Recently, I've acquired a few examples of the’ You Choose’ interactive adventures from Capstone Press. Two subseries are available. One looks at survival in various extreme environments (Antarctica, mountains at high altitudes, a desert) or dangerous/disastrous situations (storm chasing, earthquakes). The other is based on historical time periods (Great Depression, space race of the 50s and 60s) or people from a particular time (ninjas, samurais, knights).
Each book offers three story paths that leads to anywhere from 41 to 55 choices to work through with multiple endings, of course. There are lots of choices to work through, which I liked.
Overall, these are not bad books. I know it never sounds good to start a review this way but it's true. I think the topics are interesting and that a middle grade student would learn something about ninjas, climbing Kilimanjaro, Aztecs, or the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami or what have you. The historical adventures all include timelines, additional research resources, glossary and index. The survival- based adventures include a chapter about what survival techniques are necessary or at least essential to be aware about to live through such events. These also include very brief bios of true-life survivors, a quiz, bibliography, glossary and index. A good starting point, maybe.
I did find the ‘story’ side left me feeling a little flat. Without much narrative context and even though I’m the main character, I didn't feel all that invested. I did feel like I got a sense about each adventure I entered and thought that I’d like to learn more. It was somewhat entertaining working through the stories I chose (Life as a ninja, Can you survive extreme mountain climbing?, and Can you survive an earthquake?) to see what would happen - if I would live or die.
I think there might be some appeal for struggling readers who like the adventure aspect and possibilities for affecting the stories outcome. I could see using these books to model this kind of storytelling in a writing classroom.
I got to thinking about the digital aspects of this kind of storytelling. Would the story be less flat? Are there digital applications that could enhance the writing and storytelling components of the ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ format? How enhanced could the story be with interesting graphics? I can envision the potential for interdisciplinary and collaborative projects. Coming up with scenarios and potential outcomes requires research and significant comprehension of a topic. Playing out scenarios would require all sorts of thinking skills. The possibilities seem really exciting to me
And this is where I’ll leave off and entice you back next week when guest blogger, Janet, will let us in on what apps she’s found. Stay tuned.