The thing about these books is you have to mark your previous spot with your finger, in case you make the wrong decision.
I opened a book and explained to my daughters that it was about making good choices. I expected eye rolls but got none. Children often judge an actual book by its cover, and this cover looked good, so they were interested.
"It's a choose-your-own-adventure book," I said. They cheered. For the uninitiated, these books offer you choices at the end of each page. Each decision jumps you to a different part of the story. My 6-year-old likes the control. My 3-year-old likes that her sister likes it.
The thing about these books is you have to mark your previous spot with your finger, in case you make the wrong decision. Like when we read the one about a boy lost in a haunted house and our decision led him to fall down a trap door. My daughter stopped me.
"Wait, wait, wait," she said. "I've changed my mind, let's go back and do the other choice."
She dismissed my claim that we were cheating. "No, no," she said. "It's just a book, it's fine."
In our book about choices, the main character was excited about swinging on the playground at recess. But when she got there, a boy was on her favorite swing.
"Do you push him off the swing or ask him if he is willing to share the swing with you?" I asked my daughters.
In unison, they started to chant: "Push him off! Push him off!"
I looked at them sternly. "Really?" I said. They nodded.
"Now you're in big trouble, the teacher is here," I read. "Do you apologize and get off the swing, or double down and start swinging?"
"Double down! Double down!" they chanted.
Our protagonist got in trouble, of course. And each opportunity she had to right the ship was cast aside by my giggling little girls.
"These are poor decisions," I repeated several times. They were testing me though, so I let it go.
The character lost her recess privileges, then got detention and her parents were called. And she lost a potential friend. If the book didn't end, she probably would have robbed a bunch of banks and died young in the gutter.
I think they could sense my worry and assured me that they were just being silly. "We know the right choices," my oldest said.
"Well, I think we should reread it and you should prove it," I said.
This time, at the end of the first page, they opted to ask if the boy on the swing was willing to share. The book directed us to the very back, where we learned our hero found a new friend. The end.
"That's it?" my daughter exclaimed. "That wasn't very fun."
"What if it was the real world, what would you do?" I asked.
She looked at the picture. "Well, there's a bunch of swings, I would just use one of those instead," she replied.
I looked at my 3-year-old for an answer. "I would go down the slide," she said.
Reach Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-580-8490. On Twitter: @DaveManley