Author Feature-Ashley Hope Perez (2012)

Spirit of Texas Reading Program-High School

Featured Author

Ashley Hope Perez 

Ashley Hope Perez

What Can't Wait
Knife and the Butterfly

Reading is my passion, and maybe if I hadn’t also fallen in love with teaching, I might have become a librarian just so that I could be around as many books as possible. My experiences teaching bilingual kindergarten, Montessori grades 1-3, and high-school English sold me on the writing and teaching life. I especially enjoyed my three years teaching high school in Houston, where many of my students were convinced they hated to read and write at the beginning of the year and equally persuaded of the opposite by the end of the year.

When I’m not reading, writing, or teaching, I am hanging out with our little boy, Liam Miguel. He keeps me very, very busy. In the scraps of time that remain, I also like to run (I did the Houston Marathon in 2007 and the Chicago Marathon in 2009), bake (but let’s don’t revive the “Cookie Girl” nickname, please), watch movies, work in my garden, and destroy my mom in long-distance games of Scrabble.

**This biography written by the author


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The Knife and the Butterfly

What Can't Wait

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Academic Programs

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What Can't Wait? Programming


These activities are designed to allow classroom teachers to connect the classroom experience to the library related activities. The activities will align with current TEKS and grade level expectations of grades 9-12 in multiple subject areas. This is directed more at the classroom teacher and school librarians.

Plan for the future:

There are many times when Marisa is tempted to give up on school and college. Write about a time when you felt overwhelmed or frustrated. How did you respond?

Students develop more stylist maturity by emphasizing the following: effective vocabulary; sentence variety; coherence; sophisticated rhetoric, including control of tone and voice; concrete detail to support generalizations; and ability to synthesize various sources, citing these sources using a recognized style (MLA).


  • E.11A
  • E.12D
  • E.13A
  • E.13B
  • E.13D
  • E.15A
  • E.15Av
  • E.17A
  • E.18A
  • E.18B
  • E.23A
  • E.23B
  • E.23C
  • E.23D
  • E.25A
  • E.26A
  • 18(A)
  • 18(B)
  • 15(A) (v)

Ashley Hope Perez website

Her website also has a great teacher resource

College Bound - Personal Statements

Students will write personal statements as though they were applying for college at this moment. The statements should be about two pages double-spaced. University of California, Berkley has a great website to assist students in developing personal statements for college (


  • English 1: B13, B15a, B17
  • English 2: B13, B15b, B17
  • English 3: B13, B15b, B17, B19
  • English 4: B13, B15b, B17, B19
  • Principles of Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications: C1, C9

Writing Prompts

(Students should write a 2-3 page essay based on one of/each of the following prompts.)

Prompt 1: Which character did you relate to most in What Can't Wait? Why?


  • English 1: B5B, B13, B16
  • English 2: B5B, B13, B16
  • English 3: B5B, B13, B16
  • English 4: B5B, B13, B16

Prompt 2: This novel would be very different if it was not told from Marisa's perspective. Re-write a scene from this novel written from the perspective of Marisa's calculus teacher, mother, or best friend.


  • English 1: B5b, B5c, B13
  • English 2: B5b, B5c, B13
  • English 3: B5b, B5c, B13
  • English 4: B5b, B5c, B13

Prompt 3: Marisa is expected to take care of her family even at the expense of her education. Is she right to want to go to college? Is it fair of her family to expect her to help the family rather than pursuing her dreams? Be prepared to share this essay with the class.


  • English 1: B2c, B13, B16, B24
  • English 2: B2c, B13, B16, B24
  • English 3: B2c, B13, B16, B24
  • English 4: B2c, B13, B16, B24

Prompt 4: Mexican-American culture, heritage and tradition play a major role in this novel. Examine how Marisa's cultural background influences her experiences.


  • English 1: B7, B8, B13, B15c
  • English 2: B7, B8, B13, B15c
  • English 3: B7, B8, B13, B15c
  • English 4: B7, B8, B13, B15c
  • History 1: B11, B13b, B25, B29

Prompt 5: Many YA novels are currently being adapted for film. How would you make a movie or play of What Can't Wait? Re-write a scene from the novel as a scene from a movie script.


  • English 1: B7, B8, B13, B14c
  • English 2: B7, B8, B13, B14c
  • English 3: B7, B8, B13, B14c
  • English 4: B7, B8, B13, B14c

Prompt 6: Write a poem based on What Can't Wait. This poem should summarize the events of the novel as well as convey the emotions of the characters.


  • English 1: B7, B8, B13, B14b
  • English 2: B7, B8, B13, B14b
  • English 3: B7, B8, B13, B14b
  • English 4: B7, B8, B13, B14b

The Knife and the Butterfly Programming


These activities are designed to allow classroom teachers to connect the classroom experience to library related activities. These activities will align with current TEKS and grade level expectations of grades 9-12 in multiple subject areas. These programs are specifically designed for the use of teachers and librarians.

Activity One - Journal Writing (TEKS)

Illustrated Journal

Keeping a journal helped Az sort through conflicting emotions and confusion during his confinement. Keep an illustrated journal about your experiences reading The Knife and the Butterfly, including any observations you have about graffiti you may see in your own community, or other parallels you may see in your world.


  • ELA 10th--10, 11, 12, 126.12 (c) 10, 11, 12
  • ELA 11th ---13A, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A

List of Supplies:

  • Comp book or other journal
  • Writing implements

The information below will help you remember what you should think about each time you compose a journal entry.  Remember to:

  • Write about your assigned topic
  • Make your writing thoughtful and interesting
  • Make sure that any drawings you include contribute to your overall entry
  • Make sure your ideas are clear and easy for the reader to follow
  • Write about your ideas in depth so the reader is able to develop a good understanding of what you are saying
  • Proofread your entries to correct errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure.

Activity Two - Literary Writing Prompt (STAARS)

Students will respond to the prompt and picture provided with a one page story. There will be three options to choose from. Feel free to substitute your own images instead of the ones provided below.  The images below have been drawn from the Flickr Creative Commons pool.


  • ELA 9th --9C, 9D, 10A, 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 14A, 16D, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii, 19A, 20A
  • ELA 9th PAP—9D, 10A, 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii, 20A
  • ELA 10th—9D, 13A, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii, 19A, 20A
  • ELA 10th PAP – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 14A, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18b iii, 19A

Prompt 1

Look at the image below.

Wall Graphetti

Write a story about the artist who created this mural. Be sure that your story is focused and complete, and that it has an interesting plot and engaging characters.

Prompt 2

Look at the image below.

Mural Artist

Write a story about the artist who created this mural. Be sure that your story is focused and complete, and that it has an interesting plot and engaging characters.

Prompt 3

Look at the image below.

Bamboo Road

Write a story about the artist who created this piece of ephemeral art. Be sure that your story is focused and complete, and that it has an interesting plot and engaging characters.

Activity Three - Research and Multi-Media Presentation, All Levels 

London Graffitti

This project is designed to have students experience the research process in the classroom and library. The topic centers on the importance of graffiti in Ashley Hope Perez’s book, The Knife and the Butterfly.

Students will research:

  • The origins of graffiti.
    • What was the earliest painting?
    • Where was it discovered?
    • What role might these images have played in prehistoric culture?
  • The evolution of murals and frescoes throughout history in different parts of the world.
    • The subjects of these paintings.
    • The purpose of them in different societies
  • The current beliefs and laws surrounding this form of artwork, and may include a comparison contrast aspect if desired.
This research project will culminate in a Power Point presentation using MLA format. This project can be done in small groups or as an individual project. Teachers will want to assign either particular periods of history, or particular regions to individuals or groups, resulting in a series of final presentations that covers from prehistory to the present day, and includes murals from around the world.


  • ELA 9th – 2C, 9D, 10A, 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16D, 16E, 17C, 18A, 18Biii, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23C, 23D, 23E, 25A
  • ELA 9th PAP--13A,13C, 13D, 13E, 16D, 16E, 17C, 18A, 18Bii, 18Biii, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 22A, 22B, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E, 25A,
  • ELA 10th – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 17C, 18A, 18Bi, 18Bii, 18Biii,19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E,
  • ELA 10th PAP – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 17C, 18A, 18BI, 18BII, 18BIII, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E,
  • ELA 11th – 13A, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16C, 16E, 16F, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23D, 23E, 25A
  • ELA 11th AP—13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16C, 16D, 16E, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 23C, 23D, 23E, 25A
  • ELA 12TH – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 16G, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E
  • ELA 12th AP – 13A, 13C, 13D, 13E, 15D, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, 16G, 17B, 18A, 19A, 20A, 20B, 21A, 21B, 21C, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E
  • World Geography –5A, 7C, 16B, 15B, 16D, 17A,

Supplies needed:

  • Computer access for all students
  • Library access for all students
  • Power Point or Presi (free online presentation software, requiring registration), or Posterboard
  • If using Posterboard, you will need
    • Markers
    • Glue
    • Construction paper
    • Plain paper
    • Pictures, etc for displays


 Have students pick either a time period or a geographic region to research for their project.

  • Region - Spain, France, Indonesia, New Guinea, Rome, Egypt, Pompeii, Berlin, Mexico, etc.
  • Time periods - Upper Paleolithic, 3150 BC, Neopalatial period, 100BC, 1000 AD, 1500 AD, 2000 AD, etc

Students will need to find at least 3 sources on their topic

Students will cite their sources using MLA or other style manual, depending on requirements. You can use online citation engines like SLATE or Word References Tab to aide in your teaching of citations

Students will take notes from their sources based on the sub topics:

  • Origins - country / area, dates, origin stories
  • Materials - materials used in creating paintings
  • Subject - topics and purpose of paintings
  • Reception - contemporary reactions to paintings (if known) and current societal beliefs
  • Differences between wall art from different periods (optional)

Make sure students use parenthetical documentation (or whichever internal documentation is required by your style manual if not using MLA). When students take notes, they will need to cite page numbers if the information is from a book.

Creating the presentation

  • Students will need to find pictures to use in their presentation (citations required for these, at a minimum the website name and url)
  • Using the information and images gathered, students will create an 8-20 slide presentation on their topic to inform the class about their assignment.
  • The student will need to produce a thesis for his/her project to guide them in the construction of his/her presentation.
  • At the end of the presentation, students will also need to include a Works Cited page, including the source for any images used.
  • After students have completed the presentation, they should have others review their project to help them revise and edit their presentations.
  • Since some modern wall art contains graphic images, be sure to provide guidance for students on selecting images that are appropriate for a classroom setting for their presentation.

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Active Programs

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‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍What Can't Wait? Programming


Marisa's dream is to study engineering at the University of Texas. To garner interest, organize a math-filled day with engineers. Students and their parents or educators are invited to an afternoon of engineering fun.

Students get a chance to:

  • Have fun doing grade-specific, hands-on engineering activities
  • Meet students, professors and engineers from industry
  • See what it's like to be an engineer.

Engineering Day Competitions:

Food Battery Competition-

Create a battery from common foodstuffs, sufficient to light a small light bulb, LED or LCD display

List of Supplies:

  • One large potato or lemon.
  • Zinc electrode - a 3cm x 0.5cm piece of zinc metal will suffice. You can inquire at a local hardware store.
  • Copper electrode - Similarly sized piece of copper metal.
  • Copper wire - Sufficient length of wire to create a circuit from the zinc electrode to a light bulb (or other device) and copper electrode.
  • Small light bulb - flashlight or penlight bulbs work best. You can experiment with other devices such as LED displays, or time pieces.

***If no copper electrode is used, hydrogen gas is given off as a byproduct of the reactions taking place. Be wary of performing the experiment near heat sources or an open flame. Though the voltages and amperages given off are low, care should be taken in handling the wire and other parts of the circuit.***


Stick your zinc electrode all the way into the potato or lemon.Place the copper electrode on the opposite side.Connect the small light bulb to the two electrodes with copper wire.Observe what happens!

Balsa Wood Experiment:

List of Supplies:

  • 48 feet or less of 3/32" square balsa wood
  • 2 tables
  • 1 square inch steel bar


  • Build a strong bridge which is made of 3/32" square balsa wood. Make sure to use 48 feet or less of the Balsa Wood.
  • Place two tables next to each other with a 13 inch gap in between them.
  • The wood will span the 13 inch opening between tables. The wood should derive its only support from the tops of the tables (and it should on only touch the tops of the tables).
  • This bridge should support a 1 inch square steel weighing bar. The steel bar must be centered across the bridge (not along its length).
  • Although the bridge may go over or under the test bar, the bottom of the bar must remain in between 3 inches and 12 inches above the table at all times.



Egg Drop Experiment:

List of Supplies:

  • One unboiled egg
  • Supplies for making a container-these can be whatever the teens choose to use


  • Assign teens into groups.
  • Notify teens of the height from which the eggs in their container must be dropped.
  • Let teens know if any material is off limits for use in designing their container.
  • Have each group design a container which will allow the unboiled egg to remain unbroken when dropped from the specified height.
  • Teens should know that a cracked egg counts as a broken egg.


EHow Instructions

Other Resources:

Engineering Day @ your Library

National Engineer Week- February 13-17 2013

  • Contact local engineers and/or local engineering college/university
  • Arrange an area for companies and universities to set up display
  • Set up publicity for event via website/newspaper/flyers

A great resource for a week-long celebration



Engineering Posters (ideas for publicity)

Online Engineering Games and Tools:

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Video:


The Knife and the Butterfly Programming

Graffiti Artist Panel / Debate

Graffitti Panel


Host a presentation by a graffiti artist, muralist, stencil poster artist, or airbrush artist, or a panel of several different artists in your community! If possible, ask them to do a live demonstration, or offer an interactive element - such as a hands on graffiti workshop -- for teens following their presentation. The presentation could also be a debate about graffiti art. You could divide a class into two groups and have each side present their arguments and counter arguments, or you could host a live debate between a graffiti artist and a police officer about the appropriateness of art on public buildings.


  • One or two (or more!) artists from your community
  • Posters advertising the program (see example below)
  • Program with an outline of the speakers (see example below)
  • If an interactive element is planned, you will need art supplies (get a list from your speaker). Check out these examples of interactive graffiti / mural programs:

Graffiti name-writing workshop:

Mural project on building, plywood or butcher paper:

Community mural project:

Graffiti battle:

  • Projector and screen or wall, so teens can see the art in life size, if possible.
  • A book display on graffiti, mural, or ephemeral art to set up before the presentation, such as:
    • Create a piece of ephemeral art from bookmarks (a flower or spiral)
    • Create a book display against a backdrop of brick paper, which you can draw a graffiti image on, or invite teens to draw on (leave bright markers available nearby), like this example by the University of Tennessee's Libraries.
    • Use the Graffiti Art Generator to do your library's name up, graffiti style, and put that on the poster behind your books.

Program Description

Identify a muralist or an artist in your community who is willing to do a presentation on their art, their education / training, their inspiration, the tools they work with, and possibly a live demonstration of their work (either on a wall or on a sheet of paper to be hung in the library)

When speaking to your artist, ask if there are any interactive elements that can be added to their program, such as guiding your teens through a mural project, or an art workshop where teens will get to try their hand at the artist's style of work with the artist's guidance.

Ask for a PowerPoint with their artwork (or photos of it), or ask them to bring big samplesIf possible, hang their art in the library after their visit with a display of books on graffiti / street art / ephemeral art

Sample Poster:

Sample Graffiti Program Poster

Sample Schedule of Events:

Art in the Streets

15 November 2012

Panel Discussion

3-4 pm

Artists MDK, Alpha Ru, and Dru Paul will discuss their work, education, tools and experiences in working with the medium of spray paint, and legal options for displaying their art.



4-5 pm

Each artist will provide a 15 minute demonstration of their work, and will be available for a brief Q&A after each demonstration


Street Art Workshop

5-6 pm

Alpha Ru will provide an introductory class on graffiti lettering and images. This is limited to 20 participants and requires sign up in advance!


Tips for Finding an Artist

Finding an artist in your community can be the trickiest part of having a graffiti artist panel! The resources below are provided to give you ideas about where to start, but every community will be different. Don't forget to ask at your local art school or community college (or art supply store) to see if they have any resources you might use or contacts that can get you started. Some street artists are understandably shy, but there are others who will be excited to do a presentation for you!

  • Austin Mural Art Society
  • Society of Mural Artists in the Austin Area
  • List of Austin-Area murals
  • Aerosol Arts: Aerosol Arts is a project of Caleb Aero, a spray-paint artist based in Hawaii who travels nationally to offer workshops on spray-paint art
  • Houston Arts Alliance: The Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is a nonprofit arts organization that supports and promotes the arts in the Houston area through programs, initiatives and alliances. They have offered community art classes on graffiti art in the past and may be a good resource for locating a speaker.
  • Aerosol Warfare: Offers spray paint art classes in the Houston Area. This site may also be a good resource for finding speakers, as they have been involved in the Pieced Together Texas Graffiti show in the past. No current information available on the PTTG show, but you can see promotional materials previous years.
  • Mig Kokinda: An Austin-based spray paint stencil artist who specializes in unique concert posters. Mig sells his prints in art shows around Austin and is very personable.
  • Shek: San Antonio based graffiti artist
  • RecShop: Dallas's graffiti art supply store, may be a good resource for presenters
  • Convicted Artist Magazine: An El Paso based arm of CAM may provide leads on speakers
  • Emerge Graffiti Art Show: Annual graffiti show in Austin Texas, sponsored by Art Seen Alliance
  • Too Fly NYC: Too Fly NYC has done graffiti panels in the past and have some great examples of how this can work, in particular their panel for the Brooklyn Museum
  • National Society of Mural Painters: The NSMP's website is a bit out of date, but they do have contact information listed that may help you find a mural artist in your community
  • City of San Antonio Sponsored Murals Program: City-sponsored murals cover over graffiti in this community beautification project. This department may have resources to help you locate muralists in San Antonio
  • Community Mural Program in San Antonio: Community Mural/Public Art Program identifies, develops and mobilizes artistically-inclined youth and young adults to create collaborative community murals / public art pieces within the San Antonio Cultural Arts community. The goals of program are to create and inspire collaborative, quality public art. This organization may be able to help you find an artist for your programs
  • Find a Muralist Directory: Searchable database of mural artists

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Passive Programs

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What Can't Wait Programming

Imagine Your Future


Marisa could only dream of attending college. She did not have family support in her pursuit of a higher education or even graduating high school. Her family wanted her to marry and have babies. Sometimes it only takes one teacher, a friend, or an event to inspire ones' dream and determination. The programs below are designed to let teens think forward to their future.

Picture Yourself in College:

List of Supplies

  • College background (enlarge picture of a college campus and put on poster or cardboard)
  • Camera

Create a college background and take pictures of students. The pictures can be used as collage or place on library website. This is a great project to do with high school seniors who will be graduating in the spring.

College Night @ Your Library

List of Supplies

  • Brochures
  • Public announcements in school newspaper or/and school website
  • Posters

Work with local high school counselors in arranging a good date for the college night and creating and distributing publicity to the event to interested students and parents. Then invite community colleges and/or universities to participate in the college night at your library. Make sure you have a large area in which to set up with tables and chairs for each college rep and their display. As a thank you for college reps, arrange a rep room with snacks and drinks.


How to conduct a college fair

Publicity brochures

College Pennants and a Wall of Fame

List of Supplies

  • Picture of teachers/librarians
  • Poster board

Take pictures of teachers/librarians and have them and/or you create college pennants based on where they attended college. Another take on this program is to create a WALL OF "FAMOUS" alumni by researching former high school graduates and creating pennants based on where they attended college.


How to make pennants

Examples of pennants

The Knife and the Butterfly Programming

Ephemeral Art Collection

Ephemeral Art Sample


Help create a repository for Street Art or Ephemeral Art in your community! Graffiti goes back to the earliest humans, and today, ephemeral art is more popular than ever! Get your teens to help create a lasting record of street art and/or ephemeral art in your community!


  • Blank photo album OR display board OR online photo album (like flickr, pinterest, or tumblr)
  • Flier with instructions on how to capture images (see sample below)
  • Stack of bookmarks (if you're asking teens to include the bookmark in their photo to avoid plagiarism)

Sample Flier

Street Art Flier

Program Description

  • Create a display of books on street art and ephemeral art in your library (see nonfiction titles on our Resources list for recommendations)
  • Include a definition of ephemeral art and some images of this type of art, such as graffiti, snow, or sand art.
  • Create a poster indicating that you're starting a Street Art (or Ephemeral Art) Collection at the library and inviting teens to help photograph street or other ephemeral art in your community. (you may want to seed your collection with a few sample photos that you took yourself)
  • Lay out quarter-sheet instruction fliers that they can take with them and pass out to friends (see sample above)
  • Ask teens to photograph their favorite murals, stenciling, graffiti, or street art from around their neighborhood. If you graffiti won't go over as well in your community, instead invite teens to make their own ephemeral art and take photos of it before it is destroyed (make sure to show them some examples so they know what's possible.... do a google image search for "ephemeral art"!)
  • Have teens email you their photos or upload them digitally to a Flickr group, Tumbler page, or Pinterest Board which you can link to from your facebook, blog, or website.
  • As photos start to come in, print out a copy of each photo, and post it in a scrapbook or put it on your display board
  • Scrapbook in progress should be displayed alongside a display of books of street art from around the world (see examples below)
  • Here are some options to help avoid the temptation of using images swiped from the net:
    • Have teens include themselves in the photo next to the art
    • Have teens include a library bookmark in the photo (no waiver needed to display!)

Sample Scrapbook Displays

Sample Scrapbook Display

Sample Scrapbook Display

Sample Scrapbook Display

Incentives: Best Photo Contest

  • Several smaller prizes: Hold a contest for the best photo each week or month! The winning photo can be displayed (along with the accompanying artist shot) and a small prize can be given, like letting the winning teen read your closing announcements.
  • One big prize: Hold a contest for the best photo of the semester, or a drawing with each photo uploaded counting as one entry into the final drawing for that photographer. Prize ideas might be an mp3 player, tickets to a show, or a gift card.


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Created on Oct 2, 2012 | Last updated April 07, 2016