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Student artwork beautifies ugly books at Thomson High

Saving money, teaching a lesson, updating materials and having fun all at the same time is one goal Jennifer Newton accomplished. Last school year, Mrs. Newton and her cohorts held an "Ugly Book contest" in the media center to dress up some books that were going to be discarded because their covers were in bad shape.

Mrs. Newton said she and Tammy Kay Brunson, both media specialists, decided to hold the contest in conjunction with Claudia Wells, the art teacher. They chose 100 books from the fiction section that had bad covers but were in good shape otherwise.

Mrs. Wells assigned her upper level art students to choose a book and design and draw a front and back cover, a spine label and write a summary. The finished work was made into dust jackets for the books.

"It all looks very professional," Ms. Newton said. "The books had been good candidates to weed out, but now they are being used. Kids check them out now."

Senior Josh Thomas won the competition. Mrs. Wells said she also remembers Javonna Boyd and Ashby Shurling doing a good job.

Javonna, who is a junior this year, chose the book, Men of Iron, because she enjoys medieval times. Javonna drew a knight on horseback for the front of her cover and a knight standing for the back.

Ms. Newton said books with bad covers do not appeal to the students and are rarely checked out. Javonna said she would not have checked out Men of Iron before it received her new cover.

"I know it's wrong to think like that, but I would not have even looked at it," she said.

Ashby disagreed, following the old proverb about not judging a book by its cover. Ashby chose the book, The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian, which is the story of a boy who rescues a cat, is kidnapped by a bear and becomes a clown in a circus.

Ashby said she chose her book because she enjoys drawing animals, and she likes her cover because it is colorful. In addition to the cat and bear, a clown face is on the front of the book and a rainbow-striped hot air balloon is on the back. The background is bright yellow.

"It makes it pop," Ashby said.

The project was a success all around, according to Mrs. Newton, because the students enjoyed the work and the books "look great."

"I see them come in and pull their book out to show it to their friends," she said.

In addition to the art lesson, Mrs. Wells said she incorporated a career study with the assignment by teaching about publishing companies hiring artists to design book jackets that will entice buyers.

"I think it was a good project," Mrs. Wells said. "It helped them see the usefulness of their work as not just something they could draw and put in a notebook, but something that actually could be used. I really like to connect art to real life opportunities so that they want to do it more."

Both Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Newton said they hope to do the project again this year.

Web posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007

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