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Thalia Book Club Camp offers up-close interaction with renowned children's book authors and illustrators, book discussions, and book-related field trips around the city. This blog follows the camp's activities.

Thalia Book Club Camp – Last Day of Week 1

Published on August 6, 2010

Today was the last day of week one at TBC Camp!  Matt Phelan, illustrator and author of the graphic novel The Storm in the Barn, joined us this morning to discuss his work and his longstanding interest in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  He showed us pictures of the Dust Bowl he first discovered when he was 10 years old, and has continued to learn more about and love.  He then took us through his writing process: he writes a script first, describing each panel in words; then he does tiny thumbnail sketches of the entire book; then he draws bigger sketches to show to his publisher; and finally he draws and paints the final version.  Showing us a picture of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, he explained how after visiting the house in the background in Maine, he used the barn as a model for the barn in The Storm in the Barn. Matt even brought his notebook of original drawings to share with us!

We all got to try out his technique and make our own two-page scene.  Matt asked us to break down the moment in Little Red Riding Hood when she sees the wolf in the forest into separate actions that would each become a panel.  Starting by writing out each panel in words, as Matt does, we then sketched thumbnails of each panel, and finally drew the panels to scale, keeping in mind which moments might be more important – affecting the size of the panels – and perhaps saving the climactic moment for the next page to build suspense.  It was amazing to see the variety of ways to interpret a small part of a well-known story!  Some people wrote four panels, some nearly thirty – some had the wolf as the protagonist and some never fully showed the wolf at all.

We were all very happy to hear that Matt has more graphic novels to come, including his next book about three people who traveled around the word each on a unique journey at the turn of the last century.

After lunch and some final great games of Capture the Flag, we played many more theater games, including some favorites: “the big wind blows…” and Word Symphony, this time not just with Phantom Tollbooth words, but also with some of our favorite words in general.

Before going into the theater for the performance, we had a party with cupcakes lovingly baked by our very own counselor Sarah Dash.


To culminate this busy, wonderful, word-filled week, we heard two actors, David Furr and Leenya Rideout, read selections from the campers’ writing from the week.  Every camper was introduced with the help of the interviews we did on the first day of camp.  We heard selections ranging from descriptions of brushing one’s teeth, to conversations between two unlikely characters (a writer and his writer’s block, a cabbage and a rock at the end of the world…), to very thoughtful reflections on the Civil Rights photography exhibit we saw yesterday at The Bronx Museum of the Arts.  It was great fun to hear everyone’s work read aloud – it was a good way to remember the past week and it was a promise of more great stories from these 24 burgeoning writers to come!



We will greatly miss everyone who is not coming back next week, and we look forward to more great experiences starting Monday!

P.S. Check out the great feature on WNYC’s Culture Blog: http://culture.wnyc.org/articles/features/2010/aug/06/authors-and-very-young-writers-convene-camp/

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