Raymond Almiran Montgomery, the publisher-turned-author of the popular Choose Your Own Adventure book series, passed away Nov. 9; he was 78 years old.
Montgomery, who wrote under the name R.A. Montgomery, didn’t create Choose Your Own Adventure books. The concept came from Ed Packard, an author who approached Montgomery’s publishing house, Vermont Crossroads Press, in 1977 with an interactive book called Sugarcane Island.
If Montgomery didn’t create the central concept of the books, however, a life spent as an active game designer allowed him to see the books’ potential. According to The New York Times:
“I Xeroxed 50 copies of Ed’s manuscript and took it to a reading teacher in Stowe,” in Vermont, Mr. Montgomery told The New York Times in 1981. “His kids—3rd grade through junior high—couldn’t get enough of it.”
Vermont Crossroads published the book as part of a series called The Adventures of You.
Montgomery left Vermont Crossroads Press to work for Bantam Books, taking the adventure book series with him. Bantam changed the name of the series to the now-iconic Choose Your Own Adventure, with Montgomery’s first installment, Journey Under the Sea, published in 1979; readers could choose from one of 42 possible endings.
According to Chooseco, the current publisher of the book series, Choose Your Own Adventure is now the 4th best-selling children’s book series ever, with over 260 million copies sold. Many authors have published books under the series (Montgomery contributed over 50), including Packard; the series has over 230 titles in total.
Montgomery’s last Choose book, Gus vs. the Robot King, came out in August; his company hasn’t stopped, and, in keeping with the times, has also been publishing e-reader versions as well.
The books have been a staple of youth literature, and their legacy of allowing an active role in a storyline shows throughout popular culture, whether in the video game “Skyrim” or in loving(ish) parodies of the books themselves.
“CHOOSE books have been the adventure of my life,” Montgomery wrote in 2009. “Reaching out to kids and letting them know that they count, that they can make choices, that they can fail and try again, that they can fashion their lives and respond to the challenges along the way. I love what I do.”
Image: Oh, no, the octopus got you. Credit: Fantastic Fiction
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.