Telling the Tale by Valerie Bodden

  Kaitlin R. Branch    Oct 12, 2017
Telling the Tale by Valerie Bodden

Level: Very Beginner!  This book is a short, simple read geared at people just beginning to experiment with writing.  It defines each term carefully and is careful not to intimidate.

Valerie Bodden’s Telling the Tale, Narration and Point of View is a picture-book style introduction to different narration styles.  At forty-seven large-font pages, it is a short and easy read which is definitely best for beginners.  While the book is arranged and printed in a large, almost children’s book style format, the language used is probably at least at the high school level, provided the student is appropriately prepared.  No section gets too in depth on its topic, but it provides a clear touchstone for understanding. 

While at first glance, the format of the book might off-put some readers, the information imparted in Telling the Tale is solid.  Bodden goes through the classic narration styles -- first person, third person limited, third person omniscient – with a full explanation, an example, and then pros and cons of each point of view.  She then touches on narration styles, especially multiple viewpoints and unreliable narrators.  Again, Bodden keeps to a one-page explanation, an example, and then the pros and cons of each style. 

Bodden does an excellent job of choosing her examples, keeping to engaging and interesting pieces which are filled with teachable moments.  She was also able to choose sections not only from older works such as The History of Tom Jones; a Foundling but more contemporary books such as The Poisonwood Bible.  This allowed her to clearly explain the difference in style between time periods, one of the most interesting parts of the book.

A glossary at the back has familiar terms for experienced writers, but new writers will appreciate the straight forward style and clear explanations which are sometimes hard to find.  A bibliography offers ideas for further reading, and each of Bodden’s examples are cited in the back so that anyone who is intrigued with the excerpts can find more. 

Telling the Tale seems to be a book which is meant to be put into a classroom for reference or teaching.  Its style lends itself to reading aloud or spending a class period studying, and the whole book could be read in forty-five minutes to an hour.  There are also suggestions in the back for writing exercises during which a teacher or student might be able to put into practice what the book has taught.


  • Quick, easy read.
  • Aesthetically, it’s a pretty book.
  •  Easy to reference and teach from for new writers and teachers of new writers.

Should You Buy?


  • Good easy reference point for the beginning writer.
  • Slim on the bookshelf.
  •  Chapter arrangement of “explanation, example, pros and cons” is well conceived and easy to navigate.


  • The format of the printing/publishing is strange for a reference guide.
  • Experienced writers will find value in this as a teaching tool, but not for themselves.
  •  Information contained is solid, but very surface level.

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