Van Gogh and the Sunflowers is an extraordinary app with unique interactivity. The characters in this book, based on a gorgeous print title published in 2007, are all in motion. Characters in the story run, work and paint in scenes that can also be viewed (just tap the settings button) with their inner-workings exposed. You can see the mechanism behind the motion in a way that is very similar to Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book - a very cool effect.
The book is about a boy named Camille who lives in a village where sunflowers grow wild. One day a strange man arrives in town and begins to paint. Camille's family befriends the poor traveler, Vincent van Gogh, and watches him paint portraits of the whole family. When Camille shows off the portrait of himself, the children at school tease him and then van Gogh himself is driven out of town. Camille's father reassures the crushed boy that someday people "will learn to love Vincent's paintings."
The book also features gorgeous examples of the works of van Gogh in a very cool set up where the reader gets to explore a line-drawn 3D museum with paintings hung on every wall. Leave the museum by tapping on the 'exit' to return to the book. This would be a great book to use for art appreciation and could spark a child's interest in impressionism and art history.
The app is solidly made with nice settings like a page guide and narration that can be turned on and off on each page. Many pages also allow the reader to repaint the characters, although this is like other coloring pages on the iPad, meaning it is difficult to improve upon the detailed original drawings without a fine-pointed stylus. The way the characters 'come alive' in contrast to the rest of the static page is delightful, though and the gears behind the movement are fascinating even for adults.
If you tap on any of the mechanical moving images in the coloring mode you hear an 'explosion' sound effect and many of the moving pieces fall to the bottom of the page. You then see a timer and need to put all the pieces back in place (with outlined hints on the first level). The 2nd & 3rd levels get more challenging with less of a guide. This could be a bit much for young children to complete in the time allotted, but older kids will find it relatively easy.
Because of all the interesting touchable elements, the pages can sometimes turn accidentally, although once I had the chance to the explore the book fully, I realized that it works best if you tap the characters but never 'swipe' unless you want to turn pages. Overall this is a beautiful and detailed book app with a wonderful story to tell.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
10 - 15 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 6 - 10 +
From print book (back cover):
One day, a strange man arrives in Camille's town. It is the artist, Vincent van Gogh. His extraordinary paintings of the sunflowers and the "Starry Night" entrance the young boy. But not everyone appreciates the genius of Camille's "Sunflower Man," and Vincent is forced to leave the town. van Gogh and the Sunflowers is a classic tale about acceptance of those who are different.