February 18, 2015
“I have always enjoyed creative writing and short stories. Being brought up in New York – the city opens itself up to one where everyone has a story to tell,” says Bonnie Lady Lee, founder of Bonnie Lee Apps. “I have always had a love for animals; The Bronx Zoo, The Central Park Zoo the Brooklyn Aquarium has always inspired me to learn more about animals from different parts of the globe.”
Momo Come Home, Lee’s first book, was written in 2006 and details the story of a young girl who loses her parrot walking through San Francisco. It’s based on a true story, but more importantly it launched a whole series of educational books where the readers – children – get valuable life lessons.
Each different story penned by Lee is innovative in the sense that it shows us the perspective of kids’ day to day lives via different animals. Kids don’t like eating certain things, they sometimes have low self-esteem, or they sometimes lose interest in something because they have trouble focusing. In essence, Lee has input her children readers into the very story itself via the metaphorical, anthropomorphic animals.
Her first attempts to get hard copies of the books into various outlets were successful; people began seeing her books stocked at different zoos across the country. However, with technological advances like the smartphone, we’re seeing more and more children put the books down for games or apps that don’t have much to offer in terms of life lessons.
It seemed that the transition from print to digital was inevitable, so Lee began hunting for partners who could help her make the transition.
“I took all my artwork and stories, hired people, paid contracts, but nobody could deliver what I wanted,” says Lee. “I was looking for an illustrator looking to bring my storyboards to life.”
When Lee partnered with illustrator Jan Van Buyten, she was able to storyboard all her ideas for iOS. The two created a world of characters together and made an environment for the characters to live beyond the print world: My Story Lane became the character’s home address.
Lee was, at the time, sending her plates to China to have them printed in books before getting everything into a distribution warehouse. That made her books expensive when it came to space, time, and resources. That issue was only compounded by the fact that if you miss any errors while editing it was impossible to go in and do a distributed fix via the cloud: we’re talking about a warehouse full of thousands of hard copies of books.
Now, Lee is marketing her apps as supplemental reading materials for kids that teach language, pronunciation, and life lessons without being too analytic. The end goal for her in all of this is twofold as well. On one hand Lee wants to keep children engaged to the point of surprise when they flip the page. On the other hand she wants to dig deep and explore how these animals – the metaphorical children – not only cope with obstacles but how they overcome them.
All of her apps feature a ‘tap-n-hear’ function to assist beginning readers; any word they tap in the app is pronounced for them to hear. In addition, the ‘read aloud’ function can help kids who might not be the strongest readers. Whatever the feature, Lee is adamant in this belief: teaching children to be open to new ideas, getting them to think, and applying these adventures to their own lives is crucial for development.
“The traditional publishing industry doesn’t give an author the freedom to introduce any special effects the way an app can. Once a book goes to print that’s the final say of the author,” says Lee. “But in an app the world is open to as many ideas as the author can imagine.”
True enough, the future is only limited by Lee’s own imagination. She assures me that it’ll be full of learning, wonder, and fun for the thousands of children that read her books all across the world.
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