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East of the Rockies

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
East of the Rockies App Poster Image
Moving, engaging look at WWII Japanese Canadian internment.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about experiences of Japanese Canadians during and after their internment in the time of WWII.

Ease of Play

Clear directions guide users, but sometimes it's not clear where to tap to advance the story.

Violence

Themes of war and oppression. Brief description of seeing a soldier behead someone.

Sex

Suggestion of a married couple lacking privacy.

Language

Brief usage of historically accurate offensive terminology to describe Japanese people.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that East of the Rockies is a story told through augmented reality (AR) that follows the experiences of Yuki, a young Japanese Canadian woman during and after her internment in the time of World War II. The story was written by acclaimed author Joy Kogawa and narrated by her granddaughter. Kids can listen or follow the written text on the bottom of the screen. As kids listen, they can swipe and tap around the screen to explore the environment and learn more about Yuki's experiences. The story touches on some difficult topics, including the cruelty inflicted on Canadian citizens of Japanese descent during and after the war, wartime violence, and a birth resulting in a stillborn baby. On some screens, kids must tap on "glowing objects" to advance the story, but it doesn't always work smoothly. Kids may have to tap around a bit to get things going. East of the Rockies may not work on some older devices; check the list of compatible devices to see if yours is there. There's a high school-level educational guide to accompany the app on the developer's website. All supporting materials are available in English and French. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

A short introduction explaining that Japanese Canadians were sent to internment camps during World War II sets the scene for EAST OF THE ROCKIES. Then, kids are transported to the Slocan internment camp to follow Yuki as she tells her story. Throughout the story, kids can swipe and zoom in and out of each scene to look around. At certain points, kids tap on objects to look in detail or to advance the story. The story is divided into three parts: internment, immediately after the war, and modern day.

Is it any good?

Atmospheric music and beautiful graphics accompany a moving story that details an important period of Canadian history. Yuki, a young Japanese Canadian woman, draws in listeners to follow her story of struggle and hardship due to policies of the Canadian government. Yuki's story gently explores a difficult topic and gives kids a first-hand account of what it was like to be forced into internment, robbed of all your belongings and unwanted in your own country. The augmented reality touches help kids feel even more intimately involved in the story, even if they don't always work perfectly. At most, technical hiccups just mean that kids have to tap around a bit until they find the magic mystery spot on the screen that keeps the story going. On another technical note, it would be nice to see navigation tools that allow kids to move forward or backward to different points in the story. Overall, however, East of the Rockies offers wonderfully crafted coverage of the 20th-century Japanese Canadian experience and is an exceptional use of the screen to help kids feel like they're a part of history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the historical, political, and social context that surrounds the events presented in East of the Rockies. What forces led to the Canadian (and United States) government's decision to intern their citizens of Japanese descent? What effects did that internment have on the population afterward?

  • In what ways did Yuki and others work to normalize life in the internment camps? How did they mix Japanese traditions with Canadian ones?

  • Does the augmented reality enhance your experience of Yuki's story? Why or why not? What differences are there in learning with an AR app versus a book?

App details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love history and social studies

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