Portrait of The Artist As a Young Adult: Celebrating Youth Art Month in YA Lit

youth art month post .jpgA variety of scientific studies have proposed that scent is a powerful trigger for memory, and for me, that has certainly been true.  Cinnamon and ginger will always kindle the warm anticipation associated with my family’s Christmas cookie baking. Similarly, there’s a particular combination of musky hairspray, sweat, & dust that immediately brings back the nerves and adrenaline of theatrical performances.  And finally, the smell of fresh drawing paper, pencil shavings, and paint fumes will always be thrilling and soothing for me.  Why?  Because those scents symbolize a key aspect of my adolescent identity: being an artist.

By high school, art was embedded into my daily life.  I took classes at school and at a local art studio, where I also worked as a teaching assistant for a couple hours every Saturday.  I doodled during play practices and spent hours agonizing over pieces for local shows.  When I drew, my intense focus could be alternatively relaxing, exciting, or frustrating–especially if the piece wasn’t working out.  However, it was always a transporting experience–a time to escape my life and be more present in myself.

Accordingly, I’m always keen to find stories that explore and celebrate the varied roles of visual art in the lives of young adults.   And as March is Youth Art Month, it seems like the perfect time to share some novels featuring young artists.

page by paigePage by Paige – Laura Lee Gulledge (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)  When her family moves from Virginia to Brooklyn, Paige’s only friend and solace is her trusty sketchbook.  Through her drawings, Paige can be her adventurous, clever artist self– but taking that identity into the big, overwhelming world is a whole different story.  Spanning her first eight months in New York, Paige’s journey of new friendships, tentative romance, and growing artistic confidence unfurls through imaginative & organic images.  Continue reading Portrait of The Artist As a Young Adult: Celebrating Youth Art Month in YA Lit

Teen Tech Week: Building a Better Human

TTW14_featureslideMarch 9 – 15 is YALSA’s annual Teen Tech Week, when libraries shine a spotlight on all of the great technological tools that they offer for their patrons. And though this event only lasts for one week, technology is a core element of most libraries’ mission year round. More and more are offering digital labs and makerspaces where patrons can learn to use technology to create fantastic projects and give free rein to their imagination.

Photo by unloveablesteve. CC BY-NC-SA
Photo by unloveablesteve. CC BY-NC-SA

One of my favorite examples of this is the prosthetic Robohand that was recently created for a young boy using the 3-D printer at the Johnson County Library Makerspace. As soon as I read the story, it got me thinking about all of the great stories I have read about technology being used to augment the human body or even change what it means to be a person. And, so, in honor of Teen Tech Week, I decided to create a list of some of my favorite books about technology being used to augment the human body or fundamentally alter humanity as we currently conceive of it. Continue reading Teen Tech Week: Building a Better Human

Where is the Love?: A Sci-Fi Valentine’s Day Special

Photo by Flickr user puuikibeach

Science fiction doesn’t normally conjure images of passionate embraces or longing looks.  It’s more often associated with deep space adventures or hypothetical quandaries.  Of course, there’s the famous sci-fi couples of TV and moviedom–Han Solo and Leia, Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, Adama and Roslin, Captain Kirk and half the universe–but epic love stories in sci-fi novels are fewer and farther between.  Perhaps this is because we can project how societies, relationships, families, and sexuality might evolve, but it’s hard to imagine a different way to love.  As a hardcore sci-fi nerd with a secret penchant for rom-coms, I thought I’d compile a list of some of the best and most recent sci-fi books that explore the enduring power of love.  More specifically, books where romance is at the beating heart of the story and not a sidelined note on the periphery.

I’ll start with one of my personal favorites from last year, Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty (RUSA’s Best Science Fiction Pick of 2013).  Set in the 22nd century, the book explores in vivid and believable detail, the vagaries of fate, the long dark days of heartbreak, and the compromises and conditions of love. Love Minus Eighty follows multiple relationships but the heart of the novel is the improbable yet utterly delightful love affair between an impoverished musician, Rob, and the woman he accidentally killed.  Her death is not final as she’s placed into a cryogenic dating facility and becomes a “bridesicle” waiting for a wealthy man to rescue her. Rob’s decision to stop at nothing to be with her provides not only a multitude of entertaining plot twists but also a passionate love affair to rival any romance book. Continue reading Where is the Love?: A Sci-Fi Valentine’s Day Special