Archive for Reviews

Blurb —Campfire Crisis

“Are you ready for an adventure? Campfire Crisis takes you deep into the woods where you’ll have to make smart decisions too save the day!”
—Chris Everheart, author of Recon Academy and Hub’s Adventures

Review — Treasure Island

“Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island is not only a fun action packed adventure it is a treasure hunt for the story itself. Readers are challenged to make choices as to whether or not the story could end before it really gets started. Readers have the option to end the story as they see fit. Chapter one of this tale can be found on page 64. Your name is Jim Hawking and you help your mother run the Admiral Benbow inn. A strange sea fellow carrying a chest with him rents a room. After months of keeping to himself he asks you, for a few coin of course, to keep an eye out for a peg legged man. There might be a lot as stake. So, if you decide to help, go to page 47. If not, page 26. The reader decides which direction the adventure will go.

Author Blake Hoena has adapted one of his favorite childhood stories into a Choose Your Path book. These already exciting stories now offer a fun way for readers to enjoy them all over again or for the first time. Readers are encouraged to make a decision as to which way they want to read the story and follow the adventure. Parents and teachers will love this storytelling method and can use it as a tool to get those kids who wouldn’t normally pick up a book to actually have fun reading and enjoying the adventure.”

Kristi’s Book Nook

Review — Campfire Crisis

What Jen Thinks: I have always thought there needed to be more choose-your-own-adventure books in the world. I remember reading the R.A. Montgomery books when I was younger and loving them. One thing that was very different about this chose-your-adventure type book compared to others that I have read, is that readers are given a choice at the end of every chapter. Your choice doesn’t mean that you will jump around in the book, the reader still reads through the chapters but is given a choice at the end of each. The author helps readers recognize when he or she has made a decision that would not be wise and then the reader is made aware of this and is able to instead make the opposite choice. Because this format is so unique compared to what I have read before, it made me stop and think about what I’m used to and why the author made the decisions he did about how to format this particular book. This would be a wonderful conversation to have with students about decisions an author makes and why or why not he or she might make those decisions. It would be interesting to hear how students respond to different types of choices they are given.
Similarly, choose-your-adventure books are unique because they are usually told form a 2nd person point of view. 2nd person seems to be altogether rare in writing and I think it is often overlooked when point of view is taught to students. I love that books like Campfire Crisis give students the opportunity to recognize what 2nd person point of view is and how it is different from 1st and 3rd person. (I totally remember wondering what 2nd person point of view meant because if you had 1st and 3rd, why wouldn’t you have 2nd?) I strongly believe in giving kids all the information and helping them discern for themselves why you may or may not use a point of view and why it may or may not be more common than others. Overall, I think students will learn a lot about camping and survival by reading this book but can also examine an author’s decisions and discuss how those decisions might apply in their own writing.

What Kellee Thinks: A different kind of choose your path book. In a choice chapter book, you are still the protagonist (2nd person alert!), but throughout the book you are given choices (one is right and one is wrong; rational is given) and you only continue when you choose the right one. This book definitely would be a great introduction to camping and takes the reader through some really realistic situations. Though a bit didactical, it definitely works in teaching safety- I even learned a few things.
In the classroom, this book would be great in a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom to talk about cause and effect. You could look at what would happen if you chose the wrong choice.
I cannot wait to see what other books come out in this series. I think it is a great opportunity to teach readers about many different things in a fun way.

Teach Mentor Text

Review — Campfire Crisis

Here we have a chapter book style adventure that places you, the reader, front and center in the decision making chair as you choose everything from what to pack to which way to go to who to send (or not) for help.  It’s a perilous place to be, yes….but, should you make the wrong decision, you’re not written out of the story.  Nope.  Surprised?  I was too when I first started reading because that’s how all of the one’s I’ve read in the past have been. One wrong page turn and the whole thing is over.  Not so here.  The author allows readers to make a mistake, expand their knowledge on a more applicable course of action, and continue forward in their journey.  It makes it almost an edutainment choice because after all, you are learning survival skills along the way and many kiddos flock to the appeal of a camping trip, so talk about real world application opportunity!  It also makes this a great option for those younger readers that are just starting to read books on their own giving them a chance to steer the story’s course and yet not feel defeated if a wrong turn is made.  A great balance indeed.

As for the story itself, Carla and Mike are definitely a great pair to have as friends as well as wood traipsing companions.  Everyone gets a chance to shine as events unfold and strengths are put to good use.  There’s even a chance to save a life…unexpected but once again, emphasizing the know-how that’s important to a successful and fun night/day under the stars.  The author made sure to cover all the basics here while imparting little gems of wisdom along the way…and all at a level that will peak interest but not endanger should they wish to try the newly found skills at home.   A small warning for adult readers…you might want to have a good campsite picked out for your little adventurers because after this read, I see the potential for a trip in your future.
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Review — Campfire Crisis

Blake Hoena is the author of more than 50 books for children, including DC Super Heroes chapter books, Sports Illustrated graphic novels, and the retellings of classic tales like the Perseus myth, but none of his books are as unique as his newest release. Campfire Crisis (Adventure Kids) is the result of mixing books for young readers, like The Magic Tree House with Choose Your Own Adventure books.

The book begins by introducing the three main characters and is told in the second person.  The reader and his or her friends, Carla and Mike, are going camping with the reader’s parents, and for the first time will have their own campsite, separate from the adults. Each chapter presents a dilemma that the reader must choose a solution to, however, unlike the Choose Your Own Adventure books, the reader learns right away if they have made the right decision.

Campfire Crisis is a perfect mix of camping education and adventure, as reader and friends escape a campfire out of control and figure out how to make their way out of the woods. Each of the characters has their own strengths that help contribute to solving several problems. Sporadic illustrations are sparse, highlighting supplies or potential danger.

The end of the book includes tips for camping and a list of supplies for a survival kit. This is a great book to read before a first camping trip, either as a read aloud for a younger child or for a beginning reader.  My son, finishing up fourth grade tomorrow, quickly flew through it and greatly enjoyed the story and the unusual format.

My kids and I both look forward to future books in this series.
5 Minutes for Books

Review — Campfire Crisis

“With your two best friends, Mike and Carla, by your side you go on a camping adventure filled with all the excitement you could ever anticipate in one trip. Will fire consume you, wolves find you or could you possibly get lost in the woods? It’s all up to you and the choices you make as to the outcome of this camping adventure with friends.

Campfire Crisis by Blake Hoena is a new take on the traditional choose your own path/adventure type stories. In this new version, A Choice Chapter Book, readers are given choices but the outcomes are a bit toned down for those younger readers who may not be ready to “die” during their reading time. It made for a fun way of reading. Instead of saying you’ve died as a result of your actions you are given a gentle nudge in the right direction instead and continue on to the next page.

Should you follow a certain path, help injured friends, put out a fire and a number of other similar scenarios all come up during Campfire Crisis by Blake Hoena. In a story filled with adventure and danger this new “Choice Chapter Book” provides a way for even younger readers to enjoy the “danger” of a choose your own path book, but without the potentially detrimental effects. Not only was this a fun read aloud, it was also educational. If you’re a camping enthusiast or simply love the outdoors the little reader in your life and you will love and learn from reading Campfire Crisis by Blake Hoena.”
There’s a Book

Review — Campfire Crisis

“When danger strikes, one has to make many decisions and the right ones in order to save everyone’s lives. “Campfire Crisis” is an interactive adventure book in the “Choice Chapter” series (the reader’s decisions determine how the adventure unfolds), about a camping trip, in which the reader is put in the role of the hero who must save their friends when a forest fire strikes. Encouraging campsite safety, “Campfire Crisis” is highly recommended especially for children who enjoy the great outdoors.”
—Children’s Bookwatch

Revew — Campfire Crisis

In a tradition similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books immensely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, Campfire Crisis puts the reader in the role of protagonist. In this particular book, billed as a “Choice Chapter Book,” the reader and two friends go on an overnight camping trip with the reader’s parents. Throughout the trip the three friends encounter a series of challenges. The reader gets two choices in each challenge, and the reader’s pick of one choice determines what happens next.

A precursor for younger readers to the entire concept of “choose your own adventure”-type stories, the book deviates from the classic concept in that readers find out the consequences of incorrect choices right away. At one point in the book, the main character has the option of either tying the camp’s food high in a tree to keep it away from animals or to leave the food in the camp until morning. On the facing page, author Blake Hoena lists the consequences for both choices and reveals the correct one.

Hoena’s objective in this first book in his “Adventure Kids” series comes through clear: to teach readers about camping safety and also to promote the outdoors as an adventure land. He scores high marks on both counts. Elementary readers will delight in having choices in the book while still receiving gentle guidance and recommendations akin to the type of assistance they would receive in school. Incorporating instructional material in a fictional format can offer writers a challenge, but Hoena handles it with ease and comes out ahead. He includes just enough adventure for readers to find the story exciting without ever really getting scared, and Hoena makes his point about the crucial need for campsite safety.

He ends the book with a congratulatory note to the reader about making it through the camping trip and saving the two friends. He also includes a quick list of camping tips and what items to include in a survival kit if the reader ever goes on a real trip, keeping the tone positive and excited until the last page.

The artwork by Shane Nitzsche only enhances the story and never detracts from it. Nitzsche includes simple items like a tent, a campsite, a forest ranger, and the main character’s two friends. With soft, rounded edges young readers will find Nitzsche’s illustrations appealing.

I highly recommend Campfire Crisis for readers in first through third grades. Reluctant and enthusiastic readers alike will enjoy this story. This first book bodes well for the rest of the series, and I look forward to future books in it.
—Book Pleasures

Review — Greek Mythology’s Adventures of Perseus

With the reader as the main character, Greek Mythology’s Adventures of Perseus by Blake Hoena follows the tradition of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books so popular with middle grade readers in the 1980s and 1990s. Perseus belongs to a series called “Can You Survive?” that repurposes the concept of the reader making choices by placing the stories in the context of the classics.

In this case the reader gets to become Perseus, the first hero in Greek mythology and the basis for all superheroes in the modern era (according to Hoena’s author’s note in the book.) As Perseus the reader will encounter all of the key people in the hero’s story and get to make choices that will eventually lead Perseus to kill Medusa, the snake-headed monster who turns people into stone with a single look. In order to introduce the concept of Greek mythology to the reader, Hoena begins in the present day and uses a library as the opening setting of the book.

Hoena manages to give readers all of the key events in Perseus’ life and also finds enough wiggle room within those events to allow readers choices. True to the original “Choose Your Own Adventure” format, readers won’t read the pages in chronological order but will follow the story back and forth throughout the book depending on the choices made. The constraints of a well-known story give the reader a framework; make enough of the wrong choices, and readers will end up on Page 67 with the finality of “The End, Try Again” forcing them to retrace steps and try to figure out how to succeed in the adventure.

Given the plethora of books competing for the attention of readers today (in addition to all the technology available,) middle grade readers may not ever receive conventional exposure to the Greek classics. Hoena’s book offers an alternative to teach readers something without them truly realizing it, another purpose of the original series. With simple language that doesn’t waste words, Hoena offers enough adventure, mystery, and intrigue to keep readers engaged. They’ll want to return to the book to see if they can fulfill Perseus’ quest.

A bonus feature of the book incorporates present-day technology; readers can go online to the publisher’s website and discuss how many times they “died” in the book before succeeding. This integrative concept may encourage readers to try the other books available in the “Can You Survive?” series, which includes adventures based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I recommend this book for middle grade readers and look forward to more in the series in the future.
—The Write Edge Bookshelf

Review — Greek Mythology’s Adventure’s of Perseus

Greek mythology is filled with tricky creatures with ill intent. Greek Mythology’s Adventures of Perseus is a choose-your-own-adventure book from Blake Hoena who presents an adventure of survival for young readers as they are faced with the nasty creatures of Greek mythology and what they can to survive and finish their arduous quest. Greek Mythology’s Adventures of Perseus is a choice pick for those seeking interactive fiction.
—Children’s Bookwatch