Interactive Stories: Read-Alouds

Interactive fiction, game books, choose-your-own stories - books where the reader controls the story are fun no matter what you call them! You might be surprised to know that there are a ton of interactive books these days - not just the old Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks.  For the next two days, join us as we look at the many different kinds of interactive stories you can get from the Kenosha Public Library.


You could make a good argument that board books are the first “real” interactive books.  The original forerunner to Choose Your Own Adventure dates to 1976, but Dorothy Kunhardt’s classic Pat the Bunny was first published decades earlier, in 1940!  Silent Generation babies were encouraged to pat a bunny, sniff Mommy's perfume, and look at themselves in the mirror, and children's books were never the same.

While KPL doesn’t have a copy of Pat the Bunny (it’s just a little too delicate for our collection!), we can get you set up with dozens of other interactive stories for babies and toddlers. Tacos! by Lotta Niemenin is a board book that lets even the youngest reader help make dinner over the course of just a few pages.  Button! Snap! Zip! by Nicola Edwards is a skill-builder that makes practicing snaps, laces, zippers, and buttons fun.  1 2 3 Count With Me by Georgie Birkett encourages readers to trace each number, providing little ones with important pre-writing skills.  And lift-the-flap fiends will love After the Buzz Comes the Bee by Robie Rogge, which reveals helps little ones match animals to the sounds they make.

“That’s nothing like a Choose Your Own Adventure book,” you might be saying to yourself, and technically, you’re right.  But board books have been priming kids for the thrill of controlling a book experience since before the US entered World War II, and that’s pretty neat.  These early titles help equip young readers for more complicated interactive experiences.

It took a little longer for picture books to catch up.  While there were a few earlier picture books with interactive elements - such as 1990’s Quick! Turn the Page! by James Stevenson and Mo Willems’ Pigeon books - the concept hit the big time in 2011. Hervé Tullet’s international smash hit, Press Here, gives children the opportunity to “move” dots on a page by pressing, rubbing, and shaking the book when instructed. Tullet followed it up with other a number of interactive stories, like Mix It Up! and Say Zoop!

A whole micro-genre of interactive picture books sprung up in the wake of Tullet’s success. Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson is another stunner that sneaks in a lesson on the four seasons while delighting kids with a tree that changes when they interact  with it.  Bill Cotter’s Don’t Push the Button! gets kids breaking the rules - don’t push that button! - and fixing the chaos they cause.  

While the craze for these books peaked in the mid-2010s, they’re still fun for readers of all ages!  And new interactive picture books are still occasionally published, such as Darren Farrell’s Dandelion Magic and Kara Kramer’s Tell Me a Lion Story.

“These still aren’t anything like Choose Your Own Adventure books,” you might be saying, and that’s okay!  I’ve saved the best - and most CYOA-like! - for last.

If you’re looking for a traditional choose-your-path experience for patient preschoolers and early elementary students, look no further than Endlessly Ever After by Laurel Snyder. Featuring Caldecott-winner Dan Santat’s expressive illustrations, this book will get you from “Once upon a time…” to “...happily ever after”...but probably not the way you’re used to!

This one is on the longer side - in fact, we've shelved it in J Fiction - but the fractured-fairy-tale concept is one that young kids can understand and appreciate. When you're starting to transition to longer bedtime stories, this beautiful book could be a great step towards chapter books!