A very, very busy fourth day at the Thalia Kids Book Club Camp!
We started off the morning talking about the Civil Rights movement to prepare for our visit with author Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer. We performed a short dramatic piece taken from a documentary on the subject and brushed up on our 1960s knowledge. We had some very good discussions about segregation, equality, and the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Soon Ms. Williams-Garcia arrived. She introduced herself and got right down to talking about her own experiences in the 1960s– her father and Vietnam, her siblings, and her friends, all of which served as heavy inspiration for One Crazy Summer. The novel centers on three sisters and their experiences when they visit their mother in Oakland, California, in 1968. This summer marked the height of the Black Panther movement, and the girls in the book encounter several facets of the Black Panther philosophy throughout. As we learned today from Ms. Williams-Garcia, the Black Panthers led several iniatives aimed at children, including a breakfast program which both the girls in the novel and the author herself experienced in the late 60s. Hearing about the movement from an author who experienced it firsthand was illuminating, fascinating, and a lot of fun. The kids were chock- full of insightful questions for Rita which led to some very advanced discussions about civil disobedience, hippies, and the way we exercise our Constitutional right to protest. Not too shabby for a morning’s discussion!
Next Rita talked about her writing process and gave us some very helpful tips based on her own (vast) experiences as a writer. In her own words, she’s been writing “from the crib!” and had her first publication in Highlights magazine at fourteen. The kids had a ball learning about her earliest work and especially enjoyed the sneak previews she gave us about her upcoming projects, including a book about gaming and a sequel to One Crazy Summer. The campers advised her about which character they thought would make the best narrator of the sequel and we discussed the pros and cons of the different options.
After lunch we headed to the Bronx to see a photography exhibit about the Civil Rights Movement at the Bronx Musuem of the Arts. It was a gorgeous exhibit and the kids clearly enjoyed the more visual approach to the subject. Rita led us in a writing assignment based on the photographs, and the results were truly inspiring. Rita was absolutely floored when the kids read her their work, and we can’t wait for you to hear some of the pieces at tomorrow’s reading!
PS: We received a call from the legendary NORTON JUSTER today about how much he loved being with the kids on Tuesday! You know you’re special when you impress the author of The Phantom Tollbooth… 🙂