Rainy days, car rides, or sleepy afternoons are the perfect opportunities for adventure. There were days when I would crawl out of bed with my mother's hand-quilted covers wrapped around me like a cocoon. I would run my fingers along the spines of the few books I had collected in grammar school, already bent and dirty from too much love. I could hear by brother waking up in the next room. Smiling to myself, I plucked a particular book and dashed into his room, most likely to jump on his bed and pummel him (playfully, of course), until he agreed to play a game with me.
Even for my brother, who hated to read, there was a certain type of book he was loath to pass up reading. They're called, I think, Choose You Own Adventure books or simply gamebooks. Are you familiar with them?
These are books you can't read from cover to cover. You, the reader, are the main character of the story - meaning, the whole book is written in second person point of view (incredibly impressive). Your job is to follow the directions at the bottom of each page, telling you which page to turn to next, or, even better, making you decide between two different paths. You're in the forest a night and you hear a twig break behind you. Keep walking to the cabin and ignore the noise? Turn to page 26. Pull your baseball bat out of your backpack and go find out who made the noise? Turn to page 134.
My first exposure to these types of books was through R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series. My brother was the great collector of the series... by default. He hated reading The Boxcar Children, so relatives looking for a great gift would run out and buy Goosebumps books for him instead. He didn't read them, though, unless someone did it for him, haha.
When we did stumble upon the "Give Yourself Goosebumps" series, it was hard to say no to a tantalizingly new way to play with books. The holographic cover, with it's freaky pictures, were as appealing to our eyes as rare Pokemon cards. The two of us would park it on a couch or on one of our beds and take turns reading the pages out loud. We would often argue about what page to turn to when it came time to make a decision - it was always important to choose the right page. Making the wrong decision could result in a "bad ending," meaning that you'd find yourself either transformed, trapped, or most likely dead by unfortunate circumstances. In order to avoid the bad ending, I think everyone has cheated. At least once. Cheating, meaning, holding the pages with your fingers or bookmarks so that, if you get a bad ending, you can go back and choose the right one. I'm so guilty of this. When I opened one of books in order to write this post, I saw I still had post-it notes still stuck inside the front cover flap - at the ready! Haha!
My favorite bad ending ever is from book one of the series called Escape from the Carnival of Horrors. If you somehow end up on that side of the carnival (the one with the rides, not the midway), you may end up facing the Doom Slide. You are given a series of at least five or six choices on this one. You have no choice but to pick a slide - but which one? If you choose the wrong numbered slide, you might end up sliding for all eternity! Ahh! I won't tell you which one is the never ending slide, but I will give you an idea of what happens. This is an excerpt from that page; I typed it up because I really wanted indenting, haha (and I won't cite the page number for obvious reasons):
Whew! *shivers* I was wildly scared of this ending, every time. I couldn't image what it would be like to do anything forever. My grown-up brain is wondering exactly how long it would take for me to burn a hole through my pants, and if, since I'd be sliding all eternity, I would have a butt at all by the time I died. Painful. What would happen if I decided to end it sooner, or see if I could escape somehow by rolling off or propelling myself off the slide? Would the slide just double-back and catch me as I fell, or would I fall forever? If I got bored, could I have a conversation with the voice that told me I'm doomed? This may be why I love this ending so much - it makes me think.
In researching a bit for this post, I'm shocked to discover that Stine wrote forty-two of these books. Oh my gosh. I had always hoped to collect all of these books, but now my dream is dashed against the side of a craggy cliff. I guess I should be happy with what I have:
#1 Escape from the Carnival of Horrors
#2 Tick Tock, You're Dead!
#3 Trapped in Batwing Hall
#4 The Deadly Experiments of Dr. Eek
#15 Please Don't Feed the Vampire
Judging by the numbers, you can see that we must have gotten them around the time they were first being released. Why the jump to #15? Well, I just found Please Don't Feed the Vampire a few weeks ago at a small shop. It was very exciting, haha.
On a less spooky note, I found an old book that works the same way as these Goosebumps books do. It's called The Magic of the Unicorn by Deborah Lerme Goodman. The illustrations are beautiful; I'm looking at it right now, wishing I could read it for the first time. I'm actually two books away from finishing Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, so I'm banning myself from starting anything new before then (I'm a chronic multi-reader). Because if this delay, I'll type out the blurb for Goodman's book:
"Only a unicorn's horn can purify the water in your medieval village - so you set off to find a unicorn. After a long search you meet a sorceress who promises to help you. She offers you a choice between two spells. One will give you the power to speak to animals. The other will weave you a golden net for catching magical beasts. Which spell will you choose?
If you choose to speak with animals, turn to page 44. If you choose the golden net, turn to page 49. Take heed! The realm of the unicorn is perilous. You may be burned to a cinder in a dragon's fire or turned into a tree by an evil wood-witch. Or you may find the unicorn and bring it home in triumph!"
Take heed! These books are addicting! I wish I could say I've grown out of them, or that I've put these books up for sale or sent them to another loving family in a donation bin. I would be lying. I have plans for these books, most involving sitting down with friends and traversing the scary, quirky worlds these authors have created. Now this, ladies and gents, is a worthy adventure.