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Choose Your Own Adventure - Dragonlarks
Choose Your Own Adventure for Younger Readers — no. 39
Choose Your Own Adventure Junior — no. 4
La caravana (Catalan)
La caravana (Spanish)
Kervan yolculuğu (Turkish)
Montgomery, R. A.
Newton, Keith (Dragonlarks reissue, first printing; Australian reissue)
February, 1987 (Original edition)
May, 2007 (Dragonlarks reissue, first printing)
055315477X / 9780553154771
1741690935 / 9781741690934 (Australian reissue)
1933390549 / 9781933390543 (Dragonlarks reissue, first printing)
51 pages (Original edition)
53 pages (Dragonlarks reissue, first printing)
|Number of Endings:
|The year is 1696, and you are a Tibetan child eager to join a caravan to India.
It's nice to see an entry in this series that explores a fairly obscure subject, as gamebooks for younger readers are generally more inclined to stick with very familiar topics. Transporting the reader to a completely different time and culture is a nice idea, and R. A. Montgomery certainly deserves some credit for continuing to explore the fascination with Tibet that he first demonstrated in The Abominable Snowman (and yes, the titular creature of that adventure does make an appearance here). Unfortunately, in spite of good intentions, the adventure isn't particularly successful. The short format here is not well-suited for a tale of an extended journey -- each path through the book tends to highlight a single isolated event in the journey, and many endings are fairly abrupt. It would be much more satisfying if the reader could feel more of the scope of the trip; a single long path with all of these events might have been nicer. There's also not a lot of space for exposition, so the reader doesn't get as much sense of history or culture as might be desirable -- children not already familiar with the subject matter are unlikely to take much away from this. A noble effort, but one that might have been better served by the main Choose Your Own Adventure series for older readers.
Every kid at some point wishes to be someone else, in a different time and place. Caravan wants to be that opportunity, a story far removed from the modern Western world to an arena few young readers are familiar with. Lhasa, Tibet, the year 1696: your father is packing supplies for a long journey to India as part of a community trade caravan. For years you have wanted to accompany him on this trip, but your mother said no every time, and her opinion hasn't changed that you are not old enough to travel through craggy mountains and barren deserts, vulnerable to bandit attacks. But this year, you've waited too long to let your chance pass. Should you ask one more time to go along, or sneak out and join the caravan without your parents' knowledge?
Taking a measured approach has upside: circumstances force your father's friend Chodak to pull out the night before the caravan leaves, and you are chosen to take his place, along with your friend Sangee. A few weeks into the trip, deep in the Pamir Mountains, you are awoken one night by bright lights and a singsong tone in the distance. Exploring on your own may result in a confrontation with the legendary Yeti, but if you take Sangee with you, beware of falling mountain rocks. Are they a warning from the gods? If you push onward, you'll be rewarded with a display of lights and music that could not possibly originate in the natural world. This sort of surprising experience is why you wanted to be with the caravan in the first place.
Sneaking to join the caravan without permission may feel like an ominous choice, but it isn't so bad. Once you find their camp that first night, a caravan leader named An Sering approaches. He could use a helper; do you wish to join his team? An Sering is a reliable, industrious man, and he'll ask you to either scout ahead for danger or stay back from the front lines and take care of the ponies. The pony job has its perks, but there's still a long, perilous way to India and back. Maybe scouting beside An Sering is better: you'll learn to protect and provide for the people and animals under your watch, exactly what your father needs to see to realize you deserve to be here. If you decide not to work for An Sering, you'll meet an elderly holy man who has given up material wealth for a life of religious contemplation. You can help him find either food or shelter, and may wind up overhearing a plot by bandits to attack the caravan. Can you intervene before your dream trip to India turns traumatic?
The problem with Caravan is, the rich story concept isn't given room to breathe: every time there's a glimmer of action, you run smack into an ending before anything really happens. Even in a book this short, your international journey could be a coming-of-age narrative that brims with excitement and acquired wisdom, but R. A. Montgomery doesn't seem eager to push his own literary limits. Too bad, because what might have been the finest Bantam Skylark Choose Your Own Adventure of all is instead no better than average.
|Thanks to Ken G. for the reissue and Australian cover scans.
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Known EditionsOriginal edition
Dragonlarks reissue, first printing