Moving with the times, children’s book author and illustrator Daron Lowe has branched out into the world of digital apps.
He has updated his earlier story creation Kiesha the Mermaid and turned it into an interactive book that can be used on mobile phones, tablets and Kindle devices.
The Kiesha the Mermaid app is available from the Apple App Store and online retailer Amazon.
It is Mr Lowe’s first entry into the world of apps. However, he is no stranger to multimedia technology. As a trained graphic designer he has produced animated DVDs in the past, along with printed children’s books with the titles Bermuda Fun Book, The Flood and Jonah and the Great Fish.
A DVD and colouring book featuring Kiesha came out in 2007.
The new app, which works on Apple and Android devices, is aimed at children aged three to five. It can also be used by parents to read to their children.
It is interactive, so by touching the screen fish and animals can be made to move, there are sound effects such as ocean waves and splashing, and the story can be enjoyed either as a silent read-along or by listening to it being narrated.
Creating children’s storybooks, DVDs, and now a phone app, is a creative side pursuit for Mr Lowe. He works in the addiction community and also does pastoral work. He appreciates having downtime to immerse himself in projects like Kiesha the Mermaid.
“One of the things I find when I’m creating is that I’m able to enter the world I’m working; it’s therapeutic. I come up with ideas and it is rewarding,” he said.
Mr Lowe used his skills as a graphic designer to design and produce all the imagery used in the app. The computer coding to make Kiesha the Mermaid, an interactive experience, was provided through a US company.
Character voices were provided by Mr Lowe’s wife Hyacinth, and daughter Patience. The accompanying music was created by Ray Edness.
The app is more than an interactive story, there is also an on-screen jigsaw puzzle featuring Kiesha in her underwater world.
Mr Lowe sees the app as both entertainment and education; he uses the phrase edutainment.
“There is a little girl using her imagination, and some of her friends join her. She discovers that her underwater garden is being destroyed. The story shows we have to protect the environment.
“Hopefully it will encourage young people and Bermuda to look after our environment, because it’s the only one we have.”
In order to make the app relevant and appealing beyond the Bermuda market, Kiesha does not state where she is from.
“That is so all children can relate to her,” said Mr Lowe.
However there are clues. As Kiesha tells her story, the background clearly shows Bermuda’s distinctive white-roofed houses, longtails flying in the sky, and the fish species are those found around Bermuda’s coral reefs, such as parrot fish, hind, butterfly fish and tang.
Before being released the app was beta-tested by youngsters, including a niece and nephew of Mr Lowe, and the children of family and friends.
The app came out in June and costs $2.99.
“We are presenting it for back to school, and if there are any representatives of a preschool that uses iPads to teach kids who are interested, I would be happy to send them a promotion code to have one copy for the kids. I can be contacted through the website or on e-mail. All I would ask is if that they could leave a comment and review.”
The Kiesha the Mermaid activity book released a few years ago is still available at local book stores, and Mr Lowe hopes the app will create more interest in it.
Mr Lowe is also contemplating another foray into the world of story apps.
“Everything else is using tech, and we talk about using tech for producing things for learning. I’m looking to see how this app goes.”