. Kids need that outlet. I also love the geometrics of the app, how you can move your iPad to look at all angles of LeeLee’s room and be completely transported to a whole other world. And I love Mama Mae. She makes me just want to hug her!
What role does music play in the app?
I wrote original songs for the app, and there’s a piano where kids can compose their own. With the music on the app, I love how you can take the concept of each story, let’s say it’s about India, and have contemporary elements of the culture incorporated into the song.
What does Egypt think of the app?
He’s at the age where he likes to touch everything. He really enjoys pressing the music box, which launches the MP3 player. He’ll play a song for like 30 seconds and then stop it and start it over again. He’s like a little DJ.
Here's a short video of Alicia speaking in more detail about her love for Mama Mae, LeeLee and the many treasures included in the app:
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