Bullet Train Disaster by Jack Heath
Scholastic Australia RRP: $12.99
Hands up if you read ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books as a kid? These were huge in the 70s and 80s and I still have a few precious, dog-eared copies around. These were books you could read over and over, reaching a different conclusion each time depending on your choice of options along the way. It was the ultimate post-modern, interactive reading experience, long before iPads made every reading experience interactive!
Jack Heath’s Countdown To Danger series is a thrilling, action-packed revival of the choose-your-own tradition, just perfect for kids around 8-14. It will probably be received as a ‘boy’ series, although there’s nothing about it that girls couldn’t equally enjoy.
In the first book, Bullet Train Disaster, you find yourself and a friend on the platform of a curious, mountain top railway. The approaching train is like nothing you’ve ever seen before and, as you look around, there are a few suspicious looking passengers lined up too. The adventure begins at full throttle and you choose your path to get past wild animals, cutlass-wielding bandits, avalanches and volcanoes.
This is how it works….On page 11, the train swerves violently and a young boy is about to go flying through the carriage. If you choose to unstrap your buckle to catch the boy, go to page 14. If you stay in your seat, go to page 17. You could be dead by page 63, or making a bold escape at page 124 – you won’t know until you get there!
Much like Heath’s short story collection, 300 Minutes of Danger, the joy of these books is the relentless action. There is no boring filler material here, no lengthy scene setting or character development; it’s just one long climax sequence. Heath also delivers in bite size pieces, so there’s no need to read the book cover to cover – although plenty of kids find these reads hard to put down once started.
If you like Jack Heath, you might also like to check out the Scream series, reviewed here.