“The Creativity Project: An Awesome Story Collection” is edited by brilliant teacher Colby Sharp, who is also a blogger and important advocate for children’s literature. He started the Nerdy Book Club with other book-loving educators, and the group has become hugely respected in the literary world of children’s books.
This book is Sharp’s debut in publishing, and a fabulous debut it is. The idea is brilliant: Forty-four artists (authors and illustrators) were invited to provide two prompts for writing or illustrating ideas. The prompts could be anything — written or drawn. Each participant was then provided with two other prompts (anonymously) from which they could choose to respond. The unused prompts are collected at the end of the book for readers and teachers to use and play with.
The prompts are wonderfully creative and incredibly unique. And the responses are even more creative — some are absolutely brilliant.
For example, author Andrea Davis Pinkney provides a prompt that is a picture of a furry animal walking along a path. It’s difficult to see exactly what kind of animal is it — smallish, tail, curvy ears.
When Linda Sue Park responds, she admits that she couldn’t tell what the animal was, but that she had started a poem about a fox in college, and she wanted to finish it. The poem is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s called “The Trap.” The first half of the haunting poem is below — to read it all you’ll have to buy the book.
In fall, the leaves are reddish brown.
They drift and linger on the ground.
And iron jaws are buried deep
in rusted and forgotten sleep.
A fox runs wild, with grace and ease,
through days of youth and groves of trees.
A sudden snap: The jaws awake
and fox-flesh tears, and fox-bones break.
This is just one of the wonderful experiences that lucky readers of this collection will enjoy. The talented artist list includes Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame; R. J. Palacio, author of “Wonder,” the middle grade book just made into a movie; Dan Santat, illustrator and picture book author; John Schu, who uses his prompt to write a letter to his fifth grade teacher apologizing for stealing the book “Matilda,” but explaining why he did and what it meant to him; and Gary D. Schmidt, who wrote a ghost story in the perfect narrator’s voice of Doug, the protagonist of Schmidt’s superb novel “Okay for Now.”
The rest of the group are just as well-known, and just as talented as those artists mentioned. You have to buy the book and read it to appreciate it. Kids will love that they can flip around and don’t have to read the stories sequentially. They can find responses by their favorite authors or illustrators and read those first. Then they can look at the other selections.
Teachers will find a treasure trove of material here to use in the classroom. Students will love the chance to write about a picture or use a beginning sentence or paragraph to create their own responses. Use one of the prompts that were taken by someone and then compare the students’ responses to the response in the book. Or give them an unused prompt and challenge the class to see who can come up with the most creative response.
The uses and the means of enjoyment and learning that this book will bring to children, classrooms, and teachers are unlimited.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, for review purposes.