Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Creativity and Austin Kleon and YOU

If you are an artist of any kind - a writer, a poet, a singer, a painter, a filmmaker, anything creative - and Austin Kleon is not already on your radar, please tune in:

In his book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Kleon encourages people to be confident when approaching their projects, even when that voice in the back of your head is telling you, "But someone's already done something like this. Someone's already written a story about this, or make a similar sculpture, or created a collage like this..." Because guess what? Even if that is true, even if there is something similar out there, your creation won't be the same as what came before, because it's coming from you, and your viewpoint and abilities will make it unique. So don't be scared to tackle something that you think has "already been done" - because it hasn't, if you haven't done it yet. 

At the same time, remember to give credit when credit is due. That's mentioned in all of his books: if you're doing something directly based on someone else's work, give that person credit. If you choreographed a dance largely influenced by the life of Martha Graham or inspired by the paintings of Degas, say that. If your research was heavily based on someone or something, cite it. Be grateful for those who paved the way, acknowledge those who helped you, respect others and you'll be respected.

Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, Kleon's latest book, offers ideas and ways to share your work with the world. As with Steal Like an Artist, each chapter is motivational, brief, and to-the-point. There are those who feel the need to "network" and those who absolutely hate networking, and any number of folks in-between; Show Your Work focuses talks about using the network to help other people find your work, to share what you've done without feeling like you are self-promoting or self-involved.
Kleon's Newspaper Blackout is a collection of poetry he made by taking a permanent marker to newspaper articles and turning them into something new. My favorite piece in his collection is Underdog, as seen here; I am also fond of Enigma, created by Erica Westcott.

You might be wondering why I'm posting this at a blog targeted to teen readers. It's simple: creativity exists in everyone, in people of all ages. Some creative people are very outgoing and outspoken (hello, that's me!) but others aren't as confident in their abilities, especially when they are younger and/or are trying an artistic pursuit for the first time. Some people need a little nudge to write down the story that's been in the back of their mind for years, just as others need a little nudge to try out for the sports team or the school play.

So what are you waiting for? If you've always wanted to play the tuba, go to the local music store and get a recommendation for a good music teacher in your area. Or, to be more specific to the aforementioned books and methods, if you want to be a poet or a songwriter or a hand-lettering artist or a greeting card designer and don't know where to start, look at the things YOU like, and create something inspired by your favorite poems and songs and illustrations. Start with what moves you, and go from there. In time, you'll find your voice, and make something wholly original that will, in turn, inspire someone else. Creativity is a cycle. Pay it forward!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Sale books still left on the Ballou Sr HS library book fair wish list

It's pretty hard to let this book fair end with these amazing sale priced books still on the list. If you've been thinking about buying but weren't sure which title to select, how about giving one of these a look?

Amity by Micol Ostow (HC)  $13.29
Applegeeks 1: Freshman Year by Ananth Panagariya and Mohammad F. Haque (PB)  $2.50 (!!!)
A Beautiful Life by Irfan Master (HC)  $7.00
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (HC)  $12.59
Brewster by Mark Slouka (HC)  $10.98
Collage Lab by Bee Shay (PB)  $9.98
Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers (HC)  $8.50
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowells (HC) $10.98
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (HC) $7.98
Goddess War #1 by Kendare Blake (HC) $7.98
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (HC) $9.98
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (PB) $10.50
Invincible Microbe by Jim Murphy (HC) $8.98
Lexicon by Max Barry (HC) $10.98
Life (HC) $17.98 (This $20+ off the cover price for this coffee table book!)
The Magician King by Lev Grossman (HC) $10.98
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn West (HC) $10.98
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (HC) $7.98
Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher (HC) $7.98
Peanut by Ayun Halliday (HC) $7.98
Rhymes with Witches by Lauren Myracle (HC) $1.75 (!!!)
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (HC) $7.98
September Girls by Bennett Madison (HC) $10.00
Sophie: The Incredible True Story of a Castaway Dog by Emma Pearse (PB) $7.98
This Wicked Game by Michelle Zink (HC) $7.98
Tune by Derek Kirk Kim (PB) $7.98
Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel (HC) $10.98
The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman (HC) $12.59

All details on the book fair for Ballou SR High School, including how to order a book, can be found on this earlier post.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Mummies: The Newest, Coolest & Creepiest from Around the World


I picked up Shelley Tanaka's Mummies: The Newest, Coolest & Creepiest from Around the World because it was featured on a "spooky book" shelf and because it looked like a fun, quick read. I wasn't expecting to get completely wrapped up (ha ha) in it, much less to be murmuring "Wow!" every time I turned a page.

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On the fine art (& frustration) of crafting a diverse book list for teenagers

Over the past few years, as I've worked on the wish list for the annual Ballou High School library book fair, I've spent a lot of time thinking about diversity in teen books. In some ways, the process has been like grieving; first there was denial, ("where are all the mysteries and romance and thrillers with African American protagonists?"), then anger, ("I can not believe how hard it is to find books for teenagers with African American kids on the covers!!"), then bargaining, ("what do I have to do to find these dang books?!"), then depression, ("this so unfair and I can't stand it"), and then acceptance ("this is the world we're living in and I just have to work with it").

Talk about a learning experience.

The book list does have a lot of diverse books on it because I spend all year watching for every single title that comes up in Booklist or the catalogs or on twitter or the blogs I follow that includes mention of "strong diverse characters". It never ends, finding these books. I can never stop looking for them or watching for them.

Right now I have about a dozen books in a list that are from the spring 2015 catalogs that won't go on the wish list until next year. I also pull from the ALA Quick Picks list and from the Printz and other awards lists and Ballou's super librarian, Melissa Jackson, always has some books they are looking for that go on the list but mostly, I am on the hunt all the time. I look for adult crossover titles, especially biographies, that will be of interest to high school students at Ballou and any history or science titles that might include have particular interest to African American teens.

There are also general nonfiction titles like cookbooks and wildlife and science (plastic in the ocean! extinction! genealogy! nail art) but give me a novel about a couple of African American teenagers who solve crime or fall in love or, yes, battle vampires, and I AM ALL OVER IT.

Because I want the students at Ballou to read the same kind of fun books I read as a teenager. I want them to see themselves in the books they read; I want them to find themselves in the books they read. I want them to see lives that could be theirs or look like theirs. I don't want them to feel like they are in the outside looking in when they are reading and I think that happens when all the characters are blonde haired and blue-eyed and rich and you are none of those things.

So I look all year long and I add to the list all year long and I hope for the best all year long. Certainly some of the books on the list have mostly (and maybe all) Caucasian characters because they are still good, fun, popular books that I know all teen readers want and will enjoy. But they can't be all the books on the list; they can't be everything. More importantly, they should never be everything.

Take a look at the wish list for Ballou and tell us what you think. If you know of some books that should be on the list next time, let us know. And yeah, if you want to help out a worthy school then please buy a book or two and send them along to Washington DC, where I promise they will be very much appreciated.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Department 19 by Will Hill

I know that this book has been discussed in the past here on this blog, but I just couldn't pass it up!

Dracula, Van Helsing, and Frankenstein - plus some really cool high-tech and futuristic firepower to boot! I plowed through this book in no time as more and more of Jamie Carpenter's story and his family history were revealed. Hill jumped in time filling in the history of the Carpenter family, the origins of Department 19, Frankenstein and Jamie's father, Dracula and the first vampires which all provided the backdrop to the current story of Jamie and his attempt to save his mother from one of the oldest vampires in the world.

Pages filled with non-stop action, thrills, gore and horror!

A must read for any action/horror fan. 

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth

I rarely see juvenile fiction books with young African-American males on the cover so needless to say I was intrigued by this title. The main character Jarrett is a rising seventh grader from Newark, New Jersey who lives with his mom, a Guyanese immigrant. His mom is a foster mom who works with social services to take n kids for varying lengths of time. This is how Kevon and his little sister Treasure come into their lives. Kevon's father went missing and so the two are placed with Jarrett's family for the time being.

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Celebrating Ballou High School's library dynamo

We are often asked why we have chosen to stay with Ballou Senior High School for our annual book fair. Prior to Ballou, Guys Lit Wire worked with a group serving juvenile offenders in Los Angeles and two schools on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. While we certainly were happy to help those folks and felt that our book fairs did a lot of good and were appreciated, when we first teamed up with Ballou we quickly realized we had found a special situation.

Melissa Jackson, the Library Media Specialist, loves her job and her enthusiasm is quite infectious. A look at the library's facebook page shows the many events she plans there from poetry slams to club meetings to author readings and tons of visiting speakers. Melissa works tirelessly to get students excited about reading and has been key to the past success of the book fairs. She cares so much about the kids at Ballou and has shown us just how much one dedicated librarian can accomplish for a whole school. Melissa is a powerhouse whose dedication can not be denied. We are thus delighted to work with her, and help her, through the current book fair.

If you want to know how the world can be changed, then Melissa is a shining example of what a force for good looks like. Guys Lit Wire organizes these book fairs each year through her direct coordination and support; Melissa is the one who gets all these books you purchase off the list into the hands of teenagers eager to read them. Please know how much you making her job easier with every title you send to Washington DC and every effort you make to spread the word.

The Book Fair for Ballou Sr High School continues. Please check out the details and shop the Powells wish list. [Post pic of Melissa Jackson with the Ballou mascot, the "Golden Knight".}

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Caged Warrior

Caged Warrior

CAGED WARRIOR takes the reader to places they had no idea they could even go between the pages of a book. The poorest parts of Detroit, on of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the U.S., is where McCutcheon "M.D." Daniels calls home.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

League of Seven by Alan Gratz

League of Seven, one of the most fun books I've read recently, is chock full of all kinds of cool stuff that I get excited about: Lovecraftian monsters, steampunk, alternate history, mythology, secret societies, ninja robots, and giant city-crushing beasts. Honestly, this book is chock-full of the good stuff! And that's no coincidence-- when Alan Gratz talks about the book, he flat out admits it. "When I set out to write this book, I thought about all the things I thought were cool: monsters, robots, ninjas. And I decided I would just stick them all in one book and have as much fun writing as much awesome stuff as possible."

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared," but trust me, a team of Samurai-Ninja-Swat Team-Green Berets couldn't be prepared for the horror that is unleashed in Nick Cutter's pedal-to-the-metal shock fest that is The Troop. 

The story takes place on Prince Edward Island, an idyllic province on the east coast of Canada. I've been to Prince Edward Island, I grew up on the province next to it. It's a nice place and I have to say that I'm very glad I didn't read The Troop while I was living anywhere near there because I'd probably never go outside again. 

The Troop hits the ground running and simply doesn't stop. On the first page we are introduced to a news story about an emaciated man who wanders into a diner and begs to be given as much food as possible. He then goes on to eat everything they've got on the menu. When he is finished he walks outside without paying, steals a truck and disappears into the night. The papers dub him "The Hungry Man," but nobody seems to know who he is or where he came from. 


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