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Item - Home in Time for Christmas

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Series: Choose Your Own Adventure for Younger Readers — no. 43
Translated Into: El árbol de Navidad (Spanish)
Authors: Gilligan, Shannon
Montgomery, R. A.
Illustrators: Schmidt, William (Bill) (cover)
Morrill, Leslie (interior)
Date: December, 1987
ISBN: 0553155539 / 9780553155532
Length: 49 pages
Number of Endings: 5
User Summary: You fall while putting a star on a Christmas tree, then find yourself pulled back in time to 19th century England.
Demian's Thoughts:

This is something of an oddity -- it's incredibly brief (even for this series) and holiday-themed, which makes it seem like a rush job intended to cash in on the seasonal market. The story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's over before you have a chance to think about it too hard. Giving the reader an opportunity to see one of the first Christmas trees is a nice touch, but beyond that, there's little of substance here.

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

A Christmas Choose Your Own Adventure book? The idea has appeal. The holiday season is approaching its zenith as you and your sister Alison hang the tree with ornaments on Christmas Eve. This year it's your turn to place the silver angel on top, but the moment goes wrong when the stepladder breaks and you suffer a blow to the head. The next thing you know, you're seated in a chair-like device with two boys staring at you, both dressed in old-fashioned clothes. You are in 1842 London, England, Daniel and his friend Aubrey inform you. After years of experimentation they have finished building a time machine, and bringing you to the past was its first successful test. Intriguing as time travel is, though, you don't want to miss Christmas with your family. Daniel and Aubrey have all sorts of questions regarding the future; they agree to send you back, but surely it won't make a difference if you spend a few hours with them before leaving, right?

If you ask to go home without delay, a disappointed Daniel and Aubrey prepare the time machine for departure, but it can't withstand the stress of time travel again so soon. The apparatus goes haywire. Extensive repairs may get it functioning again, but that could take years. Daniel and Aubrey suggest you consult Woznick, a powerful magician known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. A large, bearded man who bears more than a passing resemblance to Santa Claus, Woznick offers you two solutions, both risky. If he casts a sleeping spell, you'll hibernate for years and—in theory—awaken on the exact date you were transported to the past. Do you trust Woznick's spell to be that precise, or will you wake up years, even centuries, from your own time? The alternative is for him to mix a brew of magic powders that should send you home immediately, but he can't promise you'll be human when you arrive. The wrong decision is catastrophic, but the right one reunites you with your family just in time for Christmas.

Agreeing to linger a short while with Daniel and Aubrey seems harmless, but you only converse a few minutes before Daniel's mother knocks on the door to tell him it's time for the family's big Christmas party. Daniel and Aubrey reluctantly accompany her downstairs, leaving you hidden in the cupboard, not knowing when they'll return. Should you wait, or drift out into the party and risk discovery? If you stay put, you meet a party guest anxious to get away from the merry throng, a young girl grieving her mother and father's presumed death in a recent shipwreck off the African coast. You have little comfort to offer, but maybe you'll both somehow find what you're looking for. If you join the party rather than wait for Daniel and Aubrey, you encounter Daniel's sister Enid in the hallway, who is aching to show you the "secret" her father plans to reveal at the party. Christmas trees are common in your own time, but in 1842 England they're almost unheard of; you are about to see one of the first Christmas trees in the United Kingdom. But is it safe to decorate the branches with lit candles? Depending on your choices, you might extinguish a fire and save the party, but one way or another you'll make it home again, with memories of a holiday adventure to last a lifetime.

I'm personally fond of Home in Time for Christmas, but can't honestly say it's a good book. The storylines are sparse, and often end up being a dream caused by the blow to your head when you fell putting the angel on the tree. In some pathways, though, you actually have traveled to the past, which presents problems for readers who expect internal cohesion. And why, in the branch where Daniel and Aubrey try sending you back immediately, do you answer their last-second plea to tell them one detail about the future by blurting "Space invaders!"? It's a weird moment, and is never explained. [editor's note: perhaps it's a video game reference, but even for 1987 that would be a bit dated]. I enjoy Home in Time for Christmas as a cozy, brief read to stoke yuletide excitement, but it falls far short of its potential. Choose Your Own Adventure is capable of so much more.

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