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The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
Cover of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
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Whip-smart dialogue and an inside look at the seedy underbelly of reality TV come together in this critically-acclaimed debut perfect for fans of Unreal, John Green, and Frank Portman.   Witty,...
Whip-smart dialogue and an inside look at the seedy underbelly of reality TV come together in this critically-acclaimed debut perfect for fans of Unreal, John Green, and Frank Portman.   Witty,...
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Description-

  • Whip-smart dialogue and an inside look at the seedy underbelly of reality TV come together in this critically-acclaimed debut perfect for fans of Unreal, John Green, and Frank Portman.
     
    Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three best friends are students at Selwyn Arts Academy, which has been hijacked by For Art’s Sake, a sleazy reality-television show. In the tradition of Ezra Pound, the foursome secretly writes and distributes a long poem to protest the show. They’re thrilled to have started a budding rebellion.
     
    But the forces behind the show are craftier than they seem. The web of betrayal stretches farther than Ethan could have ever imagined, and it’s up to him, his friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save Selwyn.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter One
    O Selwynfolk! In days of old,
    Ideals were high and art was bold.
    In that primeval solitude,
    We sketched and sang, our crafts pursued.
    But now, we watch TV. We’re screwed.
    —The Contracantos
    After the fiasco that was my introduction to long poems and revisionary mytho—uh, mythowhatchamacallit—I knew I had to pay attention that Friday when BradLee lectured on Ezra Pound again. Despite any stunning reason not to pay attention that may have been sitting across the U of desks, pointing and flexing her feet.
    “Pound and the Imagists decided on three principles,” said BradLee. I perked up. I could get behind anybody who knew the importance of threes.
    “First, direct treatment of the subject. Second, use of no word that doesn’t contribute. And the third has to do with rhythm. Instead of writing like a metronome”—BradLee beat his desk—“ ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players,’ Pound wanted to use rhythm the way it’s used in a musical phrase. Can anyone explain that?”
    Rummica Fitzgerald raised her hand. She would. She plays the flute, and she likes everyone to know that she gets music, she’s one with it, melody is her soul. Rummica said, “There’s still a beat, but there might be four sixteenth-notes or just one quarter note.”
    “Excellent,” said BradLee. “So there could be four quick syllables in a beat or one longer one. You guys need any of that repeated?”
    Of course we suck at taking notes, so he had to say the whole thing over again.
    “Pound later described his method of ‘luminous details,’ ” said BradLee. “Instead of abstractions and adjectives, he selected crucial details. Revealing details. Honed, chiseled images. He didn’t want commentary or philosophy.”
    BradLee scrawled luminous details on the board.
    “He wanted good art. He wanted beautiful art. ‘Beauty in art reminds one what is worth while,’ he wrote. ‘I mean beauty, not slither. I mean beauty. You don’t argue about an April wind, you feel bucked up when you meet it.’ ”
    BradLee flipped on the projector. “Here’s an example of an early Imagist poem. Pound stepped off a train in the Paris Underground, and he saw one beautiful face after another. He worked on this poem for a year, class.” There it was:
    The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough.
    Beauty, not slither. Luminous details. I don’t even like poetry and I just stared. Everyone was either spacing out or awestruck, which look basically the same, but I knew Luke was on the awestruck side too.
    We’d planned to hang out later at the Appelden, so I went home for a couple hours. “I’m going for a run,” my dad announced.
    “Not outside,” said my mom. “The wind chill’s negative six.”
    “Treadmill?” said Olivia hopefully.
    “Guess so,” said my dad.
    “EARTHQUAKE BABY TIME!” the triplets shouted as one.
    “Come with us, Ethan,” ordered Tabitha.
    I complied. It was Friday afternoon; it wasn’t like I had anything better to do. And Earthquake Baby is a tradition. While my dad moved the ironing off the treadmill, the girls arranged me on the dining-room floor.
    “Good morning, baby!” said Olivia.
    My dad ratcheted up the speed. The room began to shake.
    “EARTHQUAKE!” they shouted.
    “You are supposed to cry, baby,” Olivia told me.
    “Wah!”
    “Shut...

About the Author-

  • Kate Hattemer taught high school Latin for three years and now works at an independent bookstore in Cincinnati. She delivered an epic poem at her university graduation ceremony, and is also the author of The Land of 10,000 Madonnas. Learn more about Kate and her books at KateHattemer.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 23, 2014
    In Hattemer's smart, provocative, and highly entertaining debut, a group of friends rage against the reality-TV machine that has descended on their prestigious Minnesota arts high school. To say that Hattemer perfectly spoofs competition-based reality shows isn't quite right—from the manipulative "frankenbiting" editing to the For Art's Sake judges' sendoff catchphrase to eliminated contestants ("THAT WASN'T ART!"), the details are almost too spot-on for parody. Narration comes from junior Ethan Andrezejczak, a decently talented visual artist whose devotion to a hamster named Baconnaise, chaotically loving relationship with his triplet younger sisters, and appreciation for literary forms and devices add depth and humor to a story that's already full of meaty material as it explores the creation and corruption of art. As Ethan and his quick-witted friends use poetry to campaign against For Art's Sake (and some breaking and entering to investigate whether the show is on the up and up), readers are treated to a sharply funny account of how people can fall short (and come through), and how art can make a difference. Ages 12–up. Agent: Uwe Stender, TriadaUS Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 1, 2014
    Blending Ezra Pound, rhetoric and reality TV, this hilarious, subversive debut about a cadre of friends at an arts high school is a treat from cover to cover. In seventh grade, popular, good-looking Luke rescued Ethan, Jackson and Elizabeth from misfit nerd-dom. Four years later, Luke still leads while Narrator Ethan is cheerfully resigned to a spot in the "Untalented caste" at Selwyn Academy. Disturbing the status quo, the school's chosen to host a new reality TV show, a student talent competition with a $100,000 scholarship prize and a familiar format: interviews, cliched romances and rivalries, and two smarmy hosts. The obsequious vice principal and most students are thrilled, but For Art's Sake feels like an insult to Ethan and friends. Luke, the most offended, leads a counterattack, writing guerilla poetry inspired by Pound's Cantos that ridicules the enterprise, which the conspirators secretly print at school. However, the masterminds behind reality TV are several steps ahead of them--money and fame are powerful currency, and they know how to use them. Maura, the beautiful, talented ballerina Ethan fancies, has been accepted at Juilliard, but without the scholarship, she can't attend--participating is a no-brainer. Ethan struggles with ethical conundrums (Does Pound's anti-Semitism invalidate his work? Are compromises the price of an arts career?) as he works out his own place in this world and among his friends, especially Elizabeth. A sparkling, timely tour of the complicated intersection where life meets art. (Fiction. 12 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2014

    Gr 8 Up-Ethan Andrezejczak is a junior at a Minnesota arts school that is hosting a competitive "reality" television show starring its students. Ethan strikes just the right note of teenage hesitancy and the shrug of paralyzed inaction so common to many stalled in the years leading to adulthood. Ethan tells the story about how he wound up attending the school, with his limited talent at drawing and music. His friends consist of the truly talented writer Luke, brainy Jackson, and stylishly dreadlocked Elizabeth. When their inspiring English teacher introduces them to Ezra Pound's Cantos, Luke composes a long poem that voices his outcry against the corrupting influence of the sleazy TV people capitalizing on their school's art and integrity. He pulls his friends into clandestine raids on the school's printing press and distributes his protest poem to the student body. Being a part of the reality show rebellion energizes Ethan, even though his crush, ballerina Maura, is one of the leading contestants. The group discovers just how deeply the school administration is in league with the show's producers, and a surprising betrayal leaves Ethan bewildered with little solace beyond the distractions of his zany preschool triplet sisters and a sickly gerbil that does tricks. With a quirky cast of characters set against a reality television invasion, the ample humor and realistic angst make this an enjoyable story.-Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from March 15, 2014
    Grades 8-11 *Starred Review* When the reality show For Art's Sake begins filming at the local high school for the arts, a group of juniors rebels against the prostitution of their talent and forms an underground poetry movement called The Contrecantos. Taking cues from Ezra Pound's work, their poetic protest goes viral and becomes the most-read publication at school. But after one of its number defects, the group must reassess its purpose and decide how to use the evidence of corruption it has found regarding the show's production. Amid the drama and intrigue, narrator Ethan Andrezejczak must do a great deal of soul-searching and maturing to see where he fits into the equation. In this place of immense talent, Ethan is immensely relatable as the voice of the average (that is, socially awkward) teen. Hattemer writes with a refreshing narrative style, crafting both believable characters and a cohesive, well-plotted story. Romance, while in the air, takes a sideline to friendship, which proves to be the book's heart and soul. Relying on the passion and ideals that drive adolescence, this has a vibrancy and authenticity that will resonate with anyone who has fought for their beliefsor who has loved a hamster. (You'll see.)(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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