What we have come to know as the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books is all thanks to Edward Packard – who found that while telling his children bedtime stories, each wanted an alternate ending. So it was that he wrote a book entitled The Adventures of You On Sugarcane Island in 1969 – in fact he would write the story while traveling on the train to his law office and back home. Although it did not find itself published until 1976 when after the William Morris Agency attempted to find a book publisher to produce Packard’s work and was turned down for nearly seven years – Vermont Crossroads Press stepped up. In fact it was reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly who noted that Sugarcane Island was “an original idea, well carried out.” Over the next two years, Packard would write and release two additional interactive fiction books with Deadwood City as well as The Third Planet from Altair. In July of 1979 Bantam Books would release the first of their Choose Your Own Adventure books – written by Edward Packard entitled The Cave of Time. I was lucky enough that my grade school received a couple of copies of The Cave of Time for our library – and even reading the back cover I was totally hooked by the concept:
“You are hiking in Snake Canyon when you find yourself lost in the strange, dimly lit Cave of Time. Gradually you can make out two passageways. One curves downward to the right; the other leads upward to the left. It occurs to you that the one leading down may go to the past and the one leading up may go to the future. Which way will you choose?
If you take the left branch, turn to page 20. If you take the right branch, turn to page 61. If you walk outside the cave, turn to page 21. Be careful! In the Cave of Time you might meet up with a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex, or be lured aboard an alien spaceship!
What happens next in the story? It all depends on the choices you make. How does the story end? Only you can find out! And the best part is that you can keep reading and rereading until you’ve had not one but many incredibly daring experiences! “
When we first received The Cave of Time books at Bates Elementary, we were allowed to check them out like most other books – the popularity and demand for them would quickly change that decision – a couple of weeks after getting them, you could only read them in the library itself. Now interestingly enough, the rights to Packard’s interactive fiction books had been sold by Vermont Crossroads Press to Pocket books – who I assume was given their money back so the rights could be transferred over to Bantam Books. In total Packard would write over 60 titles for the Choose Your Own Adventure series including a handful of books for the Choose Your Own Adventure for Younger Readers series – which basically laid off some of the more gruesome endings that a reader could achieve.
Besides Packard – his publisher at Vermont Crossroads Press, R. A. Montgomery, came along with him and wrote quite a few Choose Your Own Adventure books as well. Let’s not forget another reason the interactive book series did so well, that was thanks to the artwork of Paul Granger who ended up illustrating 44 of the books. Or I should say Don Hedin as Granger was the pseudonym for the artist who worked for Reader’s Digest before going on to become art director for the magazine.
The Cave of Time provided the opportunity for readers to inadvertently become time travelers – when visiting your Uncle Howard as you discover a strange cave, unearthed by a recent rock slide. The ultimate goal of the book centers on you attempting to get back to your own time…safely. Throughout the book depending on which direction you take in the cave you might end up coming face to face with the likes of prehistoric man, President Abraham Lincoln, King John of England, the Loch Ness Monster, a woolly mammoth, or even become a forced worker on the Great Wall of China. My favorite however happens to be a wizened immortal who might share such sage advice about whether he’s happy to be able to witness time pass by without being part of it:
“No, because philosophy is nothing outside of time. Take the tunnel to your right. Return to your own time, and let your life be your philosophy.”
The original Choose Your Own Adventure series published 184 books under that iconic imprint – ceasing producing books of the original series in 1998. The Cave of Time found itself being reprinted numerous times over the years – including receiving updated cover artwork by James Warhola – who it appears is the Son of Andy Warhol’s older brother. For what it’s worth, James actually worked on Interview magazine alongside Andy Warhol before he decided to illustrate covers for sci-fi and children’s books – an action which it has been said that Andy Warhol “expressed his disgust in his diary.”
Did you know however that The Cave of Time as well as Escape both originally written by Edward Packard were adapted into computer text/graphics games in 1985 by Bandam Software? The game takes a few liberties with The Cave of Time story such as introducing the need to recover four items of historic importance, stolen by the Time Grouches – Abraham Lincoln’s hat, a piece of flint from prehistoric man, the King’s crown, and the Loch Ness Monster’s egg. Now I will have to admit that until I started this article I had no idea whatsoever that The Cave of Time had been turned into a game for the likes of the Commodore 64 and the Apple II.
So why am I going to start writing these articles on The Cave of Time and the rest of the Choose Your Own Adventure books?
That answer is pretty simple, these books are still a blast to read – not just for children but for those of us that remain kids at heart. Furthermore I can assure that since it has been a little while since I last visited these books, that wonderful sense of dread at turning the page to reveal your chosen fate still exists. I look forward to tackling each book as we progress – hopefully finding out even more about the talented Authors and Artists that helped create this iconic book series!