Tag Archives: writing

The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp

The Creativity Project: An Awesomtastic Story Collection edited by Colby Sharp. March 13, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780316507813.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

Book advocate Colby Sharp presents more than forty beloved, award-winning, diverse and bestselling authors and illustrators in a creative challenge! 

Colby Sharp invited more than forty authors and illustrators to provide story starters for each other; photos, drawings, poems, prose, or anything they could dream up. When they received their prompts, they responded by transforming these seeds into any form of creative work they wanted to share. 

The result is a stunning collection of words, art, poetry, and stories by some of our most celebrated children book creators. A section of extra story starters by every contributor provides fresh inspiration for readers to create works of their own. Here is an innovative book that offers something for every kind of reader and creator! 

With contributions by Sherman Alexie, Tom Angleberger, Jessixa Bagley, Tracey Baptiste, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Peter Brown, Lauren Castillo, Kate DiCamillo, Margarita Engle, Deborah Freedman, Adam Gidwitz, Chris Grabenstein, Jennifer L. Holm, Victoria Jamieson, Travis Jonker, Jess Keating, Laurie Keller, Jarret J. Krosoczka, Kirby Larson, Minh Lê, Grace Lin, Kate Messner, Daniel Nayeri, Naomi Shihab Nye, Debbie Ohi, R.J. Palacio, Linda Sue Park, Dav Pilkey, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Dan Santat, Gary Schmidt, John Schu, Colby Sharp, Bob Shea, Liesl Shurtliff, Lemony Snicket, Laurel Snyder, Javaka Steptoe, Mariko Tamaki, Linda Urban, Frank Viva, and Kat Yeh.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 4-6. This experiment is the brainchild of Sharp, educator and cofounder of the Nerdy Book Club, among other online book-related endeavors. Wanting to show both young people and teachers how the creative process begins and blossoms, Sharp asked authors and illustrators to send him story prompts and then respond to the prompts of fellow participants. The result is a fanciful, often unexpected, sometimes uneven mix of stories, artwork, and poetry. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s prompt is a photo of a difficult-to-discern animal. Linda Sue Park decides it’s a fox and writes an evocative poem about a fox and a trap. And then writes a note telling readers she knows it’s not a fox but that’s what sparked her imagination—and after all, that’s how creativity begins. Kate DiCamillo, Lemony Snicket, Grace Lin, Sophie Blackall, and Sherman Alexie are just some of the well-known names who participate. There’s plenty here to ignite kids’ imaginations and provide both laughs and food for thought. In the final pages, the participants offer prompts directly to the readers.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
A guide that encourages young writers to experiment and create. Well-known writers and illustrators here collaborate on a volume of writing prompts and the stories that result. Sharp invited contributors to submit creative prompts (“poems, photographs, drawings, anything”), and then each contributor used another’s prompt to create something—a story, a poem, a comic, an illustration. The experiment in “the way ideas can be story seeds that take root and blossom” must have been fun for the creators, but the fruits of their play have not yielded a collection that’s particularly useful to young writers. Many of the prompts are silly or vague, and the resulting stories, poems, and illustrations are, for the most part, lacking in substance. Kate DiCamillo leads off with a solid idea—using overheard dialogue for a short story told in dialogue. But Lemony Snicket’s response feels dashed off, a flip story likely to fall flat with readers. John Schu’s prompt, “My school librarian turned into a fly on the fifth day of fourth grade,” might sound Kafka-esque, but Sherman Alexie’s resultant poem feels like so much free association rather than a constructed work. A proliferation of exclamation points seemingly intended to boost enthusiasm may further act as a turnoff. An earnest attempt, but readers will find both better guides to creative writing and better short stories, poems, etc., elsewhere. (contributor biographies, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Editor

Colby Sharp is a co-founder of the online community Nerdy Book Club and its off-shoot conference, Nerd Camp, two popular monthly Twitter chats, #Titletalk, #SharpSchu, and The Yarn, a podcast about bookmaking and the creative process.

His website is www.mrcolbysharp.com.

Teacher Resources

About The Creativity Project

Around the Web

The Creativity Project on Amazon

The Creativity Project on Goodreads

The Creativity Project Publisher Page

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Writing Radar by Jack Gantos

Writing Radar: Using Your Journal To Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos. August 29, 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux, 203 p. ISBN: 9780374304560.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 940.

The Newbery Award-winning author of Dead End in Norvelt shares advice for how to be the best brilliant writer in this funny and practical creative writing guide perfect for all kids who dream of seeing their name on the spine of a book.

With the signature wit and humor that have garnered him legions of fans, Jack Gantos instructs young writers on using their “writing radar” to unearth story ideas from their everyday lives. Incorporating his own misadventures as a developing writer, Gantos inspires readers to build confidence and establish good writing habits as they create, revise, and perfect their stories. Pop-out text boxes highlight key tips, alongside Gantos’s own illustrations, sample stories, and snippets from his childhood journals. More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who–many unwittingly–inspired Gantos’s own writing career.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Dangerous stunts

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 4-6. Leave it to Gantos to rewrite the rules for children’s writing manuals. Taking the classic writing dictum “show, don’t tell” to heart, he doesn’t just instruct kids or explain his technique; he offers many memoirlike anecdotes and narratives to dramatize the ideas—for example, the story of the class visit that inspired his book Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (1998). Never less than entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, his stories will engage even readers who have no intention of voluntarily writing anything. But that’s not his intended audience here. Speaking directly to readers who aspire to create their own books, he says, “I’m a writer and I’m on your side.” His ongoing, self-deprecating tale of the “story journal” he kept as a child becomes an involving narrative that will amuse kids while reassuring them that even a seriously good writer was once a kid who didn’t know how to start. He offers them practical approaches to learning the craft, detailed advice and examples related to keeping a journal, and a useful chapter on story structure and elements. Other particularly helpful sections involve finding good story material and rewriting in stages. A focused, fun, and uncommonly useful guide for young, aspiring writers.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
Advice on writing from one of the best writers around. “I’m a writer and I’m on your side,” Gantos says, as if he’s putting an arm around a young writer’s shoulder and guiding them through a door to a new life. With a snappy voice, his own funny ink drawings, and expertise drawn from a career full of great books, he covers just about everything: where to find ideas and characters, how to structure a story, why to keep a journal, and even what to write with. Every step of the way he includes examples from his own writing. As humorous as he is, Gantos is authoritative and serious about his craft, careful to include every building block for constructing a good story—characters, setting, problem, action, crisis, resolution, and the need for a double ending (physical and emotional). Chapter 2 (“Getting Started”) ought to be read by all teachers and parents: it’s a manifesto on how to raise a reader (and writer) by reading aloud excellent picture books to young children and placing good books in the hands of children as they get older, and he offers a handy list of just what some of those books should be. While his list of picture books is not a particularly diverse one, the middle-grade titles suggested are nicely inclusive. A standout among writing guides, valuable for its sage and friendly encouragement and for the sheer fun of hanging out with Jack. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages. His works include Hole in My Life, a Michael L. Printz Honor memoir, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Dead End in Norvelt, a Newbery Award winner. The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He began to collect anecdotes he overheard, mostly from eavesdropping outside the teachers’ lounge, and later included many of these anecdotes in his books. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking.

He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts. Her website is www.jackgantos.com

Teacher Resources

Writing Radar Education Guide

Around the Web

Writing Radar on Amazon

Writing Radar on Goodreads

Writing Radar on JLG

Writing Radar Publisher Page

Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno

Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno. July 25, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062493095.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

24 dares. 3 weeks. Take the leap.

Lottie Reaves is not a risk taker. She plays it safe and avoids all the ways she might get hurt. But when her beloved aunt Helen dies of cancer, Lottie’s fears about life and death start spiraling out of control.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers. She knew how magical writing could be, and that words have the power to make you see things differently.

In her will, Aunt Helen leaves one writing project just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions that are supposed to get Lottie to take a leap and—for once in her life—really live. But when the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series, Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice—one that will force her to confront her greatest fears once and for all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Cautious, predictable Lottie has always had a plan for her life, but it gets thrown to the wind when her beloved and wild Aunt Helen passes away and leaves her 24 letters containing instructions that lead to secrets, love, and self-discovery. Aunt Helen isn’t just the source of entertaining summers and happy memories; she’s also the best-selling author of the most popular children’s books of all time, the Alvin Hatter series. Spurred on by tasks as harmless as “don’t be afraid to let yourself cry” and as reckless as “do something you’re not supposed to do,” Lottie discovers her aunt’s extraordinary secret past that inspired her books, and she rushes headfirst into a love that comes with major strings attached. Scattered with insightful excerpts from the Alvin Hatter series, Leno’s (The Lost & Found, 2016) latest novel borrows some narrative inspiration from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (2013) and a little magic from Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting (1975) to create a truly captivating tale about grief and the affirming power of self-examination.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
When Lottie’s favorite aunt dies, she leaves behind a wave of grief—and a mysterious series of letters.High school senior Lottie Reaves isn’t the only one mourning her beloved aunt Helen after she succumbs to cancer—Helen is the record-selling author of the Alvin Hatter series, which follows the adventures of two immortal siblings and has achieved J.K. Rowling–level fame. But it turns out that Aunt Helen had a surprise in store for Lottie—24 letters with a sequence of challenges to help her get through her grief and fight her anxious tendencies…as well as a secret she’s never revealed. As Lottie completes the missions with her best friend, Em, younger brother, Abe, and mysterious not-quite-boyfriend Sam, she learns more about her aunt, herself, and the natures of life, death, and time than she ever expected. Excerpts from Alvin Hatter books give readers a taste of the books that captured the world, and diversity is seamlessly integrated throughout the book— mixed-race Lottie has a Peruvian mom and a white dad, and her white best friend is a lesbian with an unaccepting mother. Lottie’s anxieties are discussed in a gentle yet candid manner, and her close-knit relationship with her family members is refreshing and realistic. A charming and sophisticated take on handling grief with a mystical twist ending that is sure to engage teens nostalgic for the magic of reading Harry Potter or Tuck Everlasting for the first time. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Katrina Leno is the author of Everything All at Once, The Lost & Found, The Half Life of Molly Pierce, and Summer of Salt. In real life, she lives in Los Angeles. But in her head, she lives on an imaginary island off the coast of New England where it sometimes rains a lot.

Her website is www.katrinaleno.com

Around the Web

Everything All at Once on Amazon

Everything All at Once on Goodreads

Everything All at Once on JLG

Everything All at Once Publisher Page

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann. June 13, 2017. Pantheon Books, 128 p. ISBN: 9781101871928.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the internationally best-selling author of Measuring the World and F, an eerie and supernatural tale of a writer’s emotional collapse

“It is fitting that I’m beginning a new notebook up here. New surroundings and new ideas, a new beginning. Fresh air.”

These are the opening lines of the journal kept by the narrator of Daniel Kehlmann’s spellbinding new novel: the record of the seven days that he, his wife, and his four-year-old daughter spend in a house they have rented in the mountains of Germany—a house that thwarts the expectations of his recollection and seems to defy the very laws of physics. The narrator is eager to finish a screenplay, entitled Marriage, for a sequel to the movie that launched his career, but something he cannot explain is undermining his convictions and confidence, a process he is recording in this account of the uncanny events that unfold as he tries to understand what, exactly, is happening around him—and in himself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

 

About the Author

Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and lives in Berlin and New York. His works have won the Candide Prize, the Doderer Prize, the Kleist Prize, the Welt Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. Measuring the World was translated into more than forty languages and is one of the greatest successes in postwar German literature.

His website is www.kehlmann.com

Around the Web

You Should Have Left on Amazon

You Should Have Left on Goodreads

You Should Have Left on JLG

You Should Have Left Publisher Page

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen. October 25, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781101940419.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 740.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain…

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody…

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to domestic abuse

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Online))
Grades 4-7. Sixth grade is tough, especially when you’re new and spend your afternoons with the “oldies” at Brookside, a memory care facility. Lincoln’s ma, having recently escaped an abusive boyfriend, takes a job as a caregiver at Brookside. At school, Lincoln hides his love of writing stories, his thick Southern accent, and, most important, his Brookside connection. Lincoln thinks all the Brookside oldies are crazy, but as he gets to know them, he realizes he’s seeing the illogical, heartbreaking effects of dementia. Humorous dialogue and a swift plot, occasionally dragged down by contrived situations, anchor this realistic story. Lincoln is a delightful narrator, prone to daydreaming about stories. He has a strong, supportive relationship with his mother, although his ability to bounce back after living in an abusive situation seems unrealistic. Aging and dying with dignity are lightly touched upon, but never quite as deeply as one would hope. This book is a good place to start a classroom discussion on intergenerational relationships and the effects of memory loss.

Publishers Weekly Annex (October 17, 2016)
Eleven-year-old Lincoln has several secrets: the stories he writes in his notebook, his cross-country move with his mother to escape her abusive boyfriend, and the home for people with memory loss and dementia where his mother works (and where Lincoln hangs out after school). Lincoln, who thinks of the residents as “the crazies,” is mortified at the thought of his classmates discovering where he spends his time-he’s already an outcast and a bullying target. But one outspoken classmate, the memorably named Kandi Kane, takes a persistent interest in him and as Lincoln gets to know the group home’s residents better, he begins to see that he isn’t the only one with secrets and stories. Van Draanen (the Sammy Keyes series) effectively portrays the frustrations of aging and memory loss through a mix of humor, sharp-eyed observations, and the compassion of Lincoln’s mother and her colleagues. Lincoln is relatable in his flaws and insecurities, and the story’s supporting characters are equally well-developed. It’s a moving coming-of-age story about creating new and unexpected connections. Ages 8-12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown.

About the Author

Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty novels for young readers and teens. She is the author of the 18-book Edgar-winning Sammy Keyes mystery series, and wrote Flipped which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by SLJ and became a Warner Brothers feature film in 2010.

Her other stand-alone titles include The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones, Runaway, Confessions of a Serial Kisser, Swear to Howdy, and The Running Dream which was awarded ALA’s Schneider Family Award for its portrayal of the disability experience.

Van Draanen has also created two four-book series for younger readers. The Shredderman books feature a boy who deals with a bully and received the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit,” and The Gecko & Sticky books, which are fun read-alouds, perfect for reluctant readers.

A classroom teacher for fifteen years, Van Draanen is married to Mark Huntley Parsons, also an author, and they have two sons.

Her website is www.wendelinvand.com.

Around the Web

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones on Amazon

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones on JLG

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones on Goodreads