You Choose is a winning format which shows that stories do not need to stick to one format. It promotes speaking and listening, and encourages readers to make up the story themselves. You Choose in Space sees the format taken to intergalactic reaches on a journey through space which aims to inspire an endless number of stories.
Readers follow two characters on their travels, a boy and a girl. I love how we meet the characters at the title page. As a book which breaks with traditional formats, it is lovely to see more made of the title page and end-papers. Children are so often fascinated by the ‘non-story’ parts of a book, and I think this is an important part of book ownership, the familiarity with what makes something a book rather than a typed-manuscript. It is also great to see a wheelchair user in a book which is not about one person’s experience of a health condition. It is important for children to see disabled people as part of everyday life, not as people who only belong in stories about illness.
My favourite thing about the book is encourages confidence in storytelling without any instructions. Children are natural storytellers! The different choices act as a spring-board. It would be worth discussing with children that when we imagine things, we take ideas from the world around us. Challenge them to find something in the pictures which doesn’t exist in the world. When they point to a chocolate planet, or a bus made of jelly, discuss the fact the jelly and buses, chocolate and planets all exist! It is amazing how liberating this understanding is. We’ve all met somebody who says they have no imagination, but those people are usually happy to point and state, or to blend things they have observed into something new.
I love the range of ways the choices are presented, from a cinema audience of potential characters to a conveyor belt of food. My favourite has to be the spaceship which looks as if it has endless rooms, although I also like the clothing choices, which remind me of the drag’n’drop dress-up games I played online in the days of early broadband.
This book will appeal to a wide age range – from tots to pre-teens. There is a rhyming couplet on each double-page spread in large font, which makes it suitable for the youngest readers. Nick Sharratt’s illustrations are popular with older readers, as they are familiar from Jacqueline Wilson’s ever-popular titles. Like many people who grew up with Wilson’s novels, I remember trying to copy Sharratt’s drawings, which look deceptively simple. You Choose In Space will inspire budding artists and cartoonists as much as storytellers.
I don’t use a star system, but if I did I would award You Choose in Space a galaxy full of stars. Only fair when it offers infinite possibilities.
Huge thanks to Sarah Hastelow and Penguin Random House for sending a copy in exchange for review. This does not affect the honesty of this review.