Singer-songwriter and mother Alicia Keys, inspired by her relationship with her grandmother and desire to help children express themselves, just released an animated storytelling app full of gaming elements and music.
The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee tells the story of a girl and her mythical grandmother. It comes with music Keys sang and scored, including the app’s theme song, “Unlock Yourself” (listen in the promo below).
“I love the fact that we can introduce different cultures, different stories and different music to a child’s world through this app,” Keys told Mashable ahead of the app’s Oct. 25 debut for iPad, iPhone and iTouch.
The $3.99 app also uses daily prompts to encourage kids to journal with words or drawings.
“Journaling is such a big part of my life and also just big part of my childhood in the way that I was able to have an outlet to express myself,” says Keys, who has won 14 Grammy Awards since 2001.
“I think a lot of kids need that — need a way to speak about what’s going on in their life.”
“I think a lot of kids need that — need a way to speak about what’s going on in their life or what they’re feeling because we’re all such emotional people, and it helps when you can give it out and not keep it in.”
Keys, AK Worldwide and Bento Box Interactive teamed up to produce the interactive experience, which lets users play instruments. The initial download of the app comes with four songs and a playable piano. Bento Box will eventually release additional story-packs that give users more stories, music and instruments.
“You come to this world and you get all of these stories, and you don’t have to leave the app to make it grow,” says Bento Box’s creative director Janelle Pitchford, adding that gaming elements support the story.
Those gaming elements and journaling features are all tied to a reward system that can be accessed in the app’s profile page, which also serves as a community platform in which users can share their reading progress and journals with other users and relatives.
Pitchford’s colleague and fellow co-founder Scott Greenberg says users can turn off music and narration so families can have the reading experience of their choice. The app also has parental controls.
“As technology continues to advance, I feel it is so important to continue growing and fostering those indelible relationships as children tap into the digital landscape,” says Keys, whose album, Girl on Fire, drops Nov. 27.
Musician Alison Sudol, best known as A Fine Frenzy, released an interactive e-book and animated short film in October to coincide with the release of her nature-inspired third album, Pines.
“I was in a very low place when I started this album — I got lost and it was terrifying,” Sudol told Mashable while giving us a test-drive of the e-book. “I couldn’t fit my whole story onto the record so I did this book.”
The e-book features her narration, snippets of audio (music from Pines and nature sounds) as well as animated illustrations of animals and forest scenery.