The name Jack Heath leaps from my nephew’s tongue any time we discuss ‘good books for eight-year-olds’. So, like all inquisitive aunts, I get a hold of Jack Heath’s Countdown to Danger: Deadly Heist (Book number 3 in the Countdown to Danger Series. Published by Scholastic Australia/Sterling USA, ISBN: 9781760276829) – one of my nephew’s favourites. This adventure harkens back to a writing fad of the late 1970s – 1980s. Perhaps you recall the Choose Your Own Adventure books? In this book, Heath puts you in the action when your friend enters a bank that is being robbed. What will you do to save your friend? Through your quick actions, you direct the story to its ultimate end. Will you survive?
I will admit from the get-go, I’m a sucker for Choose Your Own Adventures. Did I like Heath’s treatment of the genre? Yes. There is something about a Choose Your Own Adventure that draws the storyteller in me. I like that I can read it over and over and make different decisions to come to different ends and Heath offers 30 or so different stories in this book. The story is high stakes and a fast read. In fact, Heath has written this book so that the average reader can navigate it in about 30 minutes – the perfect per-bed read time. Like many of his books, Heath has incorporated the ‘countdown clock’ on the page to give the reader a sense of urgency. As those numbers ‘tick down’, the reader is encouraged to make more perilous choices.
Beware: though Heath has mastered 2nd person/present tense, some readers find this style confronting. To put you in the action, 2nd person/present tense is the most common technique used (I am not aware of any Choose Your Own Adventure to fall away from this conveyance). This is the:
You step up to the idol and pick up the effigy of Rex, the dog god of the Xerian people. A rumbling sound breaks the thick silence behind you.
What do you do?
If you turn around, go to page 32.
If you continue to look at Rex, go to page 53.
If you’re are looking for a book for an adventurous reader, someone who might find the strictures of following along a chapter book to be too confining, then I highly recommend Countdown to Danger. I encourage you to buy it or borrow it from the library; let’s bring back this fun storytelling method.
Genre: Choose Your Own Adventure
Reading Level: Age 8+
Rating: 5 out of 5 happily sleepless nights