Apparently, according to wikipedia, I grew up in the heyday of choose your own adventure books. I was kind of excited when I looked them up that their origin story has to do with telling your kids bedtime stories and running out of imaginative material. I have never given my daughter a choice in what happens in her bedtime story, because I never get a chance: she often tells me what is going to happen, without any prompting. Let me rephrase this, it is almost impossible to get her to stop telling me what I am supposed to tell her. She also gets irritated and will change the story. Sometimes she is in the mood to see a dragon, sometimes she is not (this can change from minute to minute). She is often pretty insistent about hanging out with lemurs, bunny rabbits, and monkeys. Recently I had her fly with purple monkeys. “Mom,” she informed me, “monkeys do not fly.” I told her it was okay since it was a story. In the enchanted forest she lives in (in her bedtime story) flying monkeys are questionable but library dwelling dragons, talking lemurs, party going gorillas, tiny giraffes (she often asks me to make the animals little so she can hold them), and mermaids are fine. She takes her monkeys very seriously.
A lot of kids books are kind of interactive. They will ask the reader/listener “Do you know x?” or “Can you guess what y is?” “Do you know where z is?” Often they have correct answers because it is a question about something in the book. There are also books that ask open questions (What does your daddy do?). Then there are books that are kind of the opposite of choose your own adventure books, because they ask a question, you have a choice, but the result is going to be the same no matter what you choose. In Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus if you tell the pigeon he can drive the bus, the story makes no sense. Perhaps that is part of the point (and the title does give some direction), that the listener should learn how to respect directions and say “no” since they were told to do so. Seeing as my listener is a two year old she frequently tells the pigeon he can drive the bus. But he doesn’t because that is not how the story is set up. Do you think if I asked Mo Willems really nicely he would write a choose your own adventure kids’ book I could read to my daughter? Monster at the End of this Book (the first one, not the adulterated Elmo version), by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin, actually does a pretty good job at pulling off a children’s version of “choose your own adventure:” if you listen to Grover and stop turning the pages, you just stop turning the pages (putting down the book) and if you don’t listen to him, you keep reading and find out what happens. Kind of limited though, because you in fact have just chosen to not continue on the adventure.