Flashback Friday: The places you’ll go . . .

You come to the entrance to a mysterious cave  that holds the secrets of time travel itself.  You are faced with a choice go forward or backward in time?  Either way will result in adventure!

Do you remember

The Cave of Time by Edward Packard (Bantam, c1979)

With the recent death of R.A. Montgomery, I figured I might pull up an old blog post, brush it off and post it for this week’s flashback friday!

This was the very first Choose Your Own Adventure story, published in 1979 by Bantam.  In truth, this spectacularly different sort of reading experience was the brain child of two writers: R. A. Montgomery and Edward Packard.  Edward Packard came up with his first story to introduce multiple endings and a second person perspective a few years earlier with a book called Sugarcane Island (later to become CYOA #62).  From what I’ve read, the idea came to fruition from two particular points of inspiration.  The first was Packard’s own children, whom he created a version of the Sugarcane Island adventures for as a bedtime story.  The second was the popularity of role-playing games in the 70s.  I’m suspecting particularly the advent of Dungeons and Dragons.  While it was Packard who came up with the first text, it was Montgomery who got the idea to set up and publish this new format of fiction and it  was R.A. Montgomery who eventually took the: Adventures of You idea to Bantam books where it became what we know of as Choose Your Own Adventure stories.

Interactive books set in the second person narrative.  It makes YOU the star of the story.  You get to pick between two possible ways the story will go, and then continue branching off with each following decision.  Reluctant reader friendly, engaging, interesting and with a wide range of genres!  Many of those with science and science fiction elements were based on actual scientific ideas and principles (rather than simply inventive narrative).

When the series first came out, it took some time to catch on.  But I bet most of you who were reading children’s books in the 80s encountered them.  Between 1979 and 1999 there were over 150 original titles published in the Choose Your Own Adventure Series. The original publisher put out  the last title in 1998.   A few years later, R. A. Montgomery  began republishing Choose Your Own Adventure titles under his own publishing company: Chooseco LLC.  Since 2005 they have revised and republished 40 of the original titles.    So you’ll very likely still see many of these titles on the shelves.  And they’re still being read by the young patrons who come into the library!  Edward Packard went out on his own and began a new publishing venture several years ago, with U-Venture, which has some of his classic content, and some new content.

I think the influence of these books can sometimes be overlooked.  Yet according to the founder’s website, this series is the 4th best-selling children’s series of all time.  That’s pretty impressive.   And from a genre perspective, these things are pretty awesome.  Packard and Montgomery weren’t just shuffling around a couple of scenarios.   They knew how to construct science fiction elements into a story.    And what kid doesn’t want the chance to have his own adventures in time and space?  A lot of these books have multiple plot lines and possibilities of dozens of different endings.   It’s a heck of writing job to put it all together in a single book and have it work.

R.A. Montgomery passed away at age 78 on November 9th, 2014.  His efforts in the field of children’s books, encouraging reluctant readers, and giving speculative fiction another platform will not be soon forgotten.

Interview links:

The CYOA website recently posted an interview with R. A. Montgomery.

SeanMunger.com has an interview with Edward Packard from 2013.

What was your favorite Choose Your Own Adventure story?  Did you read them following the rules or did you “cheat” and back up when endings didn’t work out?

About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on November 15, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Of course I cheated! I had to know ALL the possible outcomes. I also wrote my own CYOA story called “Lost in the Crystal Cavern,” which is fortunately lost to posterity. Thanks for the fun flashback!

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