Sunday, October 30, 2011

50 Cent and school libraries

I just got off the plane from the AASL National Conference. Every little bit of it was terrific, most especially the F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour and the Closing Celebration at the Nicollet Island Pavillion. I also had great visits to the Walker Art Center and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Minneapolis (and St. Paul!) are way cool and I never knew it...

In the learning commons, the preconference, and the convention center, I managed to catch up with too many colleagues to list, but my favorite sessions by far were Lisa Perez's wonderful but unintimidating discussion of the important role librarians serve in integrating technology in schools, and Mimi Ito's closing keynote on harnessing student's digital energy for the good.

Ito's positive examples of media production were on my mind when I started reading 50 Cents' forthcoming book, Playground, on the way home. The protagonist is Butterball, an eighth grader with a passionate interest in film and manga and comics. The plot centers around an incident stemming what he believes to be a deep betrayal on the part of one of his few friends at his Long Island junior high school. But I keyed on two passages in particular:

"...when I was at the library at school, I looked up Batman and ended up finding out a bunch of shit about the guy who'd made the latest adaptation. Christopher Nolan, that's his name. I was interested, you know? He was like my opposite in every way -- from England, and rich and snooty and all the shit you'd expect, the kind of guy who'd cross to the side of the street if he saw me coming. But one thing really stood out for me, and that was that this cat made his first movie when he was seven years old. Isn't that crazy? I mean it was the same age I was then, and that brother had already made a movie? Man." (p.111)
Butterball began saving for his own camera, and edits video on it until he eventually gets a computer from an unlikely ally to craft a film, "The Superhero of Suburbia," for application to an arts magnet.

"I bought a Kryptonite lock for my locker and spent every free period and lunch holed up in the library, reviewing the footage Malik and I had shot the afternoon before" (p.227).
The language is a little strong, but it was otherwise a rather inoffensive read for middle grades, and very entertaining. As with last year's Val Frankel-ghosted Snookie book A Shore Thing, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and what an important representation of the potential role of school libraries in both young people's everyday life information seeking and multimedia production!

Thanks, Curtis. And thanks to the great conference committee -- it was my very favorite AASL (so far!).

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