Meanwhile by Jason Shiga, 80 pages, RL 3

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga has to be the most amazing choose-your-own adventure story I have ever seen! As a kid, I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure Books, cheesy as they were, for their novelty. As a bookseller, I was thrilled to see them reprinted and back on the shelves a couple of years ago. These books are great enticements for reluctant readers. And, even better, they are now making early reader versions of this series. Meanwhile brilliantly combines the "pick a path" concept with some innovative comic book technology to make up a story that has 3,856 possible endings, secret codes and hidden pages!

It's best to let Meanwhile speak for it's self - you really have to rush out to the nearest bookstore or library and experience it first hand - but I can tell you a little bit about it. The story begins simply enough. Jimmy is at the ice cream shop trying to choose between chocolate or vanilla.....

The hooks on the tabs at the edge of the pages tell you where your story leads to, depending on how you choose. Their are no page numbers in the book. Being a graphic novel, Jason Shiga figured out a way to get from plot to plot with only visual cues. And, being a book that will be read OVER and OVER again, the publisher Amulet Books had the wisdom to print the book on thick, glossy pages.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the central plot revolves a run in with a professor who has invented three machines - the Killitron 2000, the SQUID, which can transfer memories between people, and a time travel machine. The professor offers Jimmy the chance to try out one of his inventions and the stories unfold from there. As Jason Shiga says in his introduction to the book, "Instead of one story, Meanwhile splits off into thousands of different adventures. Most will end in DOOM and DISASTER. Only one path will lead you to happiness and success." So, besides just being a great story, Meanwhile also has a challenge hidden in it's pages - the challenge to find the happy ending!

Besides myself, I have seen my adult coworkers and my five year old son (who cannot read yet) pore over this book again and again. My coworker even took to putting stickies on certain pages so he could keep track of the story lines. I have no doubt this book will be a hit. It is IDEAL for long car/plane/train rides and should appeal to boys and girls alike. And, finally, I just had to include this picture of Jason in front of his intricately mapped out story!

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