Book List: The Best of Transmedia & Alternate Format Storytelling

Books are amazing in the way that they can create a whole world using nothing but words. That being said, there is also something to be said for transmedia storytelling. Transmedia storytelling is when a story can be experienced through multiple formats. While it may seem that adding other media forms to a book could be distracting, or a way to compensate for weak writing, when done correctly it can really make for an amazing reading experience. When talking about books, transmedia storytelling can include books that include things such as photos, trading cards, websites, and so on. Below is a list of some of my favorite books that fall into this unique category:

cathys_bookCathy’s Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8283 by Sean Stewart (Cathy Vickers Trilogy)

Cathy’s Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8283 is written in the form of a journal kept by the main character, Cathy Vickers. As the story goes on it becomes clear that not everything is as it first seems. The journal format of the book works well to tell the story, but what really sets this book apart is the interactiveness of it. All of the phone numbers in the book can be called, the websites accessed, and so on. The hardcover book even comes with a packet of “evidence” that contains everything from napkins with things written on them to photos and postcards. All of this real world interaction really immerses you into the story in a way most books can’t.

miss_peregrines_coverMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Series)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a wonderful dark fantasy tale that follows the adventures of Jacob Portman as he discovers that his grandfather’s tales of children with mysterious powers may be far more real than he could have ever imagined. The story itself is wonderfully written and the characters are ones that you won’t forget. What really brings the story to life though is the collection of really vintage photos from private collections. The photos are eerie and stunningly beautiful, and while they match the story perfectly, they also all seem to tell a story of their own. This book is an absolute joy to read and I highly recommended it, both for the shockingly brilliant story and the stunning photos.

maze_bonesThe 39 Clues Series by various authors

The 39 Clues books follow the story of what happens to Amy and Dan Cahill when their grandmother, and closest relative, Grace Cahill, passes away and sets them, and a family they knew little about, on a massive scavenger hunt around the world for a quest for the ultimate prize. The 39 Clues Series has an interesting marketing model for a book series. While books are the heart of it, there are many additional things that make the books stand out from the crowd. First of all are the books themselves, each one is written by a different author (though some have written more than one in the series). I think this is a very interesting style choice and it is interesting to get a somewhat different style in each book. A further thing that makes the books unique is the unique trading-card style cards that are packaged in the front cover of each book. The cards vary from full color art to photographs, with some having something on both sides while others have a solid back. The cards are beautifully done and really add something unique to the books. While each book’s cards are the same as all other copies of that book, random blind box sets of cards can be purchased to gain additional cards. These additional cards aren’t needed to enjoy the book but do add to the world of the story. The cards are great as collectibles but they can also be used to play a TCG style game. The books also have multiple code type puzzles throughout that usually offer some sort of clue or fact regarding the story.  The final way that this series incorporates transmedia storytelling is a website where you can solve puzzles, play games, enter contests, keep track of your cards, and more. This book series mixes a great story with a truly unique marketing model that combined make a reading experience like no other.

recklessReckless by Cornelia Funke (Mirrorworld series)

Reckless tells the story of a young boy, Jacob Reckless and his adventures in a place know as Mirrorworld after a family tragedy rocks his life. The story itself is a brilliant fantasy adventure full of great creatures and adventure. What’s really brilliant about this book is the black and white illustrations that are found at the start of each chapter. Some drawings are more detailed than others, but they are all very pleasing to look at. Overall I just really loved everything about this book, from the amazing story to the beautiful artwork.

why_we_broke_upWhy We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

In all honesty I have never made it through the entire book, I have started several times and just never managed to make it through– it’s not the book’s fault, it’s just been bad timing. That being said, what I have read was very enjoyable. This book tells of the of a couple’s journey throughout their relationship and why it ended. The story telling was interesting; you start the book knowing the outcome and yet you still want to know how that end was reached. What really makes this book special, though, is the beautiful full-color illustrations by Maira Kalman. The illustrations are in a loose, rough sketch type of style but are very well done. They show images of things being discussed in the story and really make this book shine.

hugo_cabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The story of The Invention of Hugo Cabret follows the life of twelve-year-old Hugo Cabret, an orphan who lives in a train station. His main goal is to fix an automaton that he used to work on with his father. Being an orphan, he gets into all kinds of trouble just trying to stay alive. At one point he loses his notebook that has all of the information about how to fix the automaton and works in a toy booth owned by an old man Georges Méliès in order to try to get his book back. He befriends the man’s nice Isabelle and then things start to get really interesting. Isabelle has a key that for some reason fits into the back of Hugo’s automaton and causes it to draw a picture. The two children then set out to discover the secret of the automaton and the apparent link it has to Georges Méliès. One of the most interesting things about the book is the way that the story is told. The best way to describe it is as a picture book for all ages. The Invention of Hugo Cabret combines text with pages of black and white drawings. The two forms of storytelling work together to provide a truly unique reading experience.

-Angela J., 12th grade

The Hunger Games vs. Divergent


Most people have read either Divergent or The Hunger Games before, since both were a sensation because of the movies that came out based on them. However, that’s not the only thing that these two book series have in common. In fact, there are many different ideas that could be compared to.


Number of books: they are both a trilogy, no matter how many short side stories there are.

Genre: They both are set in a future America where there is slightly more advanced technology and something has gone wrong, so all the laws were changed.

Main hero: Both have a girl as their hero and main character. For The Hunger Games, it’s Katniss Everdeen. For Divergent, it’s Tris (Beatrice) Prior.

The government’s thoughts: The main ruling government would later be after the heroine (as in most books).

Inciting incident: These two heroines start the route of their story by doing something that the government doesn’t expect.

Of course, if we are comparing these two books, we should know their differences, too.


The heroine’s views of their society: Katniss doesn’t like the government and wishes that there were different rules, for she is of the poorest district, and has to feed herself, her four year younger sister, and her sort of there mom. Tris, on the other hand, while she does wish to be with a different caste, she is okay with her government’s rulings.

The love story: I felt that Katniss was forced to love the guy. Even though he loved her, it never seemed like she loved him in the same way. However, Tris and the guy she likes definitely loved each other. Whenever, one of them needed emotional help, the other was usually there to give it to them, and whenever they kissed, the detailed descriptions showed that they meant each and every kiss.

Hero’s development: Katniss doesn’t learn much; she keeps her traits throughout her story. Tris, however, does change her beliefs; by the end of book one, she has clearly not feel the same way as she had in the beginning of the book.

Endings: I want readers to firstly know that this is my opinion, and everyone is entitled to their personal opinions, whether or not they agree with me. I felt that while The Hunger Games trilogy had a somewhat short and boring ending, it resolved the plot in a good way. However, the Divergent trilogy ends in a long, detailed, but very disappointing and terrible resolution.

In the end, I can say that these two series are awesome, no matter what their pros and cons are. I’d advise you to try them both!
-Megan V., 8th grade


Book Review: Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

water_chocolate“A novel in Monthly Installments with recipes, romances, and home remedies”

As soon as one steps into the story of Tita, the youngest daughter in an intimidating Mexican family living in the late 1800s, one is literally swept off their feet into the world of Latin magical realism.

Following the story of Tita over the expanse of many years crammed into the divisions of twelve months of a year, the storyline defies time going forward, backwards, and sometimes seemingly sideways, all stories, tangents, and anecdotes falling into place with the conclusion of the novel.

The plot follows the love life of Tita, each month of the year in its division of the novel, preceded by a recipe, and each recipe offering valuable foresight into the misadventures of her life. The novel rotates around food, so it isn’t irrational that food should begin to take on a magical quality of its own.  It becomes undeniable that the preparation of the food isn’t just seasoning; it makes a home for Tita.

In January, the story goes back in time to tell of Tita being introduced into the world while being swept up on a wave of tears, being formed from when she first felt the stung of onions as her mother was chopping them in the kitchen. The novel picks up and what follows is a love story, but the heated career of her life is set against the backdrop of cooking, the food taking on magical alchemical properties of its own and helping to mold the story. Tita falls in love with a man who she cannot marry due to the archaic rule of her household; the youngest daughter must live and care for her mother until the mother’s death. She is set in tragic twist of fate, her older sister being married off to the man she loves.

The food comes into play with magic as she cooks her way through the kitchen. In February she makes a wedding cake for her sister’s wedding to the man she loves and accidentally cries into the batter, making all who consume become both sick in the heart and within their stomachs. A quail in rose sauce that she creates from a lovingly given bouquet of roses given to her by her lover makes the other sister of the family run off in love and passion with another man.

Overall, I thought it was a spectacular introduction to the world of magical realism, and reading it left me “hungry” for more. One should read perhaps though with a grain of salt, but still play along, you must accept the magic woven into the story as the characters do in their own lives for it to make sense and for the wonder to take a hold of you as well.

As a word of warning: this should be read by ages 15 and up. As it follows an intense impassioned love story there are minor bits of sexual imagery that should not be read by the wrong audience. Proceed with caution and eat all you’d like, for the story will take you on the ride of your life.

-Sophia U., 11th grade

Book Review: Matilda, by Roald Dahl

matildaIf you were a super genius with super dumb parents, how would you deal with it? The book Matilda by Roald Dahl is all about how five year old Matilda deals with all the adults in her life that underestimate her and her amazing superpowers, and one adult who becomes her helpmeet.

As a general rule I LOVE Roald Dahl. His witty and creative writing always evokes a laugh out loud response. I find myself genuinely adoring the main character, detesting the notorious villain, and overall loving the world that Dahl creates. It’s a place I hate to leave when the book is over and excitedly anticipate when I crack open one of his books for at least the fifteenth time.

There have been movies and even Broadway musicals based on Matilda, the girl genius, but to me the book will always be magical. Just because it is there that I first envisioned the characters, the very world, that I could not visit myself and I’m sorry but movies will never do that for me. So read this book– and if you’ve read this book, read another Dahl book. If you haven’t read anything by Roald Dahl, I want you to head down to Barnes and Nobles and buy as many Roald Dahl books as possible. Now.

-Becka O., 8th grade

Book Review: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor

roll_thunderRoll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression when the South was still enduring damage from the Reconstruction of the Civil War– a time when African Americans suffered discrimination and segregation.

When first starting the novel, which was a required book for my English class, I was not that intrigued. It just seemed to me like a bunch of unrelated stories. But after finishing the book, I have to say, it was very beneficial for me to read it. A few chapters in, a complex plot line develops and made the book more captivating than I ever would have thought possible. I certainly changed my opinion about this novel between the first and last pages, and thoroughly enjoyed it. What other required reading books have you read that your reluctance to read was unwarranted?

This novel is told from Cassie Logan’s perspective, so she is the main character. Her family, different than the other African American families living in that part of Mississippi, owns their own land which comprises hundreds of acres. That land causes conflict during the story, since one of the white men in the town has desired that land for years, but the Logans have refused to sell it. Other conflicts during the story include the discrimination Cassie and her siblings encounter based on the color of their skin, starting with the first day of school and escalating from there. These instances lead to the concept that white people at the time did not see African Americans as equal, even though they truly were.

Since the book surprisingly didn’t have any chapters, my assignment for English class was to create a potential title for each chapter. Hopefully these chapter titles interest you and encourage you to read the book.
1. “New” Books
2. The “Giant”
3. Avenging the White Bus
4. The Wallace Store
5. A Visit to Strawberry
6. Their Rightful Place
7. Papa’s Home
8. An Unfortunate Turn of Events
9. Vicksburg Trouble
10 Heat and Hard Times
11. Trouble With T.J.
12. Crying for the Land and T.J.

In conclusion, this book handles the topic of discrimination well and teaches very important lessons. I recommend this book to others. I would give it a rating of 4 stars (out of 5).

– Leila S., 8th grade

Book vs. Movie: Heaven is For Real

heaven_real_bookvsmovieHeaven is For Real is a book written in 2010 about a little boy named Colton Burpo by his father Todd Burpo. When Colton was almost 4 years old, he became very sick with appendicitis – and almost died. However, he didn’t. All his doctors and nurses thought this was a miracle in itself because he was that sick. Even more miraculous, Colton later told his parents that he went to Heaven during his surgery. That’s right. Colton went to Heaven!

Now one’s reaction at first would be “What? No way! Impossible!” and then be flooded with questions that they just have to ask. Even though Colton’s dad is a pastor, he too felt this way. Mr. Burpo’s book takes you through the impossible yet true journey of his little boy’s experiences as told by Colton to him. It really is extraordinary, and the book itself is definitely worth a read. Especially since it’s a true story about Heaven – a topic many of us wonder about and not many people know much about.

Now recently, the movie based on the book came out. It’s never expected that a book-to-movie-adaption will be exactly the same as the original book (even the Director’s Cut, which is what I saw). But I did love this movie, and it stayed very close to the book! I suggest watching the movie first, as it’s a type of movie that leaves you wanting more, and the book is the perfect solution for that as the book goes into much more detail!

As for the movie itself, I think it’s really good! It seems harder to believe though versus reading the book. Also, some of the special effects are a little cheesy and made the experience harder to believe. The movie makers changed/unincluded some significant things from the book which I think that if they would’ve kept those things the way it had actually happened, it might’ve been more emotional.

I definitely recommend the book over the movie. It comes straight from Colton’s dad, and everything in it is true. But I’m not ruling out the movie, it was very good as well!

-Danielle L., 6th grade

Book Review: Ink, by Amanda Sun

inkI know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I couldn’t help it when I saw Ink. The cover was gorgeous as well as the story within about an American girl in Japan who sees a mysterious boy’s sketches move and discovers that she too is connected to the ink.

Meet Katie Greene: your average American teenager. Except she’s living in Japan with her aunt after her mother’s death. Struggling to learn the language and customs, Katie forgets to change out of her school sandals. When retrieving the correct shoes, she overhears a breakup where a boy is accused of cheating with another girl, a sketch of her as proof. It isn’t merely his deep eyes or that he lied when her told his soon-to-be ex that she meant nothing to him that has Katie fascinated. It’s the part where she saw his sketch move and look straight at her.

Katie learns more about the boy, Tomohiro (through various means of stalking), but the more she knows, the more secrets he seems to be hiding. Why did he quit Calligraphy if he is so talented? Why does he pretend to be cold and continually warn her away from him? Why does it look like his sketches are moving? And why, despite all this, is she (possibly) falling for him?

I loved the little sketches within the book. Some were little animations in the corner from turning the pages, while others were full page masterpieces that all tied into the plot. Just look at this.


Another part I enjoyed was the overwhelming amount of Japanese culture. From the integrated language to just their way of life is so different from my own. The romance part is nice, but is seen too often with the “dark mysterious stranger who believes no one will ever love him because he is a monster but then the main character is the only one to get through because she is special” cliche. Even so, the twist at the end more than makes up for it. Overall, it is a great book that will leave you waiting for the sequel, Rain, that comes out on June 24th. Hope you enjoy.

– Nicole G., 10th grade

Book Review: A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park

single_shard“He would make replicas, dozens if needed, until the glaze was like jade and water. And the vase would be carefully inlaided, with a design of-of…” – An excerpt from A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

A Single Shard is the story of an orphan, Tree-ear, in a potter’s village in Korea during the twelfth century. It was written by Linda Sue Park, who weaves a artful story of the orphan’s life and pottery.This is a fantastic book that won the 2002 Newbery Award.

Tree-ear is a 12-year-old boy who lives with a crippled man named Crane-man. They live together under a bridge in the small Korean potter’s village of Ch’ulp’o. They both scavenge and hunt for food to live. Living in such a town, Tree-ear naturally becomes attracted to the art of making pottery. Ch’ulp’o was one of many villages that were known for a be able to create beautiful pots of a rare celadon green color. Tree-ear likes especially to watch a potter named Min. Min is known to create some of the best pieces in the village, but is incredibly slow. Tree-ear by accident damages one of Min’s pieces and does work for Min to repay for the lost time. This eventually become a sort of apprenticeship. Even so, Tree-ear has to deal with Min dissatisfaction and refusals to teach him to shape a pot.   When the news of a royal commission reaches Ch’ulp’o, Tree-ears hopes to finally gain Min approval and respect. 

A Single Shard is a incredible book. This has been a favorite of mine ever since I read it several years ago– a tale that good for any age. This is a historical fiction that shows a peek into the history, art, and culture of ancient Korea. This story is also about the importance of family, and how it can change a person in both a good and bad way. Not much action or adventure, but a great book to read as a family. Read it for yourself and decide.

– Sarah J., 8th grade

Book Review: Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

gone_with_the_windHistorical fiction, the fabled nightmare of our literature! So they say, but most are quite gripping once you’ve delved in. This was the case for me with Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

I admit, I started this classic for my social studies class. However, once I got past the first few chapters, the rest of the pages blew by quickly.
Setting the scene during the civil war, this story tells of Scarlett O’Hara, daughter of rich Southern plantation owners. Flirty and frivolous, she spends her early life attending parties and breaking boys’ hearts. There is small talk of civil war, but she pays no heed. When her “true love” turns her down, a series of events places her in Atlanta. Suddenly, the war is much more realistic and closer to home. Thousands enlist to join the Confederate army, and hospitals begin working overtime. With a harsh blockade, life within the city becomes stricter, but she manages. Finally, the Union breaks through the last defenses, and storms the city. Fleeing to her old ransacked home, Scarlett struggles to hold together the family and rebuild her life. Gradually, she raises her social status, recovering along with the rest of the world.

This historical fiction gives detailed descriptions of Civil War era life. From the daily life in the city to the social hierarchy, nothing is left out. What makes it so interesting is that Mitchell tells the story from a Southerner’s point of view. Usually the South is portrayed as a single-faced bad guy, but Gone With the Wind gives us two viewpoints. Many average people were just defending their homeland rather than preserving slavery. It really sheds a new light on Union General Sherman’s March to the Sea, in which thousands of homes and towns were pillaged. The history in this book makes it especially interesting, as it places everything in context of real events.

Gone With the Wind gained most of its fame as an acclaimed love story. Sadly, I just don’t see it. I feel like it wasn’t really romantic at all until near the very end of the book. Even then, it seemed like Scarlett and her lover, Rhett Butler, weren’t truly in love. Her first failed marriages were purely out of self interest, and her original love never returned any feelings. I think there are probably lots of better love stories out there. But don’t take my word for it, read it yourself! This timeless classic is a must for any avid reader. Soon, you won’t even mind the history part. Enjoy!

-Phillip X., 8th grade

Authors We Love: Alex Sanchez

photo by Bill Hitz

photo by Bill Hitz

Over the past several years acceptance for the LGBT community in mainstream culture has vastly increased. Media has played a large role in this with everything from TV shows and movies to music to comics books and novels all including LGBT characters. One author that has played a large role in this is Alex Sanchez. He has written several award winning novels including So Hard to Say, Getting It, The God Box, Bait, and Boyfriends with Girlfriends as well as the Rainbow trilogy (Rainbow Boys, Rainbow High, and Rainbow Road).

so_hard_to_sayAll of his book are wonderfully written with captivating storylines. He does a wonderful job of exploring issues relating to the LGBT community.  While the overall theme of his books is about acceptance and being who you are each book approaches the subject differently. So Hard to Say is aimed at younger readers (around middle school age) and has won a Lambda Literary Award. One of his other books deal with religion and sexuality while another deals with bisexuality. All of his books are absolutely amazing but personally I think that the two that really shine are The God Box and Boyfriends with Girlfriends.

The God Box deals with the issue of whether Christianity can co-exist with identifying as LGBT. It follows the story of Paul, a very religious teenager from a small, conservative town. His world gets turned upside down when he meets Manuel. Paul is stumped by Manuel because he says that he is Christian and yet also says he is gay, something that Paul can’t fathom co-existing. Manuel’s interpretations of the Bible causes Paul to re-examine his whole life as feelings he had been trying to suppress, begin to surface. The story in the The God Box includes very eye-opening interpretations of the Bible and is a must read from Alex Sanchez.

boyfriends_girlfriendsBoyfriends with Girlfriends does something that is still being largely ignored by the media even with the growing acceptance of the LGBT community, it includes bisexual characters. The story revolves around four teenagers, Sergio who is bisexual, Lance and Kimiko who are gay, and Allie who is questioning her sexuality. This is a great story of the ups and downs of teen dating, whether it is occurring in the LGBT community or not. This novel also does a good job of exploring different acceptance levels from family members. What I think is really great about this book is the fact that it includes bisexual characters. Often in all forums of media bisexual characters are either completely ignored, regarded as not a real thing, or highly sexualized. Boyfriends with Girlfriends does a wonderful job of avoiding these pitfalls and creating characters that are believable and relatable to all teens.

Overall, Alex Sanchez is an incredible author whose work also holds incredible value. Whether you identify as part of the LGBT community or as an ally, his books are amazing reads that should not be missed. The world needs more books like his.

-Angela J., 12th grade