Thursday, March 08, 2012

Memory Lane: "Golden Sword of Dragonwalk" by R.L. Stine

I’ve always loved used book fairs and sales. In years past, I’d bring home huge stacks every time I went. Books that looked marginally interesting to me, well they were only a buck or two, sometimes less, throw them in the basket. These days, I’m a little pickier about what I bring home, mainly because I don’t want to end up on one of those A&E shows. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that not every book that I get for review needs to come home, and I’m painfully culling the books that fill up my storage building and donating them to the local symphony league’s semi-annual sale, which is also a great place for me to replenish the hoard.

I stopped in last weekend looking not for myself, but for my son. He’s a “Nate the Great” addict, and I’ve been desperately searching for other books that he likes as well as those to keep him going after he runs through that series. The book fair’s a great place for that because I can walk out with a huge stack of books for five or six dollars – the price of one new book. If he sets one aside after the first page, not interested, I’m not that worried about it. It only cost a quarter or 50 cents.

As I was browsing through the shelves of the children’s section, my gaze landed on a very familiar cover, one that I hadn’t seen or thought about in years.

From about fourth through sixth grade, I had a fling with various book series where the reader chose how the story progressed and ended. They went by the names Twist-a-Plot, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, etc., and at the end of each page was a choice. You turned to a different page, depending on the choice you made. Some required dice or other items, but most were simple choices.

One of my favorites was “Golden Sword of Dragonwalk” by R.L. Stine, written before his Goosebumps fame. It was from the Twist-a-Plot series, and I literally read the covers off of it. By the time I was finished, the book was a dog-eared, tattered and torn mess. The cover was almost unreadable and barely hanging on. I know I experienced every possible scenario and storyline in the book, and even after I knew I’d read them all, I still kept reading, hoping to find yet another new adventure in the slim book.

As the story starts, you’re a young boy looking forward to an afternoon of adventure at your grandmother’s old house. Your fun is spoiled a bit by the fact that grandma has told one of her neighbor’s that you’ll look after their seven-year-old daughter Stacy. You decide to take her exploring with you, and she discovers a doorway to the world of Dragonwalk, where you’re met by a wizard named Merle who gives you a legendary golden sword to defeat three dragons that have enslaved the world. How things turn out is up to you.

I hadn’t thought of the book in years, but when I saw it on the shelf, in near-mint condition, I couldn’t leave it – especially not with the price tag of a quarter on it. My son, when shuffling through the books I’d brought home, got to it, held it up slyly and said, “this one’s for you, isn’t it daddy?” Well, yeah, I guess it was. I read through it for the first time in close to 30 years that night. Some of the decisions you have to make in the book, to an adult mind, seem pretty obvious for getting you where you want to go. Some, though, still rely on chance, and my first attempt, even these many years later, didn’t end well. To my surprise, though, I found the book was still kind of fun in a nostalgic sort of way.

Granted, the book is for a little older age group than my son, who is in first grade, but I’m hopeful that he’ll enjoy it as much as I did one day. And if not, well, I managed to regain a piece of happiness from my childhood, and you can’t beat that for a quarter.

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