Auryn – Van Gogh and the Sunflowers is a wonderful storybook based on the children’s storybook of the same name and also includes fascinating interactive puzzle elements and an interesting use of Van Gogh’s artwork seen throughout this application.
Based on actual events, Van Gogh and the Sunflowers tells the story behind the series of paintings by Van Gogh known as The Roulin Family which Van Gogh painted when he moved to Arles in southern France and was befriended by a local postman and his family who generously sat for Van Gogh, allowing their portraits to be painted.
This story is thoughtfully told from the point of view of the middle Roulin child, Camille, and touches upon how Van Gough was misunderstood as an artist and not liked by townspeople, ultimately being asked to leave the community. This historically true story is a nice tale which introduces the concepts of tolerance for others.
Parents will have to decide what further information on the subject of Van Gogh’s life they want to explain to their children, as this app does not mention Van Gogh’s apparent suicide and only touches upon the ear incident with a modest bandage covering his right ear that kids may miss altogether if this detail is not specifically pointed out.
The look of this app is terrific, with illustrations evoking the style that Van Gogh is known for, complete with bold color choices and noticeable use of brush strokes, but maintains a childlike quality that fits well within this storybook. The jazzy music used is also wonderful, relaxing as well as engaging and very enjoyable to listen to even for long periods of time. The narration used here is also quite good. Parents will also like that each spoken word is highlighted red to aid the young children new to the world of reading.
The original paintings can be seen within as well, a very nice touch, and do tap on these portraits to be transported to a Van Gogh exhibit within this app, allowing one to explore all four walls of an art gallery, including close-up views of Van Gogh’s work as well to learn more of the facts about these paintings that one would expect to learn during a guided tour, making this gallery section a valuable learning tool about Van Gogh and a primer of art history in general.
By far, the elements that stand out within these pages are the interactive puzzles included.
Some of the portrait details often have a layered, dimensional quality that really pops off the page as these elements move, typical of the movements found in vintage popup books, articulated banks and other period toys with moving parts.
Do tap these illustrations as they in turn are transformed into black and white x ray images. Then the player is then brought to an additional area of this app where one can paint these elements with a variety of colors and paint brush sizes, with the choice of adding these new color choices to be included in this storybook itself.
One can also be taken to an area where one can see the inner workings of these illustrated elements, now looking more closely relative to the armature of a sculpture rather than a simple illustration, as the included framework is constructed from what looks like wood pieces. Here, the focus is on the gears, levers and other hardware used to pivot and move about, animating these sophisticated pop-up elements.
A further tap will transform these moving sculptures into a puzzle, complete with the use of blueprint paper as a backdrop as well as the satisfying collapsing sound of the moving hardware parts as they fall from the sculpture and onto the bottom of the page. Watch as these mechanical parts bounce around the page as they bang into each other with nice use of a physics engine.
This puzzle section contains three parts. At first, players can choose any part to put back where it belongs, with the correct location of these pieces becoming nicely highlighted, showing players where to place their parts. The second mode selects the pieces to be included by the application, allowing only specific pieces to be put pack at any one time. Here, the player must be able to understand what piece is being highlighted within the image to find the corresponding item, placing it back correctly. The last section asks the player to put back the pieces of these moving elements without looking at the moving framework, but the full color animated character is found within the application, now using one’s memory and understanding of the mechanics of movements to fully place these pieces. Each of these sections is timed, and failure to complete these puzzles within this time frame will result in the repeat collapse of these armatures.
I am incredibly impressed with these novel interactive puzzles and love the “grab” included, making the placement of these pieces somewhat forgiving, but I do have moments of trying to pick up and move unresponsive puzzle pieces. This, combined with the fact that these modes are timed, has led to some frustrating moments. It would be nice if one had a choice of completing these puzzles without being timed, especially the most difficult last section that I often could not complete in the allotted time frame.
Auryn – Van Gogh and the Sunflowers combines these various elements to create an application unlike anything I have seen to date. I see this app being a favorite with a wide range of ages, making this app a great buy, especially for families.
It might be nice to have a “read only” section with simple interactive movements, like touching these dimensional elements such as sunflowers swaying in the wind or moving them a bit instead of being brought to another section of the app and away from the story, especially for the youngest users who may need to be more focused on the story at hand for best comprehension.
I have truly enjoyed this app. I would love to see the other books in this series, Anholt’s Artists Books for Children, as other artists such as Degas, Monet and Matisse are also covered, and I would love to see applications based on their art as well. I look forward to see what the developers at Auryn come up with next as they are quite a prolific group. Do check out their other applications in iTunes.
Van Gogh and the Sunflowers: encourage creativity and teach your child art history in this interactive book with text and paintings by Laurence Anholt (by Auryn Apps)
Developer: Auryn Inc.
Released: 2011-10-22 02:58:04
Description from the Developer★ Webby Awards Nominee! ★ “Spectacular…An exceptionally bright and beautiful masterpiece.” – Kirkus Reviews
★ Babble: “Appeal[s] to bothside[s] of a child’s brain, and delights kids and parents by making art education fun” ★
Learning about art and animation is a pure joy in this magical, fun app!
▸ VIDEO TRAILER:
Copy and paste this link into a browser window: http://bit.ly/rPzR75
"Where Camille lived, the sunflowers grew so high they looked like real suns - a whole field of burning yellow suns." Young Camille befriends a strange visitor to his small town, and one day he brings this man a gift of bright, beautiful sunflowers. The man is the artist Vincent van Gogh, and the sunflowers quickly become the subject of a magnificent painting.
Based on actual events, this simple and evocative story (with text & illustrations by Laurence Anholt) has a powerful message of tolerance and compassion for those who appear odd or unusual, and who march to a different drummer. Anholt's gentle and empathetic text is complemented by his lovely and expressive watercolor illustrations, and includes reproduction of some of van Gogh's most famous paintings.
Perfect for youngsters 4-11, “Van Gogh and the Sunflowers” is an inspiring introduction to the artist and his paintings.
▸ KEY EDUCATIONAL THEMES:
-Art history: the ten paintings in the story can be viewed in a virtual museum, with detailed descriptions for each
-Introduction to basic animation: the armature game included in several pages gives kids a “behind the scenes” look at how the animation is being powered.
-Mechanical / spatial reasoning: The armature game also encourages spatial reasoning skills by asking kids to put the gears/pieces back together within a specified time.
-Acceptance of diversity: the mysterious painter is taunted by others in the village. This can be a discussion point with your child about accepting those who may appear to be “different”.
▸ REVIEWS AND ACCOLADES:
★Ahgoo Review: If you have an iPad you need to buy this app ★
★ Apptudes: "5 Star Rating" This is a must-have for any children’s digital library ★
★ SheKnows.com: This magical story implements reproductions of some of Van Gogh's most famous paintings and includes beautiful watercolor illustrations ★
★ The iPhoneMom: I’m not sure that I can adequately describe the magic of this app. This one is something special ★
★ Kids Apps Mobi: The art of Van Gogh is made accessible to young children through this beautiful story of friendship and devotion ★
★ Digital Storytime: Van Gogh and the Sunflowers is an extraordinary app with unique interactivity ★
▸ KEY FEATURES:
★ Armature Game: Kids can touch an animated character to see the mechanism that makes it move. With another touch, parts of the armature structure collapse. Kids have to put all the pieces back in place in a given time to win. Completing one page would unlock another level and another page, keeping the child engrossed till the end.
★ Kids can also paint the characters on each and every page. The app is built in such a way that the paint will not spread outside the character. Once the characters are painted they become a part of the artwork and animate accordingly. **
★ A tap on Van Gogh’s paintings transports the reader to a Museum where they can experience 10 different paintings of Van Gogh, listen to and read fun facts about each one of them. The 3D experience created here is sure to be a hit with children.
★ The soothing music in the background draws the reader to an era of great art and ensures he stays there till the end of the app.
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