Friday, September 21, 2007


AUTHOR: Justine & Ron Fontes
PUBLISHER: Graphic Universe
GENRE: Choose-Your-Own Adventure

FORMAT: Library bound (hardback)
PAGES: 112 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 0-8225-6201-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-8225-6201-6

When I was a child I hated to read. I was not good at it and I was frustrated that other people seemed to be able to do it with such interest and ease. It seemed to me that books were made just to make me miserable. However, I enjoyed the choose-your-own-adventure books of the 1980’s although I did not have much access to them.

This genre of book was special because I was the protagonist, the hero, of the story. These books addressed me, the reader, as the character, and at some point in the story I was asked to choose between two paths. If I chose option A, then I turned to a certain page and continued to read. If I chose option B, then I turned to another page in the book and read. The stories and the outcomes were different for each option. That much has not changed in the last 20 years. You still must choose wisely or you will be sent to Davy Jones’ Locker.

Graphic Universe, an imprint of Lerner Books, has re-tooled the choose-your-own-adventure genre with a comic-prose hybrid. The student is still the protagonist, but the pages are split between prose and comic format, making the genre even more appealing to children.

It just so happened that in one of my education classes at the university our topic was pirates as a possible thematic unit. We students were to come up with ideas on how to use pirates to teach. Luckily, I had a pirate book sitting on the shelf at home. I sat down with CAPTURED BY PIRATES that night and tested it out with my 7-year-old second grader. I read the story aloud to her, explaining some things as we went along. When it came to choosing our path, she considered her options, sometimes fretting and asking my opinion (which I withheld) before deciding on her fate. We died a few times along the way, ending up as chum for the fish in one instance, and we had a fantastic time doing it.

My daughter was reluctant at first, thinking this was a “boy book” but the ability to choose our path quickly enamored her and the social programming melted away. She loved it and has begged to read another one. I also have ESCAPE FROM PYRAMID X on the classroom shelf.

Like my kiddo I, too, was hooked. This book does something that many other books struggle to achieve: Kids will enjoy reading this just for the sake of reading. CAPUTRED BY PIRATES is not written to make adults happy. Oh no, my friends. This book is written with one purpose and that is to exist as a piece of literature that children will want to read just because it is fun. I remembered my elementary days of reading these choose-your-own-adventure books and at the thought that these books were written for me, just for me. CAPTURED BY PIRATES rings that bell well and it would be a mistake not to have it in the classroom.

The art is representative of much of the Graphic Universe series of books. The illustrators utilize a realist approach with details in the foreground and background. The construction of the book is the highest quality and will last for a long time in a classroom or school library.

Above: The left page is page 36 of the story,
written in comic form. The right page is
a page of narrative. Notice at the end of
page 37, the reader is directed to
page 49 to continue the story.

Above: Another page of narrative.
The right page is the decision
part of the story. There are two
choices. The reader chooses his or her path
then turns to the corresponding page
to continue the story.

My Rating: 9 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 9-13
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grade 4
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 4-7
All Ages Reads: No Rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

It should be expected to experience some pirate-like violence and themes such as kidnapping and pillaging. Kids know pirates, so it is not an issue in my opinion.

This series is specifically designed to appeal to a broad range of students with differing abilities. The reading level is lower, yet the interest level is very high. This is a perfect book for the reluctant and struggling reader.

This could also be used as a classroom read aloud (using a digital overhead project (usually referred to as an ELMO). When it comes time to make a decision in the book and choose a path, students could be asked to summarize the comic and prose passages of the preceding story and then to create a graphic organizer in order to make a decision about which option to choose. This could also be done in cooperative groups, with each group making a class presentation about which option they recommend.

An alternative could be that the book is read aloud to the classroom. You could even choose some students to read the dialogue. Once you reach the decision page, then you could ask the students to use their prediction skills and write an ending to the story, which could be shared with the class.

At the time of publication, the ATOS and Lexile were not available. The book was too new. However, given time, these will be available. Check the Graphic Universe site (an imprint of Lerner) for more information. A paperback version is also available.

There are four books in the Twisted Journeys series including: ESCAPE FROM PYRAMID X, TERROR IN GHOST MANSION and THE TREASURE OF MOUNT FATE. I will review the others as they come into the classroom.

Highly Recommended
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is, in my opinion, very important to have high interest, low reading level books in the classroom for students to read and this book meets that goal. Not only is CAPTURED BY PIRATES fun and engaging, but it opens the door to teaching higher order thinking skills.

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