Faith Chukwuma Wins Battle of the Books High School Expressive Art Competition

May 06, 2022 | By Baltimore County Public Library

Traditionally, Battle of the Books is a reading-incentive, book-based competition for elementary and middle school students featuring Black-Eyed Susan Award books. This year, the program was expanded to encourage high school students to read for prize incentives and participate in an expressive art (written work, image, audio or video) competition based on any of the eight Battle of the Books titles for high schoolers. Each work of art included an artist statement.  

The winner of this year’s inaugural contest is Faith Chukwuma, a 10th-grade student from Western School of Technology, located in the Catonsville Branch service area. Faith received a $100 VISA gift card for her winning project based on her interpretation of “Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo.  

Fatih’s project, A Truth Untold, can be viewed on YouTube. 

Faith’s Edited Artist Statement 

What message from the book did you want to convey?

I chose betrayal as the concept from the book "Clap When You Land.” It is one of the biggest underlying themes throughout the book. I wanted to talk about what betrayal does to a person and the hurt it causes in A Truth Untold. 

What techniques and/or materials did you use to create this piece? Why did you choose them? Describe your process. 

When I began reading, I told myself that I would pick a theme in the book to feel more creative and less academic and rigid. I also knew that I wanted to use spoken poetry and kept this in mind as I was reading to learn the techniques Elizabeth Acevedo uses when writing poetry. The audiobook version was a huge help to me because I was able to hear how she performed and formatted her work. 

My concept had to be somewhat broad because not everyone would have read “Clap When You Land.” As I was reading the poem on page 196, inspiration struck. This poem is about Camino's feelings when she finds out that her father has been living a double life. This is when I knew I wanted to convey betrayal through slam poetry.  

I wanted the imagery in the video to be intense to help viewers understand the feeling without me outright saying it. References is a technique used to make comparisons back to the book without it being confusing to the audience. The clearest reference was "a plane with the tail ripped off freefalling.” In the book, this is how Camino and Yahaira's father dies, and I thought it would be good to add in mentions of his death without making it specific to them.  

Another thing that I absolutely knew that my poem would need was strong emotion since it was part of the judging criteria. I achieved this by including techniques that might induce or remind viewers of stress by mentioning perspiring and a racing heart. I also did this by speeding up the pace of the poem at some moments as well as slowing it down at parts. I tried to "act" it out with my voice by changing the way it sounded. The performance of the poem was just as important as the poem itself.  

I put together a collection of some of my favorite poems and compiled a list about what I liked about each and evaluated the techniques and how they contributed to the quality and overall performance. Of course, one of the slam poets that I watched the most was Elizabeth Acevedo. One thing I found was that delivery was important. The way they stressed certain words, took pauses and pronunciation were some of my biggest takeaways. It's what truly makes slam poetry a performance.  

As for the process of animating my poetry, it took about three hours to learn and another three days to fully understand. It was not easy, and the animation ended up being 5,101 frames long. The process of animating this three-minute project took me about 31 consecutive hours!  


Thank you to all the students who submitted final projects. This inaugural competition was made possible with the help from library media specialists at Catonsville, Franklin, Owings Mills, Perry Hall highs schools and the Western School of Technology.  

Look for more information about the 2022-2023 Battle of the Books competition in October 2022.  

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