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

Event Recap: Newhart Middle School Book Club

bookstack2Last month, students from Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo met to discuss Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (see my book review here).

The night opened with an exciting game of Pictionary with a twist, using key objects from the book as clues.  These words ranged from Peregrine, to airplane, to psychiatrist (that was a hard one!). After several rounds, the final score –  Boys: 12, Girls: 10!

After the game, everyone sat down to discuss different aspects of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  A few questions that brought the most discussion were:

  • What kind of atmosphere did the house in Wales have?

Answers were varied:  Some described the house that was bombed, the house that Jacob explored, as “creepy and mysterious.”  Others described the original, occupied house in 1940, as “predictable and carefree.” A discussion ensued about how the repetition of the loop day made for a predictable life for the peculiar children. Nevertheless, when the students challenged the accepted set of laws for time travel, the group became collectively mind-boggled!

  • Which peculiar child had the trait you would most like to posses?

miss_peregrines_cover

A majority of the group would have preferred to either to levitate or to see the hollows, since that would keep you safe.  When the group was asked “Who would want to have a back mouth?” most did not wish to have that trait.  However, one student did reply that a back mouth would be helpful if someone had you in a headlock, because then you could just bite the pursuer and escape!

“The next book in this series comes out in January (2014), but it doesn’t have a title yet,”  Mrs. Wendehost said at the conclusion of the meeting. And who will read it?? That is up to the students at Newhart Middle School to decide, if they wish to be part of the Newhart Book Club in the future.

About the Newhart Middle School Book Club

Mrs. Michelle Wendehost is a sixth grade teacher at Newhart Middle School. During her first year at the school, she and another teacher started this fun book club. That was six years ago, when they used to read and discuss two books at each meeting. The other teacher left, and Mrs. Wendehost now leads this group on her own; however, is frequently accompanied by parents who join their middle schoolers for these lively discussions. Mrs. Wendehost’s most memorable book club meeting was when they read Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. A large group of girls came to discuss this book.  And so did one boy, who said his mom made him read the book.

And what is Mrs. Wendehost’s overall goal for the Newhart Book Club? To get kids to realize reading is fun and to read more often!

-Leila S., 7th grade

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, By Ransom Riggs

miss_peregrines_coverMiss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a fictional narrative of Jacob Portman, who discovers another hidden world on a remote island. As the novel unfolds, Jacob’s grandfather, Grandpa Portman, tells tales of seemingly unrealistic people in his life as a child. A levitating girl, an invisible boy, and a girl who could lift boulders fill his stories. At first, Jacob believes everything. But soon he develops suspicions of the truth.

When Jacob finds Grandpa Portman dead, torn up and bleeding, he is devastated. He senses a creature lurking in the shadows. However, his friend doesn’t see it. When questioned by the police about what happened, Jacob tells them what he saw. Thinking him somewhat insane, the police recommend Jacob see a psychiatrist who leads him to believe nothing really happened, that it was all in Jacob’s head.

After receiving a book that Grandpa Portman had clearly wanted him to have, he finds mysterious clues inscribed inside. He relentlessly tries to decode the clues and eventually finds evidence of Grandpa Portman’s childhood home. He then has the daunting task of convincing his parents to allow him to travel there and explore it for more answers. Continue reading