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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Remembering R.A. Montgomery, Who Helped Create The 'Choose Your Own Adventure' Books

Chooseco Publishing
The "Choose Your Own Adventure" series allowed for young readers to go on a personalized adventure with each decision made throughout the story.

Many readers fondly remember the childhood joy and suspense brought by the Choose Your Own Adventure books. This series allowed young readers to make choices throughout the book that changed the story slightly, finishing with one of up to 14 different endings.

"These books gave [the reader] power over the story. And that engaged a lot of young people who thought they didn't like to read." - author Doug Wilhelm

Almost 200 books were published before the series was canceled in 1998. One of the co-founders of the series, R.A. “Ray” Montgomery, recently resurrected Choose Your Own Adventure through his independent publishing company, Chooseco LLC, in Waitsfield. After a four-year battle with cancer, Montgomery passed away last week in Warren.

Doug Wilhelm, author of several Choose Your Own Adventure books, is certain Montgomery’s legacy will live on. A close friend of Montgomery’s, Wilhem describes him as “an extra large character. He was a big guy, very gregarious and incredibly creative. You couldn’t help but be drawn into conversation with him, which was usually about ideas,” Wilhelm says.

Credit Chooseco Publishing
Ray Montgomery, pictured here, was "an extra large character," says Dough Wilhelm. "He was a big guy, very gregarious and incredibly creative."

Montgomery wrote approximately 50 books in the original Choose Your Own Adventure series. Wilhelm knew Montgomery as an adventurer who used the books to help take readers around the world with him. “Ray was passionate about helping young people learn how to read, to get excited about reading and to discover the world,” says Wilhelm.

Besides taking readers on an adventure, the Choose Your Own Adventure series also helped show many young children that reading could be fun. “These books gave [the reader] power over the story. And that engaged a lot of young people who thought they didn’t like to read,” Wilhelm explains. 

Montgomery was not only passionate about the Choose Your Own Adventure series, but also a strong advocate for the other writers working with him. “One thing Ray did for writers that was extraordinary… was he allowed us to have our authorship. [He broke] the tradition that is with most children’s books in that the author didn’t get any credit,” Wilhem explains. With several published books behind his name, it was easier for Wilhem to move his own career forward and publish original works, including True Shoes, The Prince of Denial and more.

“Born aboard a deep space cruiser on a dangerous research mission, you are asked to choose your home planet. Your parents are from different planets in different galaxies. Their planets are alike enough so that you will not be a freak on either one. But they are different enough, so that your choice will have a huge effect on your life.” - Ray Montgomery, “Space and Beyond”

Many readers, even as adults, still remember Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure series vividly. “People tell me [they read] the books with their fingers stuck in all different places, because they wanted to go back and find out what would have happened if they took a different path... Ray saw its potential as a series and pushed it until it caught on,” says Wilhem, fondly. 

Learn more about R.A. "Ray" Montgomery and the new Choose Your Own Adventure series on Chooseco’s website.

Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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