________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 21. . . .February 1, 2013


The Loxleys and the War of 1812.

Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2012. App. (Reviewed from the English language version downloaded from the Apple App Store. The Android version launching on Google Play was not consulted.)

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

**** /4



Available for free [to Canadians] via the [Canadian Apple] app store [and $4.99 worldwide], The Loxleys and the War of 1812 is an interactive application targeted at teens. Created by the NFB Digital Studio, and produced by the National Film Board in partnership with the Department of Canadian Heritage, the app is based on Renegade Arts' visually compelling and well-researched new graphic novel by the same name. The animated interactive narrative, which is available in both official languages, concerns a fictional family caught in the very real turmoil of war. It offers an exciting history lesson exploring the causes of the War and the impact of its events on English, French and First Nations people in Canada as well as on Americans. The app also includes an interactive map, which reflects the location of events as users read along. An active, portable teaching tool, The Loxleys and the War of 1812 offers a fresh way to give students an overview of the War of 1812. (From the "Study Guide" to the app found at: nfb.ca/1812/guide).


Teachers with tight budgets will be delighted with the free app version of the graphic novel The Loxleys and the War of 1812 (Vol. XIX, No. 12, Nov. 23, 2012). The app contains an animated, slightly revised version of the graphic novel, minus the historical summary by historian Mark Zuehlke. The animated version follows the original quite closely. Some added features are an improvement over the original.

      Navigation of the app is very easy as a Menu page can be accessed by touching the centre of the tablet. While the original novel did not have pagination nor chapter titles, the app has reformatted the novel into 89 pages grouped into seven titled chapters with an eighth chapter consisting of extensive credits. Pages are represented in the navigation tool by number and by individual thumbnail images that link to the full page in the app. The pages are also associated with the third navigation feature: date and location. When a page is highlighted, a map displays beneath it showing the most relevant geographic locations and the date that corresponds to the text. When reading the animated text, itself, users can move forward or backward using the familiar finger drag on the touch screen or by lightly pressing the right or left sides of the screen.

      A typical animation involves one or two characters individually drifting into place with the remainder of the panelís background displaying and becoming clear and brightly lit. This is followed by text balloons and captions opening in quick succession. The action is accompanied by appropriate sound effects, such as murmurs of crowds of people, crackling of flames, barking of a dog, fiddle music at a community dance, chirping of crickets at night time, chirping of a songbird and the crack of a cannon as it is fired. After reading the text, the reader can advance, and the panel will become dim as a new panel opens lower on the screen with bright lighting. The screen is often used to display panels in the top, middle or bottom of the screen, thus mimicking a page from the original.

      A few panels and several pages have been dropped from the original without detriment. Rewriting of the text has been modest and usually undertaken to present what originally was presented as factual information into a letter written by one of the male characters or an entry in a journal maintained by two generations of Loxley women. These modifications are an improvement over the original as they are consistent with the narrative style of the original and serve to more clearly specify the date and year of an event while deleting some superfluous information.

      Images are drawn almost totally from the original. In the rare instance when a totally new image is included, it is executed in keeping with the style of the original.

      The app has an information page that provides a brief summary of the product and links to the App Store, to the French version of the app, to the NFB app directory, to the NFB Education site, to the Department of Canadian Heritage's War of 1812 site, and to the website of the original publisher, Renegade Arts Entertainment.

      Teachers will appreciate the printable 10-page pdf Study Guide to the app created by the National Film Board of Canada. In addition to background information about key historical figures and events, it provides suggested questions for discussion, and creative classroom activities, such as writing a script, creating a heritage minute, or creating a zine. Additional suggestions are provided for lessons that focus on media literacy and on visual techniques used in graphic media. It is worth noting that the guide includes a one-page essay by Darren Bonaparte from the Akwesasne First Nation entitled "Beyond Tecumseh: Aboriginal Experience in the War of 1812" that concludes that the Aboriginal nations were the real losers in the war.

Highly Recommended.

Val Ken Lem is a librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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