Friday, May 29, 2015

WW2 | Spies–Choices

This book about World War II offers the reader choices - a
clever way to involve readers in history.
The last three days I have been at BookExpo America - the largest annual book convention in the USA - and I picked up a book called World War II Spies by Michael Burgan, published by You Choose Books, part of Capstone Press.

The You Choose books are an ingenious way of teaching history. The choices help the reader understand that history is not something that had to happen the way it did. History happened because people made choices that affected the outcomes.

The Spies book had special meaning for me because my father worked for the American spy service, the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) during World War II - first in Dublin and then in London.

The book starts with a well-written summary of how Hitler came to power and began by sending troops into countries where many Germans lived. Italy invaded North Africa and Japan invaded China. They formed what was called the Axis.

Then in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and F.D.R. and the Congress declared war on the Axis. You, the reader, are recruited for spying work, and you are asked to make choices. It's the same approach to teaching history that is used within the Verzetsmuseum, the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam ("Your country has been occupied. Do you (1) collaborate and get favors from the occupiers, or (2) just behave as if nothing has happened, or do you (3) join the Resistance at great peril?")

The first three options are:
  • You are in Denmark and you want to help fight the Nazis.
  • You are a German and you want to join the Abwehr, the German spying service.
  • You are an American and want to join the O.S.S.
Spoiler to follow: 

The outcomes of the different paths are sometimes successes where you the reader survive.

But sometimes they end in the death of the reader. Shot by the Nazis or dead when a parachute doesn't open. But you know as you die you did something to fight evil.

The endings depend on the choices, as in real life.

At each ending, the reader is sent to the concluding section which tells how the war concluded. The idea that one could have affected the outcome of the war is not in this book. That would be Science Fiction, where alternative futures are offered by someone coming back from the future. That is the theme of, for example, Time Bomber by Robert Wack.

This book is well written and designed, and is extremely instructive. I recommend it.

I have also read another book in this series, World War II Pilots.

No comments:

Post a Comment