Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dragon Brush - a magical book app set in ancient China (ages 4 - 8)

Some of the best interactive storybook apps show children that magical leap from the ordinary into a magical world. Dragon Brush, a finalist in the 2012 Cybils Book App Award, weaves a story based on a Chinese folktale that keeps children coming back to it again and again.
Dragon Brush
by Andy Hullinger and John Solimine
developed by Small Planet Digital
winner of the 2012 Cybils Book App Award
ages 4 - 8
available on iTunes
What would you paint if you had a magic paintbrush? Would you paint all the riches you might want? But what might happen if an evil lord tries to steal this away? Dragon Brush takes children into this scene, using interactive features to draw children along but never overwhelming the story.

As Cathy Potter, of The Nonfiction Detectives, writes in her review of Dragon Brush for the Cybils,
An old woman gives young Bing-Wen a magic paintbrush made from a dragon’s whiskers in this imaginative original story. Bing-Wen uses the paintbrush to paint a chicken to provide food for his family, a tree to grow fruit for the village, and a comical dragon that isn’t very fierce.

Children will enjoy wiping their fingers across the screen to reveal intricate paintings that come to life. Readers will cheer when the clever Bing-Wen outwits the greedy emperor and teaches him a lesson. Soft guitar music, effective narration, kid-friendly illustrations, and bits of added humor bring a whimsical feeling to this app. A dragon, a greedy emperor, hidden inkpots, and artwork that comes to life…this is an app with kid appeal, for sure!
Dragon Brush embodies all that the Cybils stands for: an excellent story that draws children back to it again and again. Children are fascinated with the interactive features, revealing the intricate paintings that magically come to life, and finding each of the hidden inkpots.

But the story resonates with heart and kindness as Bing-Wen discovers the true gift of artwork - creating a gift for those you love.  The artwork, narration and background music complement the story. The characters have a cartoon appeal but the style is restrained and appropriate to the folktale setting in ancient China. As you can see in the trailer, the music and narration by Mark Berninger and Aaron Dessner, of the band The National, gives the app a soothing feel.

Enjoy this trailer for Dragon Brush:

Dragon Brush from Small Planet Digital on Vimeo.

As Andy Hullinger writes on his website, "Sharing a story and bringing the images life with your imagination is a special kind of magic all its own. This is the heart of Dragon Brush, especially if you have an iPad. Be sure to try it together, With a little one snuggled next to you, mute the narration and read aloud for them as they touch and tap to move the story along." My only wish is that the authors provided a little more information about the folktale that inspired their story.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 comment:

  1. I heard about this app but I didn't pay much attention to it and until I read you post, Mary Ann.
    I think this is the finest children's book app I've seen so far.
    Kids nowadays are so lucky I guess.
    Don't you wish we had such app when we were young kids.

    Jeff Rivera