I vividly remember my first Choose Your Own Adventure Book (The Forbidden Castle, published way back in 1982), mainly because I chose correctly every time and ended up safely home again, unlike my sisters, who died. Most of the endings, if I remember correctly, lead to Death.
The same concept of reader directed story has been given new life in the Twisted Journey Series (Graphic Universe/Lerner), with a much more interesting half text/half colorful graphic novel format, and, speaking from limited experience, less death. I recently read the tenth of the series, The Goblin King (by Alaya Johnson, illustrated by Meg Gandy, 2009), and out of the ten different endings I reached, I only died once (she says proudly)!
The Goblin King is a fantasy adventure that's exciting without being scary, casting the reader as a kid on a school trip to a Scotland where the magical realm of fairie is very real. I fought in a battle against goblins, risked my life by agreeing to answer a dragon's riddle, was transformed into a frog, and tried to save a selkie...
Even more fun than reading this to myself was watching my 8 year old read it. Because there are so many endings, he kept going back to it, without loosing interest halfway and putting it down forever, as sadly happens with so many other books. I'm sure another part of its appeal was the way the narrative is split into pages of straight text and pages of graphics--the visuals offer a pleasant break from concentrated reading. The "you" is never shown, allowing readers to be themselves (my first time through, I was given the opportunity to chose exactly the path that I would have followed in real life, which, I am happy to say, worked out for me). Probably some of the words were to hard for my third grader (Lerner rates the series at the fourth grade reading level, and indeed, I had no problems), but here again the graphics helped to keep him reading.
After the (hopefully) successful completion of our next library book sale, I shall ask our children's librarian if she would like to buy more Twisted Journeys for the library (although I am a little leery of Number 9, "Agent Mongoose and the Hypno-Beam Scheme"). And if we just happen to be the first patrons to check them out, so be it...
Here's the riddle the dragon asked me:
I went and I got it.
I sat and I sought it.
When I couldn't find it,
I brought it home.
I didn't know the answer...