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Bring the Power of Music Into Your Library: a guest post by Guitar Notes author Mary Amato for Music in Our Schools Month (March)

Although March is many things, like National Craft Month and Women’s History Month, it is also Music in Our Schools Month.  As school budgets get cut, music and education are some of the first to go, especially with today’s emphasis on STEM education.  But there are those who advocate STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.  By adding the arts, you increase creativity and innovation, along with innovation, problem solving and more.  Today, in support of music in our schools, Guitar Notes author Mary Amato writes a guest post about The Power of Music.  And for more information on how you can help Save the Music, stop by the VH1 website.

Listening to a song I love can turn around a bad day or make a great day even better. I love music, and about five years ago I made a promise to myself to actually learn how to play the guitar. Along the way, I kept imagining the powerful connection that two characters could make if they really started to share music together. That’s how Guitar Notes was born.

In the novel, a teen boy and girl challenge each other to write songs and start a duo called The Thrum Society. Instead of having the songwriting action happen “offstage,” I wanted to show them actually writing.  That meant I needed to write every song. I loved doing this. After I was done, I thought about how cool it would be for readers to hear the songs, not just see the lyrics, so I partnered up with a male musician friend, Bill Williams, and together we arranged and recorded the tracks. Readers can hear them on the book’s website: http://thrumsociety.com/.

Readers are sending me messages saying that, after reading the book, they are inspired to write their own songs. This is music to my ears! I wish more teachers would include songwriting as part of the English class curriculum, along with poetry. Students who struggle with writing or with literature can be turned on through songwriting. Lyrics use all the elements of writing that are taught in a great English class—metaphor, alliteration, rhythm, symbolism, personification, etc.—and it’s an expressive, relevant art form that gets kids exciting about writing. I’m trying to put lots of songwriting resources on the thrumsociety website to help—songwriting tip videos, a songwriting lesson plan for teachers and media specialists, blank guitar chord templates, and much more.

I would love it if teen media specialists would consider creating a “Songwriting Studio.” This could be simple: a carrel labeled For Songwriter’s with a copy of Guitar Notes and some blank songwriting journals (note to whoever puts this up…here’s the link for the blank songwriting journals). Or you could go crazy and devote a study room that contains: copies of novels that are about music, like Guitar Notes, books on songwriting, earphones, and a computer with garageband. 
Take 5: More Teen Titles About Music
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (review tomorrow)
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Elliott
If I Stay by  Gayle Forman

Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes

Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee

More on Music at TLT:
The Power of Music, a guest post by Melissa Darnell
The Soundtrack of Your Books
Steph’s Take: Top 10 Titles Inspired by Music 

Does your school still have a music program? What are your favorite music themed YA titles to share with teens? And what do you think about Mary’s ideas for encouraging musical pursuits in public libraries? What ideas would you add?

Mary Amato is an award-winning children’s book author, poet, playwright, and songwriter. Her books have been translated into foreign languages, optioned for television, produced onstage, and have won the children’s choice awards in several states.  Her book, Guitar Notes, was published by Egmont USA in July of 2012. ISBN: 9781606841242.

Win a Signed Copy of Guitar Notes AND a Luna Guitar!!!!

So, back in August, Karen wrote about her love for Guitar Notes by Mary Amato.  It was so wonderful, it made Karen’s 2012 List of Favorite Reads.  Now, Egmont USA (publishers of Guitar Notes) and Luna Guitars are coming together to give away a signed copy of Guitar Notes and a beautiful Safari travel-sized guitar and backpack case to help unleash your inner songwriter.  

Entries will be accepted January 15 through February 12.  Enter through the Luna Guitars website.

Details and rules:

The Mary Amato Safari Tattoo Contest Rules



The Luna Gift of Music promotion is open to any citizen of planet Earth, with the following exception. Employees, officers and directors of Luna Guitars and its respective parents, subsidiaries, consultants, agents and suppliers, as well as their immediate families and persons living in the same household as such individuals, are not eligible to enter or win.


Promotion begins January 15, 2013 7AM EST and ends February 12, 2013 at 6PM EST. Winner will be announced February 15, 2013 in the TRIBE TALK newsletter from Luna and on the blog of Egmont USA children’s publisher based in Manhattan.


To enter the Safari Tattoo Contest, you must register at least email address, first name, and last name, using the link on the Contest Entry page. LIMIT ONE (1) ENTRY PER EMAIL ADDRESS FOR THIS PROMOTION. (Note that this will also add contestant to the TRIBE TALK subscription list.) 


The winner will be randomly selected betweenFebruary 12th and February 14th, 2013. If a potential winner cannot be contacted or the prize notification is returned as undeliverable, that winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner may be selected.


Safari Tattoo Guitar plus padded gig bag, and an autographed copy of Guitar Notes by Mary Amato


The name and hometown of the winner shall be published February 15, 2013 in the TRIBE TALK newsletter from Luna and on the blog of Egmont USA, a children’s publisher based in Manhattan. The winner will also be contacted via his or her registered email address and be available afterward through Luna’s newsletter archive page.

Book Review: Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

Teen librarian true confession: I have been in a reading funk for the past 2 weeks.  Seriously, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to start and started and stopped a lot of books. I was worried.  But in doing my check out the pub catalog rounds I stumbled across a little book called Guitar Notes by Mary Amato and it was just what I needed.  And it is just what your teens need too, let me tell you why.

“lucky, lucky me” – from Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
July 2012 by EgmontUSA 9781606841242

Our story begins at the beginning of the school year where we meet Lyla and Tripp, two souls who couldn’t seem to be more different but soon find themselves thrumming (all is explained beautifully in the book.)  Lyla is a straight A, perfectionist soon to be professional cellist.  Tripp is a lost soul who finds comfort in nothing but his guitar, which his mother has taken away.

The two struggling souls sign up for a lunch time slot in the school music room to practice and end up having the same room on opposite days; she gets the even days and he gets the odd ones.  Annoyed when Tripp leaves some trash behind, Lyla leaves him a snarky note.  Tripp, of course, can only respond with his own unique brand of snark.  Soon, the two of them are leaving each other notes in the guitar case (see where the title comes from there?) and forming a unique friendship.  As the two begin to bond through their music, they take a magical journey of healing and self discovery – until life rears its ugly head and threatens to silence them both.

“Dear Odd Day Musician,
We are sharing this room. Please remove your trash from the music stand when you are done. Thanks.
– The Even Day Musician” – page 28

So let me tell you everything that is amazing about this book:

This is a beautifully written and engaging story about two teens learning, growing, and bonding over music.  It is a testament to music, self discovery, self expression, and learning how to be true to yourself.  Some of the book is written as notes, some as texts and e-mails, and some as short, traditional lay-out chapters.  It is an engaging story that is quick and easy to read, but does not sacrifice content, character development, thought or language for style or format.

“I just want to know, does playing the cello make you happy?” – page 66

Tripp and Lyla are such well thought out and admirable teen characters.  Lyla begins our story laying in bed almost paralyzed with the fear and stress that comes from having to be perfect, and she quite literally begins to blossom as she sets aside that which has been pressed upon her and embraces that which speaks to her soul.  And Tripp is a charismatic young man with deep thoughts about life and music, yet he has a fun, snarky, sarcastic wit (I love that he refers to his mother as The Termite in his head).

“Sometimes I imagine my cello exploding. And sometimes I look at myself in the mirror, and my own face looks like a mask to me.” – page 125

Tripp and Lyla develop a slow building, intimate friendship and musical partnership that may or may not eventually develop into something more, and that something more doesn’t matter.  This is just truly a beautiful friendship and musical partnership.  In ways they save each other, but they are also saving themselves by being true to themselves as they learn to be honest with one another through their music.  There is no insta love, no love triangle, no star crossed lovers – just a very organic and pure relationship that stems from mutual interests and shared experiences.

“Dear Ms. Even,
The guitar is crushed, It wants to be played. Thankfully, it has me.
– Mr. Odd” – page 49
Like the characters in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I love the way that Tripp and Lyla talk about music and thrumming and resonance and how souls are drawn to one another.  There are all these fun, quirky references to physics, pomegranates and a blasty carpet and how parents think they know what is best for you but never stop to ask you who you are or what you want.
“The other day, I walked out and saw the maple tree, you know, the one in front? And the leaves were so red, I had this feeling that they were actually singing.” – page 161

This book is really clean and appropriate for all ages.  It was a refreshing and uplifting read.  At the end, I felt satisfied and inspired and just . . . moved.  Guitar Notes by Mary Amato gets 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend that all libraries add it to their collections.  Now.  Go.  I’ll wait . . . Your fans of John Green and Sarah Dessen will eat this title up.  If you loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight or If I Stay, if you love books about music, if you love contemporary teen fiction that speaks to your soul, you will LOVE this book.

“Dear Mr. Odd,
You are indeed odd.
– Ms. Even” – page 61

Be sure and check out the accompanying website, thrumsociety, for samples of music from the book and information about song writing.  In the back of the book you can find chords and lyrics to all the songs written by Lyla and Tripp.

See the book trailer here.

This is the Valentine’s Day present The Mr. and Kids made for me this year.
They didn’t know about this book, but it sure does fit.
No one in this house plays the guitar, but I love this present.
They quote e e cummings on the guitar.
If I was making a Top 10 List of teen books about music (see Stephanie Wilke’s here), Guitar Notes would go on it!