by Jason Shiga
Ok, so I'm not in the habit of reviewing books for children but this one is ingenious. Jason Shiga majored in mathematics at the University of California and his interest in puzzles, games and those choose-your-own-adventure books that I remember loving as a child, have helped him to create a genuinely unique innovation in graphic novels. Meanwhile begins with a simple question for its hero, Jimmy: which ice-cream flavour does he want, chocolate or vanilla? Your choice here will have a major impact on what kind of adventure he goes on. A few pages later you will have to decide whether you want to take a look in a medicine cabinet and then which of Professor X's three inventions you want to play with. Then it starts to get really complicated.
The graphic panels are linked by tubes, following these with your finger to the tabs on the edge of each page leads you to flicking back and forth through the book as you follow the path designated by the choices you make. Along the way there are codes required to help you progress and plenty of times where the wrong decision results in the destruction of the entire human race. Shiga also manages to work in theories of time travel, entropy and multiple universes in a way that is digestible for children and even rather fun.
The front cover claims that there are 3,856 story possibilities but most of those are different by only a panel or two. In reality it seems that there are at least 20 different ways the story might pan out and its the kind of book that I can imagine would amuse a child for hours as they make they way back and forth, beginning again after they find themselves at a dead end, literally. I remember the temptation to cheat with the CYOA books I read as a child, that's why Shiga has put the codes in here, he wants to make sure the book, like modern computer games, has as long a playability as possible. To give you an idea of the complexity of his task here is a photo of the man himself in front of his original black and white schematic for the book.
If you're a bit geeky or you have children aged between about ten and the early teens then this book would be a great gift. The pages are thick and glossily laminated to help its durability with all that page-turning and whilst I'm sure there'll come a time when its novelty wears off they, or you, will have travelled through time frequently enough to have made it more than worth your while. You can find it here.