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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- Day 2!

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Published on August 3, 2010

Day 2 of the TBC Camp was, if possible, even more exciting than yesterday’s kickoff! We met the legendary Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, and spent the day playing with all things wordy.

We started off the day as we always do, with puzzles and writing prompts related to our theme book. Today was devoted to all things Tollbooth, so we completed custom-made word searches and wrote short pieces about the classic novel. We were soon whisked to Symphony Space’s roomy stage to play some games while the camera crew from WNYC set up their cameras and sound equipment. WNYC came to film Mr. Juster’s time with the campers for a web feature on his illustrious career, but they made ample time to watch the campers perform several rounds of Word Symphony, a game which involves making verbal music out of a selection of words from– you guessed it– The Phantom Tollbooth. The WNYC crew even took the time to film the campers reading their original writing based on a hilarious prompt they were given by the author during our lunch in the park. You can look out for the video feature on WNYC’s website soon:  http:\\www.wnyc.org

Norton Juster talked to us about character development, a key skill in writing. He had campers make up conversations between any two characters (real or imagined, physical or inanimate, dead or alive, human or creature) to deepen the writer’s understanding of those two characters. He explained that he often does this exercise in his own writing process, but rarely uses those conversations in the final written product. He showed us the power of dialogue in character development, and the results were intriguing, smart, and often  hilarious. We witnessed camper-written conversations between a cabbage and a rock at the end of the world, a cell phone call between a fox and a garden gnome, and the battle strategies of a mouse and a rat before an attack on some very unfortunate hamsters. Mr. Juster, though, was not done yet. He read us a hilarious account of Cinderella told in Spoonerisms (in one instance of which the first letters of two words are switched, e.g. runny babbit) and taught us a little something about word play and its importance to his writing. Anyone who has read The Phantom Tollbooth knows that Norton Juster loves his puns (the Whether Man, for example). His lessons were hilarious, insightful, and clearly benefited the campers’ writing.

But wait! There’s more!

Norton Juster also read to us from some of his newer books, a touching picture book about his granddaughter and a hot-off-the-press story of a very ugly ogre. He showed us an animated version of his second book, The Dot and the Line, which won an Academy Award. As you can see,  we had a very jam-packed morning, which we offset with a nice, long lunch and a pretty serious game of Capture the Flag which ended in a much-disputed tie.

When we returned to Symphony Space, we relaxed by reading, writing, drawing, and making some lists of our favorite words in honor of Norton Juster’s clear love of language. Some favorites included cubicle, frizz, egg, sword, and flabbergasted. We ended the day with writing, drawing, and drama, based again on Norton Juster’s visit.

Overall, quite an amazing day. Look out for us on WNYC!

Can’t wait for our visit to the Metropolitan Museum tomorrow with Marianne Malone! Don’t forget to pack an extra snack in case we have a late lunch.


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