Author photo

By Midge Lyndee
Book Review 

More Than One Way

The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment


July 8, 2023

In 1455, a moveable type printing press gave the world the Gutenberg Bible. Since that time, the preparation of printed words for the purpose of both providing information and reading for pleasure has changed tremendously through the centuries. We now have books printed on a variety of papers in a myriad of fonts, bound in cardboard to leather. Some books are typed and sent directly from screen to screen, no paper needed at all. There is certainly more than one way to tell a story and write a book in the 21st century. Today the way the author decides to present his or her words can be as creative as the story itself.

Previously I have reviewed Brian Selznick's books that tell his stories through art, with few to no words at all. "Hugo Cabret," "Wonder Struck" and "Big Tree" all relied on the sweeping lines of a pen to relate the story through pictures. In "I Will Always Write Back" by Caitlin Alifirenka, Liz Welch and Martin Ganda, personal letters were used as the vehicle to deliver their message. There are stories written completely in poetry form, called a verse novel, as found in "Saving Red" by Sonya Sones. Molly meets a homeless girl needing help. But who really helps who while dealing with family, friendship and forgiveness? Written totally in verse, one is drawn deeply into the rhythm of words.

"The Book with No Words" by A. P. Veldmark is illustrated by Mary Beth Benton in beautiful colors that take the young reader on an undersea adventure while encouraging children to see their own worth. "The Book with No Pictures" by B. J. Novak was written to be a verbal book. With much humor, the child gets their parent, teacher or other unaware reader to read the words aloud, precisely page by page. Beware! Some phrases are not what many adults would usually speak, and that makes it all the more fun!

In 2014 when internet and phone messaging really found its stride, the Internet Girls series by Lauren Myracle was created with the first series of four books titled "ttyl." The books are written with the focus on text messaging, with many language shortcuts like LOL and SWAK. The title "ttyl" is the fast way to say "talk to you later." Immersion into this series brings one into the center of both teenage text language as well as teen emotions. It's a wild ride between exuberance to angst, and the reader lives through much of the story in the speed of real time drama.

I was intrigued by Hugh Howey's newest publication written with Elinor Taylor titled, "The Balloon Hunter." Imagine a whole book written in post cards. Some have photos or artwork, all are handwritten with many needing careful deciphering between the smudges and sometimes hastily written scribbling. All the more exciting to figure out the personally written messages, as well as where the messages are leading the story.

"The Balloon Hunter" takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world. Traveling is both dangerous and lonely. There is a vicious fog that either kills or turns one into a violent creature. Rita sends out her postcard messages on helium balloons. Clayton finds a series of them and decides he must find her. To understand the mechanics of how the story is propelled, one must buy the book or download (as I did) to my Kindle and jump in. The concept is uniquely presented. The postcard pictures are fun to scrutinize. It is easy to care about Rita and Clayton but also feeling it's as much of a fantasy as a real life tragedy with heart-stopping mental images. The mind questions everything along the way. What is real and what may not be, while mostly wondering what kind of closure will be found at the end?

Honestly, I think that Gutenberg would be totally astounded to see how far the printed word has come over the past 500 plus years. It took centuries to build the momentum needed to print just one book at a time. Now books can be mass produced in so many ways.

Today's authors have the choice of bringing their stories to the readers in the traditional process or the freedom to fashion new ideas with artistic flexibility and creativity. Readers are a diverse community with room to embrace new and exciting possibilities. Don't limit yourself to the basic printed book. Go wild! Plunge into something new with gusto. Because, there is certainly more than one way to both write and read a book these days!

Good Books.

Good reading.

*Midge Lyn'dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.


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