Pick-a-Path Picture Books Like Choose Your Own Adventure
I definitely have nostalgia for Choose Your Own Adventure and other pick-a-path books. As a kid, it was fascinating to see how my choices could affect the story, and I always had about seven pages bookmarked to backtrack and try again. You might think this was a product of the times, but even now that kids have access to an abundance of video games and other interactive stories, these books haven’t seemed to have lost their appeal. When I worked in a used bookstore, we couldn’t keep anything related to pick-a-path books in stock, including the Fighting Fantasy books. They seem to hold onto that magic even now.
Oddly, though, pick-a-path books seem to proliferate only in the 8–12 age range. There aren’t many adult interactive books (though I loved My Lady’s Choosing), and there are even fewer for younger kids. This seems like an oversight, because involving kids learning to read in making decisions in the story sounds like a great way to get them interested and involved in reading. There is a misconception that it’s not possible to make a branching path story with so few pages, but that’s shortsighted. For one thing, even a book with two endings is interactive, and Choose Your Own Adventure has figured out how to adapt the style to board books, so there’s no excuse for not having pick-a-path picture books.
I had a lot of trouble trying to gather these titles together. Not only are there not a lot of pick-a-path picture books in general, but they also have no standard label. (“Choose Your Own Adventure” is a trademark, not an umbrella term.) Because of the lack of options, I also wasn’t able to find many of these titles that were by authors or illustrators of color. At Book Riot, we try to promote a diversity of books and authors, but unfortunately, it looks like the pick-a-path picture book niche does not contain a lot of diversity. These titles are a bit of a marketing gamble, because they’re not a standard format, and I hope that in the future, publishers invest in authors and illustrators of color’s innovative titles as well — not just white authors.
If you want to have an interactive reading experience with your kid — or you want to give a kid in your life the chance to explore a branching story on their own, try these pick-a-path picture books!
Pick-a-Path Board Books Like Choose Your Own Adventure
Your First Adventure: Space and Beyond by R.A. Montgomery
If anyone can make a pick-a-path board book work, it’s CYOA. This board book is adapted from the original Choose Your Own Adventure Space and Beyond, but it’s been made toddler-friendly. There is only a short sentence per page, and two choices made: which planet to live on and whether to bring a friend. Other CYOA board books are Your First Adventure: Journey Under The Sea and Your First Adventure: The Abominable Snowman. They also have short books appropriate for 7 and up — but that are outside of the picture book parameters of this post.
Unicorns LOVE Rainbow Underpants! by Jenny Copper
The Storymaker series takes a slightly different approach to pick-a-path board books. In this book and Dinosaurs LOVE Stinky Socks!, each page has a blank spot and three pop-out cardboard options to fill in. For example: “Where do unicorns love to dance? They go to the _____ and leap and prance!” The three squares that can fit in that gap show a unicorn dancing at a disco, on an island, or on the moon! This is like a toddler Mad Libs (also a trademark, rather than an umbrella term — this type of story is also called a phrasal template word game) meets pick-a-path story.
Pick-a-Path Interactive Picture Books
Through the Forest by Steffie Brocoli and Catherine Bidet
This beautiful storybook demonstrates the possibilities for a choose your path picture book! In this one, you are exploring a forest. With numbered tabs in the shape of leaves, you can decide to go north or south, to chase a squirrel, or any of the other nature walk choices someone would make. There is quite a lot of text per page, so this is best for kids who can sit still for a while. The choices on every page will keep them engaged, though. Check out the publisher’s page for a peek inside the book and the choices you can make!
Where the Bugaboo Lives by Sean Taylor and Neal Layton
This is a perfect fit for kids who like a little bit of scariness in their reading. Floyd and his sister are looking for the notorious Bugaboo, but first they’ll run into a whole lot of other monsters. If you want to avoid the meeting, though, you can just flip to page 11! This pick-a-path story has the same beginning and ending, but lots of different ways to get there. Check out Arena Illustration for a preview of some of the fun pages inside!
Princess Adventures: This Way or That Way? by Sylvie Misslin and Amandine Piu
Two princess sisters have decided to leave their castle to have an adventure — but they both have different ideas of what that adventure should look like. The reader decides which sister to agree with, and the tabbed pages use simple icons to help kids track which page to go to next.
Picture Books With Multiple Endings
Milo and the Magical Stones by Marcus Pfister
This is the picture book that made me realize that pick-a-path picture books existed! It’s from the same author as The Rainbow Fish, and it also has those shiny foil inlays that make that book so visually appealing. This title, though, has an environmental message: when Milo the mouse finds a magical stone that provides warmth in the winter, everyone starts to hoard these stones, endangering their island. The readers decide whether they want to read the happy ending or the sad ending, which communicate to children that change is possible — but without action, there will be negative consequences. The updated 2009 edition has tips for how to be environmentally conscious. There’s also a multiple-ending sequel: Milo and the Mysterious Island.
Wolves by Emily Gravett
Emily Gravett’s experimental, collage-inspired illustrations make her one of my favorite illustrators. This one follows a rabbit who checks out a book about wolves from the library and is so engrossed that he doesn’t notice a wolf sneaking up on him. This book’s ending is infamous. Spoiler alert: it suggests the rabbit is eaten. But there’s also an alternate happy ending where the rabbit and wolf share a sandwich. Which one “really” happened? That’s up for the reader to decide. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this for nervous kids: it’s pretty scary!
Lenny the Lobster Can’t Stay for Dinner by Finn Buckley and Michael Buckley and Catherine Meurisse
This book is only an option both you and the kid you’re reading it with have a certain sense of humor. Lenny the lobster shows up to a dinner party, but everyone has bibs with him on it and they’re trying to get him to jump into a pot of boiling water. Hmm…Should Lenny stay for dinner or go? Make the wrong choice and you’ll see Lenny boiled on the dinner table! You’ll be told to go back and fix it. Only you know whether this is too much for the kids in your life!
Collaborative Storytelling Picture Books
Story Path by Kate Baker and Madalena Matoso
In this picture book, you tell the story together. Each page offers a variety of options. Once upon a time there was a…princess? vampire bat? monkey astronaut? Whichever the choice, they each take you to the next page, which has a similar set up, going through setting, plot, and other story elements. This one is more about telling a story collaboratively.
You Choose Fairy Tales by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt
Like Story Path, the You Choose books give the readers a spread of choices, and the reader has to fill in the story themselves. It starts with “Which kind of hero will you choose to be today?” There are about 30 figures to choose from, including princesses, a frog, the little red hen, and more. Readers then choose some items, a villain, and their actions. The You Choose series also includes You Choose, You Choose in Space, You Choose Your Dreams, and a You Choose Coloring Book.
Let’s Tell a Story! Space Adventure by Lily Murray and Grace Boruch
This is a very similar set up to You Choose. In this one, you first dress your astronaut, then go on an adventure and pick your reward. These collaborative storytelling books can help to encourage kids to tell their own stories and develop their creativity, but with a structure to make it less intimidating to start. There’s also Let’s Tell a Story! Fairy Tale Adventure.
LEGO Choose Your Path Books
LEGO Star Wars: Choose Your Path by DK Publishing
Let’s be honest, kids are more likely to pick this up for the Lego figure embedded in the cover than anything between the pages, but this has more staying power than most franchise tie-in books, because it has 40 different endings. These Lego Star Wars books with glossy pages always invite flipping through, but the choose your path mechanic gives it direction and rereadability.
LEGO Ninjago Choose Your Ninja Mission by Simon Hugo
Long after the minifigure has been ripped from the front cover, this book will have kids flipping through to go on 40 different ninja missions. Each page has two options: “Would you rather battle Lord Garmadon or train with Master Wu?” “Will you choose to take to the skies by dragon or by jet?” Yes, these books feel like a TV commercial printed on paper, but at least they’ll keep kids’ attention for longer than the non-interactive version that they picked up from the last Scholastic book fair and tossed aside as soon as they claimed their LEGO minifig.
Nonfiction Pick-a-Path Picture Books
Around the World in 50 Ways (Lonely Planet Kids) by Dan Smith
While interactive books can be a great storytelling strategy, they also work for nonfiction books! In this pick-a-path Lonely Planet title, readers decide on a vehicle and then make some choices with it. Some will lead to a dead end, and some will take them around the world!
You Can Control Your Voice: Loud or Quiet? by Connie Colwell Miller
A common category of “you choose” picture books is manners/self-help for kids series. Making Good Choices has a variety of these, including You Can Stop Bullying: Stand By or Stand Up? and You Can Handle Conflict: Hands or Words? Another series like this is What Should Danny Do? and What Should Darla Do?
Those are about all the pick-a-path picture books like Choose Your Own Adventure that I could find! If you’re looking for more interactive kids’ books, try 6 of the Best Interactive Board Books for Children and 12 Of The Best Interactive Children’s Books.