Bantam, $1.75, ISBN 0-553-12819-1
Hello, you, and Your Code Name Is Jonah. Yes, you are one of the top US spies and you are tasked by your boss, JJ Obard the director of the Special Intelligence Group, to locate the missing Claude DuMont. DuMont is the director of the Center for Marine Studies and he claimed shortly before his disappearance that his team is working on cracking the secrets of a humpback whale song, which apparently could lead us all into a higher level of enlightenment. Or, at the very least, tells us where these whales disappear to in the summer. So there you go, your adventure. Just don’t get killed.
Yes, there are quite a number of ways to get killed here, and one of these endings even has an illustration of your killers posing with guns over your dead body (you can only see your shoes, though). It’s pretty awesome if you are a kid, and that’s one reason why this one works very well: it really does feel like a genuine spy caper in which the stakes are real and high. The spy elements are simplified for the kids, and the logic isn’t always sound, but the whole thing is so much fun to go through. Sure, there are stereotypes galore – evil bald men, femme fatale Russians, shifty looking henchmen, et cetera – but they only add flavor to this James Bond for Beginners romp.
There is the obligatory environmental message – come on, there are hunchback whales here after all – and even a Russian-US inter cooperation one, perhaps to turn every happy kid into a communist PETA activist, but they are incorporated seamlessly into the entire campaign.
Edward Packard is easily the best thing about the Choose Your Own Adventure line of gamebooks, and Your Code Name Is Jonah only underscores how deceptively easy he makes it all seem to be.