Choose Your Own Adventure books are one of my strongest book memories from primary school (along with Coles Funny Picture Books, Scholastic Book Clubs, and the unfortunately titled Digit Dick books that my Year 2 teacher used to read us). Discovering an as-yet unread novel with the red Choose Your Own Adventure bubble at the top of the white cover was always cause for celebration and delight.
It was exciting to watch my own children discover Choose Your Own Adventure stories for themselves. We have borrowed them regularly from our local library and I’ve picked up a few here and there at second hand stores.
The books have also been republished over the past 10 years, generally with revised text, by Scholastic with new covers (black and darker colours now with more prominent titles, but the red bubble remains). I haven’t read any of the newer versions in detail, so I’m not sure how extensive the revisions are. No doubt it has been important to add mobile phones and computers smaller than a cupboard to keep the attention of modern children.
My youngest, Mr8, has just discovered CYOA books and is quite impressed with them. He has started with a 1983 edition of The Race Forever by R A Montgomery and I can only imagine what kind of automotive technical wizardry the book deals with as the adventure follows the First African Dual Road Race Rally. I’ve noticed him back-tracking to find a more satisfactory storyline, although I’ve yet to see him bookmarking pages with his fingers as I used to do, trying to keep track of the story until I didn’t have enough fingers free to actually hold the book.
A few years ago I reviewed a new CYOA-style series, Ranger in Danger by Alison Reynolds. Like the original, they regularly allow readers to choose between two options to determine the direction the story takes. The Ranger in Danger series has an environmental focus, however, as they are based on the adventures of Australian ranger, environmental activist and founder of The Thin Green Line Foundation, Sean Willmore.
Choose Your Own Adventure stories are such a great way to get kids enthusiastic about reading. Being able to control the story and make choices that hopefully won’t end up in tragedy, imprisonment or some equally nasty result is lots of fun and could be the added incentive reluctant readers need to encourage them to pick up a book. I’ve included Choose Your Own Adventure books and the Ranger in Danger series on my list of books for advanced younger readers as well.
Do you have a favourite Choose Your Own Adventure book? I always loved the Mystery of the Maya and Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? Are there any other CYOA-style series that you can recommend?