The amazing book series that I devoured in my childhood — Choose Your Own Adventure — has sold hundreds of millions of copies, according to the current publisher’s website. I’m betting many of you knew and loved them when you were young, too. Now, how many of your kids’ books have you read a zillion times? They always end exactly the same way, every single time you read them. Boring! Don’t you wish you could switch it up a little? Maybe James could take the giant peach to Norway, land on a fjord, fight some Vikings and build an ice castle. Or whatever your little monsters want! Let’s turn some of your family’s favorite reads into personal Choose Your Own Adventures.
First, choose the book you want to revamp. Pick the point in the book where you’re going to depart from the original story. Copy or scan the first part of the book, up to this point, or print it off the internet. Alternatively, if destroying a book doesn’t make you feel icky, buy a second copy at a used bookstore or thrift shop and tear out the end part you don’t want. This track will make it a bit rougher to attach your newly made half, but DIY projects are allowed to look unpolished.
Get started by reading what are now the last few pages with your kids. If you need a refresher on the story, read from the beginning. We’ll call the new last page the “first departure page.” Brainstorm about what could happen next. Let your kiddos come up with three or four disparate ideas. Now — depending on how old your kids are — either you or they will write out these scenes. Each should be fairly short, maybe a couple pages.
Place all the scenes consecutively, after the first departure page, and continue numbering the pages accordingly. Now go back to the first departure page and write in all the choices and corresponding page numbers.
We’ll pretend our story features Jack, and he’s sitting in school on page 20, our first departure page. We’ve fake written three scenes, so we will put the options in like this:
-For Jack to ditch school and go to the arcade, turn to page 21.
-For Jack to get beamed up by aliens, turn to page 24.
-For Jack to discover dinosaurs invading the city, turn to page 27.
The next step is to expand exponentially, writing a few new scenes to follow each of these choices. For the short version of this project, you can just write three endings for each of the new plot lines you added. Make sure to number all the pages, then go back and write in the choices on your second departure pages. However, your book can be as long as your kids are interested in making it. Each new chapter could branch out into three more choices, and each of those could have three choices at the end, etc.
Depending on how vague or detailed your plots get, you can cross over choices and endings too. The reader could choose to have Jack ditch school and still make a choice later that brings him into the dinosaur story. It’s all up to you and your literary progeny. The key to this project is being organized. It’s all about numbering your pages. Then again, if your kids get the pages mixed up or the plots don’t stay linear, it’ll be just as fun to read and, perhaps, more so. Either way, you’re fostering your kids sense of adventure and creativity! Originals, plus fanfic, plus the infinite imaginations of kids = great literature.
*Special thanks to Aaron Warren, for the inspiration for this idea.