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This woman makes incredible art from discarded books.

Books can tell stories in many different ways.

This woman makes incredible art from discarded books.

Malena Valcarcel loves books and has been an avid reader all her life. But that's not the only reason books inspire her.

As a paper artist, Valcarcel tells her own stories using books as her canvases.

All images by Malena Valcarcel/Malena Valcarcel Art, used with permission.


Seriously, how cool is that?

Valcarcel says she creates these sculptures from books that have been thrown away for one reason or another. Sometimes she rescues them from refuse bins, secondhand shops that can't move them, and even libraries that incinerate unwanted or damaged books to make room for new ones. In fact, she's developed such a reputation for repurposing books that friends bring her books they no longer want or need.

And the best part is that she gives them new lives as beautiful, incredibly unique works of art.

She often incorporates elements from the books she's repurposing to pay homage to the source from which she draws her creativity. It might be a tree (the source of all books) or a character from a story that once moved her.

"I can be inspired by a book I read, or maybe a specific passage of that book can inspire me to create a Book Sculpture," she wrote in a Facebook message.  

The dreamlike dioramas she creates can make you feel like you're getting a secret glimpse into the world of a fantasy novel.

Here are 12 of Valcarcel's book sculptures that prove there's more than one way to love a book.

1. Like this magical castle in the woods.

2. Or this tree-gnome with a peacock for a hat.

3. Who doesn't want a cozy reading nook like this one?

4. Here's a fitting tribute to "Alice in Wonderland."

5. And another miniature one (watch out for that cat, Alice).

6. She's also not afraid to get fantastically creepy.

7. These three witches conspiring are a bit spooky.

8. And what witch tableau is complete without owls?

9. Books can take you on so many journeys, even in alternative forms.

10. Like sailing past a magical city at dusk.

11. Or stumbling upon a wishing well while getting lost in an enchanted forest.

12. Books have a transformative power. Even when they themselves have been transformed.

Valcarcel's art allows us to look at books in an entirely new light and may even inspire more visually-inclined people to start reading again.

Of course it would be wonderful if more books stayed on people's shelves rather than landing in refuse bins. But for the ones that do, it's comforting to know some may end up in Valcarcel's hands.

Thanks to her creativity, they'll have the chance to tell a new story in a way that's sure to make people stop and appreciate, if just for a moment, the magic of books.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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