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January 12, 2009



Ha...it's kind of funny, your aside about seeming academic. I was talking to my mother the other day about author blogs, and I said that at times, your blog got pretty academic-sounding compared to other blogs of YA authors.

I'm not really fond of picture books and graphic novels. I just like prose novels. I Rapunzel's Revenge as a prose novel it being half as good.

And I've never listened to an audio book. I'm afraid of the voices being ingrained in my head (what happened with Harry Potter; the actors' voices are stuck in my head) and I don't like that because I hear in my mind how I think the characters sound.

But again, I think audio books have a purpose. I guess for me, I like leaving things up to my imagination and not letting someone else's idea interfere. :-)


Oops...in the second paragraph, it should be something along the lines of "But I don't mind graphic novels and such. It's just a different medium, and I can't imagine Rapunzel's Revenge being half so good had it been in prose."

Matthew Kirby

I really like your explanation of the unique characteristics of a graphic novel. GNs can be very demanding. In fact, a writer and illustrator can do things in a graphic novel that *cannot* be done in a prose novel. It is a medium worth promoting and supporting.


Very good points, Shannon. Iam also a visual learner--too much so. I could never process info well through audio, which is why I always had to take meticulous notes.

I am SO grateful for audio books for so many reasons. There are books I've enjoyed even more when hearing them then when reading them myself. I think I'm getting better at audio processing now that I listen to books on CD. Audio books pulled two of my children through a little reluctant reader stage--both in third grade. They fell in love with reading again after listening to audio books, sometimes following along with a copy of the book, sometimes not.

Our six-year old is really struggling to learn to read and may be dyslexic. She wants desperately to learn to read, however, because she has learned to love books through me reading to her or listening to books on CD. It comforts me to know that even if she always struggles with reading, at least she will have audio books.

There are hundreds of books available for audio download at our library. While some books are only available for a three-week borrowing, some are available for CD burning! I talked to a friend recently who just discovered this, and I felt bad I hadn't mentioned it before, so I'm commenting here. Check your local library system to see if they have audio dowload available. We've listened to dozens of books that way.

Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

I love this post..thanks so much! I totally agree...I love audiobooks because they are more challenging to review because I can't mark pages...I have to remember and visualize what is being discussed.


I'm a visual learner too and have TERRIBLE audio skills. I usually have to SEE the speaker to really catch everything that's said. That's why I haven't tried listening to audio books - I'm afraid I won't be able to follow along with out staring intently at the CD player. If I'm going to do that, I figure I may as well continue reading books the traditional way. But I never considered using audio books as a way to improve my listening skills. I'm going to try that with some simpler stories, and see how I do. :)


I have to confess that I'm a nerdy blog-reader and happen to like your academic-sounding posts. I like thought-provoking ideas.

I first experienced audio books when finishing my master's degree in another city, so I'd listen to books on the commute. I found that I had to check out three at a time because two of them would often bug me (voice, pace read, whatever), but the ones I liked were wonderful! (I think some stories lend themselves well to audio, others not as much.) I "read" more books for fun that semester than in all the previous five years of college combined. Hooray for audio! I find myself actually missing that commute now.

I've also converted my husband to audio books; they mollify his driving temper when he's battling traffic to and from work. There's one we both love--Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell--that he now listens to annually. I'd already devoured the book before hearing the audio, and actually the one thing I miss while listening is the pictures! Even though it's an adult novel, there are great illustrations throughout. But the audio added a new dimension to the story as well, emphasizing some things through voice that I'd missed or hadn't paid as much attention to. So no, I don't think we have to grow out of being read to or seeing pictures. Different stories lend themselves to different mediums, and different mediums give us different ways of appreciating the story.


(Specifically and surprisingly, what I appreciated more in the audio version were the footnotes! Susanna Clarke has tiny stories embedded throughout the novel as footnotes, and reading whole paragraphs of tiny print in an 800+ page novel was daunting, but in the audio I found myself able to listen to, enjoy, and appreciate each little story and truly realize what a great storyteller she is. Plus the reader, Simon Prebble, has a delicious voice that pulls you in.)


I love the first two mediums, but my problem with audiobooks is that I don't have time to listen to them. I can read the print book so much faster than I would listening to one that I don't ever get audiobooks.


Love pictures and prose, but i'm not so into audio. The actor's voices usually annoy me and i'm a fast paced reader and get too impatient. (And they remind me of being in seventh grade again having to listen to a book i didn't want to with my teacher making me follow along)
Although, i once listened simultaneously to a book and read a different one at the same time and that was quite the experience.

Nathan Hale

Nathan here, thank you for the compliment! I'm happy you like my level of detail on Rapunzel. I wish it were my own method, but I have to say I stole it from Tintin creator Herge. He always puts the story's momentum first. No crazy panel layouts, no ultra-realistic close ups, no crazy camera angles. If you haven't read the Tintin, I recommend them highly! They are fun and stylish, and still pack a lot of surprises. (I just got the Tintin box set for Christmas--so cool!)

Hooray for audiobooks! My primary reading is done with audio. Since I work on illustrations all day, I have a non-stop line-up of audio books. I couldn't live without them! I'm churning through one of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mystery right now. Would I pick it up and read it? Probably not, would I have it in my headphones while I work. Oh yeah. Two times!


My English teacher read aloud to us at the start of class every day in eighth grade, and for me it was the best part of the day. He read different voices for each character--accents and all--and was excited or anxious or droll as the story demanded. I think he was as caught up in it as we were. If someone can bring half a class of middle-school students to stunned silence at the close of a chapter, only to have them beg for just *one* more chapter, please?? I'd say that's a valuable experience indeed. Hooray for reading aloud at any age!


Thanks for your post! But I have to say, I usually only go with prose novels. With GN's this is probably because I'm spoiled: I'm an excellent reader but I find it really hard to process both words and pictures at the same time (I call it Graphic Novel Dyslexia; I had to read some pages of Rapunzel's Revenge 3 times before I took in everything!) But with audiobooks I just never got into them; however my sister only wants to listen to some of my favorite books, so I've recently been doing that.

But anyway, what I really wanted to say was that while yeah, it's a problem that adults don't want kids to read "easy" books as they get older, one of the saddest things I've seen recently was a little boy at the library who pulled a book off the shelf and was told to put it back because it had "too many words. Pick one with more pictures!"


Shannon, you're awesome. That was a great post. I totally love all three of those book formats and enjoy spending time in each.

You're exactly right about graphic novels. I'd never actually thought of it that way before but now I see why they appeal to me in that way.

And as far as audio books I love them for mostly the same reason that Nathan Hale does. Because I can listen to them and enjoy a story even while I'm working on something else, which is a very nice thing :)

And of course... Regular books are just the best :)

I love these posts. Thank you so much for continuing this series on how to be a reader!

Nathan Hale

I don't know Rachel--I can almost sympathize with the parent who said, "Too many words--get one with more pictures." As a parent of two young children, I have a strong dislike of wordy picture books. Has anyone here actually read The Polar Express? That book could easily be text free, the pictures tell the story perfectly, but the text will take you an hour and a half to read aloud. Down with wordy picture books I say!


Sheer genius, this woman! Reform our schools, PLEASE????

Ruby Diamond

On Rachel's comment: I witnessed a similar scene recently. I, too, think it is unfortunate when parents discourage their children from picking library books with "too many words" -- it sends the same essential message as "pick one with fewer pictures"; that is, "this kind of book is not for you." And especially at a library! I mean, it's not like the kid is asking to BUY the book. Worst case scenario: Kid checks out book with "too many words," tries to read it, and discovers for himself that it indeed has too many words for his liking. Turns it back in.

Nathan, I think you're sweet for assuming the parent in Rachel's comment was planning on reading the book to the child. It shows what a nice dad you are. Anyway, if a parent is going to say "too many words" they should make the distinction, then, that there are "too many words for me to want to read you that book all at once."

p.s. I love audiobooks! When I find a good one it makes me wish there were more dishes in my sink so that I could keep listening!

Christine Guest

Its funny how many of these myths about what counts as reading persist, how long has Jim Trelease's read aloud handbook been in print? That was one of the first homeschooling tools my mother-in-law bought me.

I was happy to see that the High School girl I hired to help me with housework during the last baby's high need time read books during Sustained Silent Reading time in her homeroom, I don't know if they are still using that idea at the high school.

As the primary reader in my house, I'm enjoying the illustrations when I read to my kids, we are currently steaming through E. Nesbit's the Magic City. We have a ritual when pictures come up so everyone gets to see them, from the current baby to my husband. I have to tilt the book to reach the different bunk bed angles.

-Christine in Massachusetts


I've never made my child put back a book for having too many words, but I totally sympathize with that mother's reason for it. My solution to huge passages I know they can't sit through is to cheat and "abridge" the text as I go. When they can't read yet, they don't know what they're missing and they're still able to enjoy their book. I haven't had to do that too many times though, because I think kids at that age are naturally drawn to books better suited for them. By the time they start picking out wordier books, they have the attention span to match it. (Just in my experience.)

shannon hale

i do this too, Donna! My editor says she reads a picture book text dozens of times before buying it to make sure it won't drive a parent crazy after a few readings.

L.T. Elliot

I let my children pick their books.
And that's it.
They're 6 years old and have been reading since they were 3 and their favorite part of a bookstore is knowing that mommy and daddy don't pick their books for them. We suggest certain ones sometimes but in the end, they get to choose. As parents, not only do we delight in discovering new tales with them, but we also enjoy watching our children revel in the knowledge that it was THEIR choice.

And if there are books we want to handpick for them? We give it to them as a gift. "Happy Tuesday" or "Congratulations Friday!" To us, a book is a celebration in itself. Who needs to wait for a holiday?


Good point!
I think that on, say, book reports in elementary and middle school kids should be able to choose from any of these- what you see so often is that something like Rapunzel's Revenge "isn't a real book". (At least, that's the impression I always got, and it wasn't too long ago :-)
The illustrations add another layer, you have to think about it a little more. Just because graphic novels and audiobooks are different, doesn't mean they're not as good!
Actually, I would add another category to this: books written entirely in poetry. I guess a lot of these are really in prose, but they are in the poetry format, and have that "feel". An example is "One of those hideous books where the mother dies".


I confess I kind of felt like audio books were cheating, but you've enlightened me. I'm also a visual learner, so I could probably benefit a lot from audio books. Another reason I shied away from audio books is because there's something about holding a book in your hands and diving into the story. I'm sure you know what I mean. Do you find that listening to a story takes away from that feeling? Or do you still feel as immersed into the story as when you read it?

I didn't know they had audio books for kids. I have a 4 year old son, and I'm sure listening to stories would benefit him a lot. Hopefully it would teach him to sit still for more than 5 seconds straight.

I completely agree with you about the illustrated books. I love reading beautiful picture books with my kids.

I just want to say, also, that I love your books and your blog. You're so great!

Mary Ann

Very thoughtful post and discussion, Shannon. Thank you for delving into these different ways we read.

I've been trying to think about how we bring in reading for information into this circle. I don't love reading non-fiction. It's fiction (in all of the forms you described) that absorbs me. But I know that it's important to teach my students to become proficient and to enjoy reading for information. I think that's an almost harder task than teaching kids to love novels...

food for thought.

Audio Books

Shannon very thoughtful post. But i simply love it.


I Loved the Audio Books section. In elementary school, I loved being able to just listen to a teacher read and not having to look at the words, because although I absoloutley LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE books a million times infinite, it always gave me a headache to be concentrating on small print for too long. That didn't stop me from reading every single book in my library, though. Tehe. :)

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