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WAB Faculty & Staff

MS Read: Retell

Books and resources for middle school

What are Retellings, Abridged Books and Graphic Novels and why read them?

Retellings, Abridged Books and Graphic Novels are not a genre, but rather narrative formats that can cover any genre. Each have their merits which make them worth exploring for our readers. 

What are retellings:

Retellings take an original story and add a creative twist in different ways. This can be setting the story in a different time period, or taking the view of one of the secondary characters - or even of the villain of the story. 

Why read retellings?

  • Retellings are a lot of fun - especially if you are familiar with the original story. You can have the fun of finding "Easter Eggs" that refer back to the original story or the appearance of characters you recognise.
  • Modernised stories that bring our favourites up to date allow us to imagine global themes in a different time and space without the constraints of the original setting. There is often a fun twist to the tale. 
  • Some of the classics have troublesome gender, sexisim or racisim and a retelling can deal with these elements - for example the princesses who rescue themselves, or the prince or the world. 
  • Retellings can take the view point of different characters.

What are Abridged books?

Abridged books are shortened versions of a book, often classics. They take the main themes, ideas and characters and retell the story without the details or complicated language. They stay true to the original author's intentions. 

Why read abridged books?

  • An abridged version of a book can give a middle school student an introduction to a classic story at a level where they have higher comprehension than if they have to struggle with the vocabulary and sentence structure of the original. This gives them more confidence in their reading. Later, when / if they read the original they will understand it better. 
  • It makes classic stories accessible to readers who struggle due to issues such as dyslexia or learning English as an additional language (EAL).  Abridged versions level the playing field for these students and make them more confident - the original and abridged versions can be read side-by-side. It can help all students where language is antiquated - for example Shakespeare. 
  • The student can read the abridged version to understand the storyline quickly and easily before embarking on the unabridged version. 
  • Reading the abridged version is always preferable to not reading at all. 

What are Graphic Novels?

Graphic novels are stories told in a comic book form. Compared to comic strips, the story is sustained over an entire book with the narrative complexity of a fiction or narrative nonfiction book.

Why read Graphic Novels?

  • Images allow students to interpret a story aided by images in conjunction with (fewer) words. This helps students who are daunted by large volumes of text.
  • Students can complete a graphic novel in a short period of time which allows for a sense of accomplishment. This is particularly true for EAL students and those struggling with reading.
  • Graphic novels improve visual literacy as text and illustrations reinforce the story and one cannot be interpreted without the other. 
  • Good graphic novels have a high level of sophistication both textual and visual. Since text is sparse, considerable attention is paid to vocabulary.
  • Like sophisticated picture books, graphic novels can deal sensitively with complex themes making them accessible to all. 


Graphic Novels