Review Blog

Jun 12 2014

You choose (series) by George Ivanoff

cover image

Random House, 2014.
The treasure of Dead Man's Cove. ISBN 9780857983831.
Mayhem at Magic School. ISBN 9780857983848.
Part of the appeal of computer games is that the player has control of what happens to the characters driven by the decisions he/she makes about the decisions the characters make. Imagine if that power could be in book form, propelled not by graphics and a controller but by words, reading and understanding. Harking back to a very popular format of about 20 years ago, where the reader chose their own adventure by making a choice about what action to take and therefore where to move next in the story, this series You choose puts the power back in the reader's hands, rather than the author's predetermined storyline. And each time the book is read a different choice can be made and a new story created.
In The treasure of Dead Man's Cove the reader finds an old map supposedly belonging to One-Eyed William, a fierce pirate who was buried with his treasure. So the first decision has to be made - to follow the clues in case it's real or hand it in to a museum curator. In Mayhem at Magic School the reader suddenly discovers magic powers which cause strange things to happen so a decision has to be made about whether to visit a therapist and seek help or keep them secret and use them? Is the outcome a place in Magic School, a spy for the government or something else?
Written by an author who, himself, was a devotee of this sort of format and only became an avid reader after he discovered it - something I found happened frequently when I offered them to my reluctant readers of both genders - this is a series that not only combines interactivity and reading, but also enables the reader to think about cause and effect, to consider the options, to take the time to make a decision, and to take risks in a safe environment.
The appeal and importance of gaming within the formal education setting is becoming the focus of a lot of research and literature and this series provides a great foundation to actively engage and explore options. Map the story, its choices and consequences on a flow chart; have students add a few twists of their own and discuss how these can have an exponential effect on the outcomes; perhaps even venture down the Technologies strand of the Australian Curriculum and let your budding programmers start to design the coding. Then set a new scenario and start to explore the pathways and fun of 'what if... ', encouraging the students to let their imaginations go, push the boundaries, think beyond the usual as they draw on all they've seen and experienced. Use these two books, and The Maze of Doom and The haunting of Spook House as models for an engaging, integrated project that draws in your writers, your illustrators, your mathematicians, your computer experts to create something new that accentuates the need for a team, encourages negotiation and compromise as well as the skills of seeing things from another perspective and looking for alternatives, and perhaps, even, the concept of empathy.
So glad this format is back on the reading agenda of the young readers in my life.
Barbara Braxton

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