NCTE talks Skeleton Creek 2011

There’s a new kind of young adult novel in town: the diginovel or “vook” (video-book), which combines traditional printbound text with interactive online components. Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek series is one such example of a “vook,” and it proved to be popular with the eighth-grade students we read it with this year. We have written elsewhere (see Groenke and Maples) about how books such as Skeleton Creek epitomize the participatory and interactive nature of today’s media convergence culture—a culture today’s teens are helping to create and sustain. Here, we want to share what students have to say about reading a “vook.”

Skeleton Creek (the first book in a two-volume series) centers on 15-year-old Ryan’s and his best
friend Sarah’s exploits to solve a mystery surrounding their hometown of Skeleton Creek. How did the town get its name? Does it have anything to do with the old gold dredge in the woods? Or the miner, Old Joe Bush, who was killed in the dredge? Is the name “Skeleton Creek” a warning to outsiders—a warning to stay away?

What Students Have to Say about Skeleton Creek

Our students loved the Blair Witch–like creepiness of Sarah’s videos. (One day, when we heard students screaming in the classroom next door, another student said, “Oh, they must be reading Skeleton Creek.”) Our students said the videos motivated them to read because, as one student noted, “You have to read to understand the movie parts,” and “it keeps you wanting to continue turning the page to find out more.” Many students also liked the visual element the videos provided because they liked “[seeing] what’s happening” and “what the characters are like,” and felt the videos “[enhanced] the terror.” One student commented that the videos “add another level of depth,” while another student explained that he sees the hybrid book as a natural progression from traditional books with pictures: “Back then, we had pictures with words in books. Now we have videos with words.” Another student said he liked the “visual perspective” because “it’s almost like a moving graphic novel,” and another student said, “It’s a great way to get information across the way we like to get it.” Yet another student commented that the “videos explain parts of the story that the book doesn’t give you.”

Patrick Carman