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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Elaine Landau asks "What Would You Do?"

Enslow Publishing and the lovely Elaine Landau have created a new series "What Would You Do?" that must be in your elementary and middle school collections. The queen has spoken. Go get them now! What? You question me?! You’re just like my children. I tried commanding them and it didn’t work either. <sigh> They said we live in a democracy and they get to participate in the decisions being made. I guess I shall have to tell you more about these titles. Then you decide what you will do.

This is a visually appealing series. From the cover with its historical illustration and speech bubble coming from the mouth of George Washington (and others) with the words "What Would YOU Do?" you get the idea that this series may be more than just a historical book of facts about periods and incidents in American history. Each double-page spread is well-conceived with a mixture of maps, archival photos, and even modern photographs of items like the Delaware River choked with ice in winter. 

The text is very readable and engaging. Students will want you to continue to read and will seek out additional information from the resources listed in the end. Author Elaine Landau has a great talent for taking complex incidents in history and writing them in a new and appealing way for readers to be involved. Instead of a recitation of dry events, a story of the past is shared using vocabulary and sentence structure to interest students from the beginning English learners to the gifted and talented strong academics. The text is written for third and fourth graders; however, the content will be of interest through middle school. (I know, I tried it out on my U.S. History classes. My ELD and newly immigrated students were also very enthusiastic.

Look at George Washington Crosses the Delaware: Would YOU Risk the Revolution? This book will surprise you with the amount of historical details about many aspects of General Washington’s army that winter and the enemy they fought – the hired Hessians and the British. Each chapter ends with an interactive box of questions and possible answers. Students and teachers will be unable to resist the lure of interacting and second-guessing the decisions these leaders faced. Give students time to actually make a choice, then turn to the next chapter and read-on to see what decisions were made in history. It is acceptable to pause and ask the students who made the "correct" decision based upon hindsight. 

Examine The Revolutionary War Begins Would YOU Join the Fight? and you’ll gain needed background information about why the war began and what happened before 1776. At one point the Sons of Liberty needed to warn people that the British were coming. Haven’t you wondered why it was such a big deal? What was the real reason this was significant? Please don’t just give me facts. Entertain me with a story and involve me in empathizing with those who made choices. Aha! That’s exactly what Elaine does. 

What’s the effect? When you finish reading these 44 pages and look at the timeline, you realize the story of history continues and you want, no NEED!, more information. How many of these titles can Elaine write? If we’d had these earlier, students would have never decried studying history.

Some of the other titles in this series I examined:
The Louisiana Purchase Would YOU Close the Deal?
The California Gold Rush Would YOU Go For the Gold?
The Battle of Gettysburg Would YOU Lead the Fight?
The Emancipation Proclamation Would YOU Do What Lincoln Did?

Okay, I have laid out the facts. Appealing titles, high browsability, strong stories that lend themselves to being read aloud to large groups, interactive titles that involve the readers, accurate facts with details not found in other titles like this…. What will you do? Will you rush out and purchase the entire series? Yes, of course you will. I can see the next chapter already when you are joining me in writing to Elaine Landau pleading for more tales.