Thalia Book Club Camp Week 4 Day 5

August 4th, 2017

Today was a bittersweet day at Thalia Kids Book Club Camp! Our last day of the week- and we had to say goodbye (for now!) to some campers that have been coming to this camp for years.

We started the morning with a cheery writing exercise imagining different natural or man-made disasters that could happen in the future and what the various street corners surrounding Symphony Space would look like in the event of such disasters- very much like in our book of today, Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld- which imagines a mysterious nuclear disaster happening in Poughkeepsie, NY. Some people imagined what New York would look like after the explosion of a nuclear bomb and some imagined a monstrous blizzard hitting the city and covering the first few floors of buildings- who knew disasters could inspire so much creativity!

After we imagined our own horrific disasters, we got to meet with the author of the graphic novel, Spill Zone– Scott Westerfeld himself! Scott took us through his journey from only-text novels to graphic novels. Some of you might know Scott from his first major book- The Uglies. He told us that the version of The Uglies that was published in Japan was actually the first little glimmer of inspiration for writing a graphic novel. We had a wonderful look into the way that illustrations can inform the reader- and the author!- about different characters and places and can actually make the setting of a novel more clear. Did you know that before there were cameras and the medium of photography most novels had illustrations in them? Even novels for adults!

Scott took us through the process that the illustrator of Spill Zone, Alex Puvilland, goes through. We also learned that someone other than the actual artist for a graphic novel colors in the pictures? They’re called a “colorist” (go figure).

After our illuminating visit with Scott, we went to lunch and had one last round of Capture the Flag (a Thalia Book Club Camp favorite). When we came back from lunch we had what we call “Share”– an opportunity for all the campers to share book recommendations with everyone and talk about the books they love, as well as share games or skits or songs or anything else that they want to! We got a LOT of book recommendations today! They’ll be listed below- although I think most of our campers were writing them down. We also got a heartwarming testimonial from one of our campers that has been coming to camp for the past five years and who really loves what we do here at book club camp! For a number of campers, this is their last year.  In honor of them, we took a “graduation” picture.

After our share we ended the day with a lovely little party with cupcakes and lemonade and a chance for all our campers to chat more about the books they loved, talk about the rest of their summer plans, and exchange contact info! We hope to see some campers back next summer- I know we all had a wonderful week at camp because of the enthusiasm and engagement of all of the campers!

More great photos from this week can be found here.



Dinner With Edward by Isabel Vincent

One Child by Torey Hayden

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (the biography that Hamilton the musical was based on!)

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Kick Me by Paul Feig

Saving Red by Sonia Sones

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser

Undertow by Michael Buckley

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The School for Good and Evil (series) by Soman Chainani

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

IRL (graphic novel) by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Fablehaven (series) by Brandon Mull

The Fourth Stall (series) by Chris Rylander

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Searching for David’s Heart by Cherie Bennett

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yun

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (series) by Rick Riordon

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Tokyo Ghoul (manga/graphic novel) by Sui Ishida

One of the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

Sea of Trolls (series) by Nancy Farmer

Miss Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Any of John Steinbeck’s novellas

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (series) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

A Wrinkle in Time (series) by Madeline L’Engle

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

El Deafo by Cece Bell

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I Had Seen Castles, by Cynthia Rylant

When I Was a Puerto Rican, by Esmerelda Santiago

Magyk by Angie Sage

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

And many MANY MANY MORE……..


Thalia Book Club Camp Week 4 Day 4!

August 3rd, 2017

Wow!  What a fabulous, eventful day at camp!  Since our visitor today was Molly Booth, author of Saving Hamlet, it was a very Shakespeare themed day.  We started off this morning with some theater exercises with Khris Lewin, a professional actor, fight director, and a teaching artist on staff here at Symphony Space.  Khris led us through some theater games, and an exercise to help us learn how to approach a Shakespearean monologue!  We talked about how punctuation adds tone to language, and practiced speaking the “To be or not to be” speech while paying really close attention to the punctuation.  This helped us better understand the tone and meaning of the text, and how we could speak it in performance!  Khris also had us incorporate movement, moving to a different part of the stage every time we reached a punctuation mark.  This helped us get inside the text, and more importantly, get inside Hamlet’s state of mind! Then he and out Head Counselor (and actress) Emma Stephenson, performed the “Get thee to a nunnery scene,” between Hamlet and Ophelia.  It was gripping! But, as happens in Saving Hamlet, they then switched parts and Emma played Hamlet, while Khris played Ophelia.  And, guess what – it worked!! Khris also taught us how to stage slap, which was great fun.

After this exciting morning of theater, we were visited by Molly Booth, author of Saving Hamlet. Molly was vibrant and full of energy and told us all about how she came to find herself a published author  (by her account, a series of lucky breaks!  and I’m certain, great talent and dedication,) and the challenges and joys of writing historical fiction.  Saving Hamlet is her first book.  Molly then led us in some awesome writing exercises.  First, she had us move about the room, and would have us react to different scenarios she put forth. (The floor is jello!  It’s pouring rain! There’s a lion in the room!)  We had to imagine these scenes and react accordingly.  Then she had us sit down and speed-write a response inspired by this exercise.  (Speed-writing means she put 5 minutes on the timer, and we had to keep writing without stopping until the timer went off!)  Campers came up with all kinds of wild stories based on this exercise– it was different than anything we’d done before, and it was so cool to incorporate movement into our creative writing process!  Next, Molly had us do a writing exercise using Shakespeare quotes.  Each table had a different Shakespeare quote, and campers had to write a story inspired by the quote.  Campers came up with some super cool stories:  a man who has just murdered 692 people, and a disaster at a school play, among others!

After sharing our stories and eating lunch, we headed off for our field trip: a backstage tour of the current production of “Hamlet” at the Public Theater!  Our author, Molly Booth, joined us for the trip, which was so much fun!  We got to see a few of the different theater spaces and learn about the history of the Public Theater and the building on Astor Place.  (Did you know the building was NYC’s first public library, and Charles Dickens was said to have done public readings there?!)  Our tour guide, Gretchen Page, showed us the theater where “Hamlet” is currently running at The Public, and we got to talk to the prop masters of the show, Sarah, Claire, and Rebecca.  They told us all about how the props and set are created, and the different choices directors and scene designers have to make when designing a show.  They even passed around the skulls used in “Hamlet” — an up close and personal moment with Yorick!  The set of this production of Hamlet is quite spare, but the prop masters revealed that the back wall of the set is a false wall, and the bathroom that appears to be a part of the theater is actually a built part of the set!  It was so exciting to get the inside scoop on the theater magic of “Hamlet” at the Public.

What an amazing day!  Definitely one of the most exciting days at camp so far.  Can’t believe tomorrow is the last day!


Thalia Book Club Camp Week 4 Day 3

August 2nd, 2017

Wednesday already? We had a great hour in the Thalia Theater playing some new games: a version of the game Telephone, only in this one you have to pantomime the word. How would you act out “lighthouse?” Then we played something that we’ll call “Sound and Movement” (and memory!) The first person makes a sound and a movement. The next person does that person’s sound and movement and adds their own, etc. etc.  Being at the end of the circle was HARD!  But fun! Finally, in the spirit of the harsh division of classes and status we found in the book of the day, These Shallow Graves, we played a game where each person was given a playing card with a value of 2 through King.  You could see all the cards but your own which you held to your forehead with your finger. By the way others greeted you, you guessed your status. The goal was to get in a line in perfect order: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K. And we did it!

We returned to the camp room to meet Jennifer Donnelly. She told us that her first experience with stories was from her mother, who had been a girl in Hitler’s Germany during WWII. All her stories were scary, but fascinating.  Since that time, Jennifer has been obsessed with history and with writing. Her ideas come from “ghosts from the past.” Characters appear to her – sometimes in the form of newspaper articles, legends passed down through the generations, or old photographs. And then she has to find out what happened to them, which she does through writing. For Jennifer, there are four building blocks to writing: inspiration, imagination, research, and emotion. She shared some of the research she has found and used for a number of her historical novels: an old school autograph book, an antique algebra textbook, a boy’s neatly-written notebook on agriculture, an old photo album, and a corset. All these things are both primary documents and inspiration for creating a historically accurate world for the book. But always it is the emotion of the characters and of the readers that is of greatest importance to her.  She wants us to not rest easy in our comfortable life, but to be inspired to make things better in the world.

For a writing assignment, she showed us a painting of the Astor family – the parents, two daughters, a son, and a dog – in a grand salon. She asked us to be detectives and look for clues in the painting that could tell us things about these people. Then she asked us to choose one of the characters and write what was going on in their head at the moment captured in the painting. We heard about a bride-to-be who was marrying a rich nobody because “no one would miss him when she killed him.” There was a bored and entitled father who couldn’t wait for this pain-in-the-neck painting to be done, and more.

After the book signing and the group picture, we had a quick lunch in the Thalia Cafe before heading down to the South Street Seaport Museum to meet William Roka, our tour guide for the “Wickedest Ward in NYC” tour. Dodging a few raindrops, we learned where the original coast of the East River was – several hundred yards inland from the water’s edge today. But the bulk of the fascinating, if slightly horrifying tour focused on the lawless, filthy, and, frankly, disgusting way of life that went on in the 4th Ward. Rats figured prominently in various historical characters’ way of earning a living. Murders were non-stop. Piracy was rampant, as was kidnapping (of adults) for the purpose of manning a ship. Although we were all cringing and groaning, it was not only an engaging and eye-opening history lesson, but it really made the experiences that Jo had in These Shallow Graves seem that much more real.

Back at Symphony Space, we ended the day reading and playing a few rounds of Apples to Apples.  Tomorrow is our big Shakespeare day!


Thalia Book Club Camp Week 4, Day 2

August 1st, 2017

Our visiting author today was Sonia Manzano. Her memoir, Becoming Maria, recounts (amongst many other things) her time in an early production of the musical Godspell. In honor of this, we started out the day doing movement exercises with choreographer Regina Larkin. After warming up, campers practiced moving across the Sharp stage in different ways. Some walks were inspired by moments in the book. Finally, using choreography by Regina, campers danced to the song “Learn Your Lessons Well” from Godspell.

Then came our visit from Sonia. She started by showing us some clips chronicling her time playing Maria on Sesame Street. She spoke about how there had been no books or writing materials in her house, describing a time that her father had to write a phone number on a wall using her mother’s eyebrow pencil because he couldn’t find paper or a pen. She joked that she “would’ve become a writer sooner if only [she’d] had a pencil.” She talked about how despite this, she loved to read, and in particular loved Fifteen by Beverly Cleary.

She told us that her childhood helped her in her role as Maria. “Many people are told you have to overcome a difficult childhood,” she said. “But I propose that you embrace your difficult childhood and use it.”

She started writing while on Sesame Street, but it was the memoir Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt that inspired her to write her own memoir. She liked it because it recounted McCourt’s terrible childhood, but was still very funny. She told us how she likes the combination of funny and sad. She also read to us a passage from Becoming Maria about the time she went to see the movie West Side Story, which had a profound impact on her. She said that the movie “made all the crummy things in my life beautiful.” It was the most difficult part of the book for her to write, because she remembered the feeling so vividly.

Sonia talked about the importance of representation on television, describing how few people of color were on screen when she was a child. She said she knew that her work on Sesame Street was important beyond just the charming puppets. The goal of Maria’s wedding was to show that “Latin people fall in love, and have kids, and go on vacation, and have all the same desires as everyone else.”

She gave two options for writing prompts. The first was to write about a memory inspired by one of these three lines:

“The real story of this stupid selfie is…”

“It all started in Kindergarten when I…”

“I remember how this movie changed my life.”

The second was to write a dialogue between Cookie Monster and Elmo about any letter, number, or emotion and end it with Cookie Monster saying “Because it reminds me of cookies.”

After lunch and some free time, we split into three groups. One group of campers worked with memoirist Alice Eve Cohen to do memoir-writing activities. Another group played improv games in the Sharp theater, and the last group played card games. At the end of the day everyone came together and played a few rounds of Night at the Museum and Handshake Murderer.

Looking forward to tomorrow with Jennifer Donnelly, author of These Shallow Graves, followed by a tour of the then-gritty, now fancy, neighborhoods that come to vivid life in her book.


Thalia Book Club Camp Week 4 Day 1

July 31st, 2017

The first day of the last week of camp! Wow! The summer is flying by. We started today on the stage getting to know one another by sharing favorite book titles, finding out who did or did not like fantasy and why, and what historical time period we might choose if we were writing a book. We had an opportunity to discuss all five books for the week during the mini-book club. And, finally, in the spirit of Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring, we played a version of “What’s My Line?” the old TV game show.  Each person in a group pretended to be the one person chosen and they all said, for example, “I have two sisters, I love pasta, and my favorite book is Lord of the Rings.” We had to guess the person for whom that was really true. We were frequently stumped, which bodes well for any future spies in the group.

After lunch, we had a visit from Daniel Nayeri, Publisher of the Children’s Group, and Colleen Venable, Art Director, at Workman Publishing, where Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring was created. Colleen and Daniel amazed us as they described all the unusual and creative books they have produced at Workman, from a picture book about a train that has a real little train that can travel from page to page without leaving the book, to a book about lettering that has a chalkboard built into it, to a book about archery that turns into a bow and arrow! Their office sounds awesome: a bunch of artists, inventors, and designers cooking up cool ideas and then making them. Almost all of the books are initially made in the office. They even have a 3D printer.

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring, the first in a series about spies throughout history, is by a secret author whose nom de plume is Enigma Alberti. It not only tells the fascinating story of a freed slave who insinuated herself into the household of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and proceeded to smuggle dozens of strategic documents to the Union, helping to win the Civil War, but teachers the reader spycraft! With Colleen and Daniel, we explored the world of codes and cipers and all the variations that can go into them, making our own ciphers with some basic materials that Colleen and Daniel gave us.  It was fun and the results were quite fascinating.

As always, we got our books signed and took a group picture with our guests. Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to meeting Sonia Manzano, author of Becoming Maria, creator of the “Sesame Street” character, Maria, and all around amazing person!


Thalia Book Club Camp Week 3, Day 5

July 28th, 2017

Friday came too soon!

The book we were discussing today was a retelling of Snow White, so we started out the day by creating our own retellings of classic fairy tales. Each group chose a fairy tale and was given a new setting for it. They worked together to figure out how to alter the story to fit the setting and then performed their creations with the rest of camp. We had one Hansel and Gretel set in a school cafeteria and another set in a toy store (this group had only a Gretel, and named their skit She Don’t Need No Hansel). There was also a version of Cinderella set in New York City on New Years Eve, a Goldilocks and The Three Bears set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a Sleeping Beauty set in the current White House.

After this, we had our visit from Matt Phelan, author of Snow White. He talked to us about how he became a graphic novelist, starting as an illustrator and wanting to tell his own stories. He said that he got his idea for his version of Snow White, which was set in the Great Depression, from his drawing of an “old hag” apple peddler who was being ignored by all but a young woman. After liking this idea, he asked himself “What else has to change for this story?” It was important to him that this was his version. He also said it’s important in retellings for the new setting to inform the story. He gave us a few examples of some of the changes he made based on these ideas. He was very interested in the dichotomy between the reality of life during the Great Depression and the extravagance of Hollywood and Broadway at the time. It was this idea that led him to make the stepmother a “Queen of Broadway.” He also disliked the idea that all motivation around Snow White, good and bad, seems to be based on Snow White’s beauty. With this in mind, he made the stepmother jealous of Snow White’s inheritance and replaced the magic mirror with a ticker tape machine.

He also talked about his writing process, describing how he first writes out the story, then creates small thumbnails which he uses to work out how the final images will look. For this book, he was inspired by old film noir and wanted the images to feel like black and white films. He also based the looks of many of the characters on real classic movie stars.

He then had campers do an exercise where they did a one-page story about the moment in Little Red Riding Hood where Red Riding Hood first sees the wolf. They each started by mapping out how many panels they would use, and their size, shape, and placement. They then did quick sketches of each panel, focusing more on the general composition than on the details.

After lunch we had the traditional Friday Share. Many campers shared pieces of their writing. There were also jokes, riddles, a dance, and a new game show called “What’s That Book?” We had two book recommendations, The Forger’s Spell by Edward Dolnick and The Kidney Hypothetical, or How to Ruin Your Life in 7 Days by Lisa Yee.

Finally, we had our end of camp party with tasty treats, cards to sign, and sad goodbyes.

It’s been a awesome week! Have a great summer!  (More great photos from this week can be found here: .)

Thalia Book Club Camp Week 3 Day 4

July 27th, 2017

Today we started off with a fun book-related game called “Bring Your Own Book.” Someone picks a card from a deck with a prompt, like “lyrics to a punk rock song,” or “name of a new sitcom.” Everyone then flips through the book they have with them to find a word, a phrase or sentence that they think fits that category. It was enjoyably absurd!

Then we returned to the camp room to meet our guest, J.A. White, author of the very spooky four-book series The Thickety. In addition to writing books, he’s a teacher! And a dad of three kids! When does he get time to write? Between 5:00 – 7:00 am every day, of course! Wow! Well, he always wanted to be a writer.  As a kid, he wrote a lot during class, putting his classmates in his stories, and then passing the story around to get peer reviews from those same classmates. The reviews varied based on whether he had killed off any given reviewer in the story.

After writing one novel that disappeared into thin air when his computer died, and another one that bore too close a resemblance to a just-published Neil Gaiman book, he and a friend started making short movies. (You can see them on YouTube: “Misfortune Cookie,” “Duel at Red Table,” “Good vs. Wiivil.”) Before long, they started winning prizes. One movie, “Path,” became the basis for The Thickety.

We then settled down to another stimulating writing workshop, honing our skills of “showing” rather than “telling.” He encouraged us to be really specific. To practice, he gave us some very general words: “dog,” “school,” “car,” “monster,” and we had to find a way to describe that thing in a way that would make a reader unable to put down the book. The results were really remarkable: scary, poetic, atmospheric, and really really good. The final assignment was to take this sentence: “The students were really excited about the field trip, so they were loud and noisy,” and write it from the perspective of two different characters. In one version, a winged student and a horned student were on a field trip to see endangered dragons.

In the afternoon, we went on a field trip to see endangered dragons – no, seriously, we went to Radio City Music Hall for a tour. We chose this venue because of its relation to tomorrow’s book, Snow White: A Graphic Novel, in which the classic fairy tale has been transplanted to New York City in the 1920s, and the evil queen is a star of the Ziegfeld Follies. Today, the Rockettes and the spectacle of Radio City Music Hall is as close as we can get to the Follies of the early 20th C. What a tour we got! We were onstage, backstage, under the stage, in the hallways, the bathrooms (OMG! those bathrooms are like walking through a museum! Each one was designed by a different artist,) in the house, in the lounges, the private apartment of Mr. Roxy; we met a Rockette and got to ask her lots of questions.

A few fun facts: the huge hydraulic lifts that raise and lower sets onto the stage a) are original and so effective that they have never been updated; b) during World War II had to be guarded by US Navy personnel since they used the same technology as that used on aircraft carriers and the government feared enemy spies (disguised as mild-mannered audience members) might steal it; and c) the humps of the camels, who are part of the Christmas spectacular, are too high for the elevators, so they have their own dressing room on stage level. There was just one word for it all: amazing!

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of this week! But we’re looking forward to meeting Matt Phelan, the author of Snow White: A Graphic Novel.

Thalia Book Club Camp Week 3, Day 3!

July 26th, 2017

Already halfway through Week 3, how could it be??

After an Urban Scavenger Hunt around 94th and 95th street (clues included “find a sign with a rooster on it” and “find a cat in a window and draw it”) we were visited by the wonderful Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague.  He shared with us a bit about his writing process, his favorite books (“How I Live Now” by Meg Rossoff and “The Dark is Rising” by Susan Cooper) and why he loves writing about post-apocalyptic worlds: he said he loves the idea of second chances, and the hope and opportunity that arise when the world has to begin again.  A more optimistic answer than we expected!  We also discussed different kinds of science fiction:  “hard” science fiction (that which sticks to the rules of real world physics) and “soft” science fiction (that which has more flexible rules of physics that can be bent and changed by the author).  Jeff told us he prefers “soft” science fiction; inventing the scientific rules for his own worlds.  This helped to explain some of the strange goings-on in The Eleventh Plague!

After our discussion/Q&A, Jeff led us through an awesome writing exercise– practical basics for “How to Start Writing.”   We started by creating Settings.  Jeff had us create 10 different settings for a potential story.  Each setting had to meet three requirements: it had to be specific, personal, and active.  Campers came up with all kinds of fascinating places!  A couple of setting highlights:  The milk aisle of the grocery store in Dullville, a stifling hot room in an 1850s NYC tenement, and the ocean at dusk with a ship sinking in the distance!  After we created our settings, we moved on to Characters.  Jeff took us through a character building exercise where we had to introduce a character using a specific Mad-Libs-like format:  A  (descriptor)+(noun) who needs (blank).  For example– “A  curious teacher  who needs a child.”  We created 10 different characters using this format, including “Amber Rose, a heartbroken girl who needs an unbroken family,” “Sam, a lost man who needs a purpose,” and “A tough immigrant who needs a dream.”  Last but not least, we used our settings and our characters to create a story!  We picked one of our settings, and then placed 2 of our characters in it, just to see how they might interact!  The results were pretty amazing, campers came up with some very compelling stories.  Jeff gave us in-depth, personalized, and constructive feedback on our stories.  It was wonderful to have a chance to practice using practical tools for good story writing!  I know even some of the counselors were excited to put Jeff’s tools to good use in their own writing.


After lunch in the park and the traditional Capture the Flag (today’s game ended in a draw!) we headed back to Symphony Space for an afternoon of Choice Time.

Campers could either write/read, play board games, or go to the Sharp Stage for some drama: enacting scenes from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!  After a compelling performance of a scene selection from the play, our thespians took a bow and our day concluded with a few rousing rounds of “Handshake Murder” and “Night at the Museum.”

Looking forward to tomorrow’s visit with J.A. White and a trip to Radio City Music Hall!




Thalia Book Club Camp Week 3 Day 2

July 25th, 2017

What a day at camp!

We began the day with an activity centered around one of the plot-pieces in our book of the day, Brightwood by Tania Unsworth, called Day Boxes. Without spoiling too much, one of the characters in the book experiences a trauma that makes her never, ever want to lose anything- so she creates Day Boxes. These are literal boxes with objects that remind this character of a particular day. The campers looked at images in the Day Boxes mentioned in the book and built their own narratives around what could have happened on that day in the character’s life.

It was a perfect precursor to our visit with Tania this morning! Tania shared her literary background with us– turns out she grew up in a family of writers, which actually helped and hurt her own writing career. She told the campers that because writing was basically the “religion” of her home growing up, that it was actually intimidating at first to admit to herself that she did in fact want to write! Turns out you don’t actually have to feel like the greatest writer in the world to just start writing!

Tania also told us about the inspiration behind Brightwood. It actually began with Tania’s own kind of- in her words- weird obsession with TV shows about hoarding! She revealed to the campers a little about her writing process (and shared some pages from her beautiful journals!). Tania said that when she gets an idea for a story, she likes to sit down and ask as many questions as possible of that idea, and write down the answers that come to her. Once she’s answered enough questions, the bare bones of the story have taken shape on their own! What a cool way to write!

We spent the chilly day inside for lunch and then trekked across town for a visit to the Society of Illustrators, which is housing a collection of sci-fi and fantasy art from the last hundred years! Although not directly related to any of the books we read this week, we thought it would be cool to look at the artwork associated with two of the most popular genres in YA fiction! We went through another writing exercise that involved coming up with made-up bestsellers that had the artwork that was on display at the museum as the covers of the books and, if inspiration struck, writing the first page or so of that book.

It was really a fantastic day and the campers loved getting to meet Tania and seeing all of the cool fantastical artwork almost as much as they loved playing the game Word-Assassin! (You’ll have to ask your campers about that one…) We’re looking forward to meeting with Jeff Hirsch tomorrow and talking about his dystopian novel, The Eleventh Plague!

Thalia Book Club Camp Week 3 Day 1

July 24th, 2017

What a great first day of camp!

We started off by playing some get-to-know-you games in the Sharp Theater. After “Icebreaker Bingo,” we went around in a circle and named some of our favorite books (a list of these will be at the end of this post). Then we did mini book clubs, where campers discussed the weeks books in small groups. Some stopped by every book discussion, others popped back into a group for extra time to talk about their favorite books.

In preparation for our visit from Steve Sheinkin, we then went back into the studio and watched a few short documentaries, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” and “Stolen Children; Residential School Survivors Speak Out,” about Indian residential schools. We also saw a clip from a mini-series called “Into the West,” which took place at Carlisle Indian School, whose football team is the focus of Undefeated.

After lunch, we had our author visit. Steve Sheinkin talked about how he had always wanted to be a writer, but was not particularly interested in nonfiction or history. “You can have a goal and have it come out kind of unexpected,” he told us. His first nonfiction work was writing textbooks. After finding that the most interesting stories had to be left out of those textbooks, he decided to write narrative nonfiction history books about the stories that interested him. He also talked more about the history surrounding Undefeated, and even demonstrated a football play that was used by the Carlisle Indian School football team. Lastly, he took us through his writing process, showing us pictures of how he maps out his books using index cards, a technique he learned while studying screenwriting.

After a Q&A, Steve gave the campers a writing prompt. He said that sometimes when writing nonfiction you really want to include a scene that you think could have happened, or that you would like to have happened, but that you have no evidence of. He told them to write a historical fiction scene between Jim Thorpe and his girlfriend Iva discussing the fact that Pop Warner had betrayed him regarding his stolen Olympic medals. We had some pretty great stories! Day one started to wind down after a book signing.

We can’t wait to see everyone tomorrow!

Book Recommendations 

“Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli

“The Assassin Game” by Ward Larsen

“Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbit

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“The Forger’s Spell” by Edward Dolnich

The “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling

“Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle” by George Hagen

“Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand

“11-22-63” by Stephen King

“Jake and Lily” by Jerry Spinelli

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

“The Kidney Hypothetical, or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days” by Lisa Yee

“Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry

“My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,” by Fredrik Backman

“Echo” by Pam Muñoz Ryan

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry

“Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton

“A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park

“The Fifth Wave” by Rick Yancey

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

“Cinder” by Marissa Meyer

“A Mango Shaped Space” by Wendy Mass

“Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“These Shallow Graves” by Jennifer Donnelly