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Review: ‘van Gogh and the Sunflowers’ for the iPad

Laurence Anholt first published this story in a print version in 1994, and it’s based on a real-life encounter the artist had with a village postman and his son. The app was developed by Auryn, Inc., the creators of the digital version of Edsel McFarlan’s New Car, and the award-winning Teddy’s Day. van Gogh and the Sunflowers is Auryn’s first title to incorporate gaming elements. A free lite version of the app is available.

Title: van Gogh and the Sunflowers
Author: Laurence Anholt
Developed by: Auryn Inc. / Auracle
Platform: iOS, requires 4.3 or later
: 1.0.3
Price: $1.99

PreS-Gr 2-A struggling painter named Vincent arrives in a village and is immediately befriended by a boy named Camille and his family. Unfortunately, the artist isn’t accepted by the rest of the community and is eventually forced out of town—but not before painting portraits of Camille, his family, and the sunflowers the boy so loves. At the story’s end viewers learn that Vincent is Vincent van Gogh, and that after the artist’s death his paintings garnered international praise.

The colorful images are beautifully rendered in van Gogh’s familiar style. Art enthusiasts may even recognize some of his paintings recreated in scenes such as the painter’s blue bedroom.

Screen shot from 'van Gogh and the Sunflowers' (Anholt) Auryn, Inc.

This app faithfully follows Anholt’s Camille and the Sunflowers (Barron’s, 1994), while adding a bit of animation and some interactive features. One of these features turns characters into outline drawings that viewers can paint.

Children can read the story themselves, have it narrated over understated background music with sound effects, or hear only selected words. A mini van Gogh museum enriches the reading experience, enabling viewers to scroll around several paintings and learn about them.

The one feature that seems extraneous is a game involving mechanical parts such as gears and levers. The game and has no apparent relation to the story.

Overall, this is a visually appealing title with a message about accepting those who are different, while providing some insight into a beloved artist.—Sharon Breslow, Bridgeport Public Library, Bridgeport, CT