Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Terry Shay's Favorite Books to Spark Creativity!

It's Teacher Appreciation Week! And we're celebrating by inviting one our favorite teachers, Terry Shay, to the Cottage! In addition to teaching music and technology in Iowa, Terry is one of the founders of International Dot Daya global creativity and literacy celebration inspired by Peter Reynolds' book, The Dot—as well as the founder and facilitator of the popular Celebri-dots program. He's also a tireless champion of creativity, an avid reader with an infectious love of books, and an all-around sweet guy.

We asked Terry for his recommendations on books to ignite a creative spark!

"In the last few years there has been a great resurgence in the focus on Creativity, most likely as a reaction to the testing culture that has permeated schools. There are many books that help foster creativity in classrooms and homes. I’ve made a list of my favorites so you can begin creating your own library."

"In 2009, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds formed the inspiration for a global creativity celebration called International Dot Day. Since its inception, Dot Day has been celebrated by almost two million people in ninety countries. The Dot tells the story of creativity-challenged Vashti, and her teacher who encourages her to “make a mark and see where it takes you.” Peter has followed up with two other books, Ish and Sky Color, to form the Creatrilogy.” This set of books is essential to both inspire kids to create, and to challenge many of the things that hold them back. When I think of a creativity champion, I think of Peter H. Reynolds."

"Biographies can also be stellar choices to inspire creativity. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds Kandinsky’s Abstract Art is a Caldecott Honor book and rightfully so. Mary Grandpr√© has created stunning visuals to go along with Barbara Rosenstock’s excellent story of artist Vasya Kandinsky and his way of looking at the world." 

"In Mary’s Garden is another visually appealing story by Carson and Tina Kugler that tells the story of Mary Nohl and her famous upcycling masterpiece house near Milwaukee, WI. The art is so beautiful and so true to Mary’s artwork that you will want to run out and make your own masterpiece." 

"Wendell Minor is a masterful artist and he channels the art of Edward Hopper in Edward Hopper Paints His World. It had to have been very difficult to get the right feeling on the iconic Hopper, but Wendell does it with great style. When you add Robert Burleigh’s words in retelling the story of Edward Hopper, the book becomes an inspirational masterpiece. The beauty in all of these biographical books is that the subjects had to overcome struggles, which is a common theme, and one that will reassure and inspire young artists."

"For plain fun and creativity, you can’t beat Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit. Disguised as a book about complaining crayons, this book questions the notion of certain colors being strongly associated with certain objects, like is the sun yellow or orange? This book is laugh-out-loud good with a strong creative message. It also opens the whole idea of personification, which could be the launching point for creative writing." 

"Also take a look at Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light. A super sweet book about inspiration, creating, and siblings. Louise says, “I love art! It’s my imagination on the outside.” Kelly has created a charming book about the importance of audience and of being a creator."

"Have you heard about the “maker movement” that is ramping up creativity in an entirely new way? Start with Going Places by Peter H. and Paul A. Reynolds. Going Places is the story of kids who are participating in a go-cart competition that ignites their imagination. This book would be a great place to start a discussion about how creativity can lead to exploration and making." 

"Speaking of engineering, check out Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier. Although the story itself is not about engineering, the unique engineering of paper and the book's clever design will give students a clear message about thinking outside the box."
"I believe that everyone is creative. The problem is that sometimes people have such a limited view of creativity that they start to believe they aren’t creative. These last two books are not directly about creativity, but are nonetheless inspiring. The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman shares the important concept of being brave. Although I believe everyone is creative, sometimes I think a strong shot of bravery is needed to get it out for the world to see."

"Another great title is Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton. Henny is about a chicken that was born with arms instead of wings. The message in this fabulous book is your talent may not be the same as someone else's, but you should use the talents you have.

Happy creating!"

International Dot Day www.thedotclub.org
Celebridots www.celebridots.com

The Testing Camera http://www.fablevisionlearning.com/blog/2014/12/the-testing-camera

Terry Shay is a 5-12 Vocal Music and Technology teacher at North Tama School in Traer, IA. You can find Terry on Twitter at @tjshay


  1. Wow, wow, wow. Great suggestions. Some old favs, some new-to-me. Thanks!

  2. Agreed, Joanne! What a great list! Thanks for your comment. :)