Geared for younger children, The Haunted House contains a very simple premise: Your dog chases a cat into a spooky old house. Now, what do you do?
This book gives children the opportunity to make their own choices, and create their own story. If you ever chose your own adventure as a kid, you’re familiar with the concept, but perhaps not with this younger version of it.
The first thing I noticed, when I flipped through the book, were large, colorful pictures on nearly every page. The text itself is large, dark, and bold — easy to see so early readers can follow along. (And when a legally blind person says something is easy to see, you know I mean it! :) ) Most of the pages contain only a couple of paragraphs of text, and there are a lot of choices. After the setup, you get to a choice on practically every page, or every other page. This definitely helped hold my kids’ interest!
I read this with my 6-year-old kindergartener and my 3-year-old preschooler (almost 4). They both seemed to enjoy making choices, and the stories ended before they became too long or tedious.
Fair warning: This book is whimsical, to say the least. Many of the things that happen inside that house are random and silly. You might stumble across a unicorn, or end up in a funhouse. If you’re looking for logic and cohesion, this isn’t going to be a good fit for you.
Some of the paths through this book were great. I particularly appreciated the path solidly built in for children who may be frightened (or who at least keep choosing the “run away” options), to put them at ease. If your child chooses to run away, the book will let him. Here’s an excerpt: “‘Yip! Yip! Yip!’ It is Homer. He is waiting for you outside. He is safe and so are you.”
I also particularly liked the choice of whether or not to take candy from a stranger. If you do, you get to the only bad ending — you turn into a furry turtle. So, bad but silly, and a gentle lesson.
My only reservation about the book was that many of the endings really were random, and basically without consequence. A few too many of them had you waking from a dream. (Then again, one is too many for my taste…this may be my adult writing “rules” getting in the way, but I really dislike that kind of ending.)
I made the mistake, after reading through a couple of scenarios with my kids, of going through the other choices myself all at once. Don’t do this. I highly recommend you enjoy this book with your children, letting it be silly, and letting them enjoy the fact that each time they read the book, it is a little bit different. This was about the perfect reading level for my kindergartener. My preschooler also enjoyed it, but it probably helped that she has an older brother to emulate.
Note: This book was reissued by Chooseco in 2007. It was originally released in 1983, under a different cover. Both text and pictures have been updated in the latest version.