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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!

Published on July 26, 2011

We started off day 2 of camp with a trip to the Symphony Space stage where the campers got to read aloud from an dynamic section of Matt Cody’s The Dead Gentleman. The scene dramatized by the campers told the story of two kids who join a group of explorers who travel around the world and into the past!

We soon had the chance to meet today’s guest author, Matt Cody, who answered the campers’ questions about his sources of inspiration and the process of writing The Dead Gentleman.  Calling himself a “12-year-old trapped in a man’s body,” Matt admitted to the campers that his interests haven’t changed much since he was their age. His favorite books then included pulp novels, comic books, and classic works of science fiction like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.   Matt told us that it was when he was reading the picture book There’s a Nightmare in My Closet to his three-year-old son, Will, that he thought:  What if kids were right and there are creepy things in the closet and under the bed and they could come out and get you?  The thought lead to his idea for the world and the time travel portals of The Dead Gentleman.

We then had an interesting conversation about how Matt decided on the title of his book (named for the villain, not the hero) and about how writers and publishers design book covers. Matt showed us various drafts of the design for The Dead Gentleman‘s cover and discussed the pros and cons of each version. We talked about  the genre “steampunk.”  The campers asked about Matt’s writing process and stylistic choices — How did he decide on the characters’ genders? Why did he alternate between 1st and 3rd person narration? Why did he choose to have the Dead Gentleman’s henchmen be zombies instead of, say, dust bunnies?

After the campers’ questions were answered, everyone got to have their copies of The Dead Gentleman signed.

In the afternoon we headed uptown to the beautiful Trinity Cemetery on 157th Street and Riverside Drive.  Matt helped us identify the easily overlooked symbols that decorate many of the gravestones (which date from as far back as the early 1800s!) and encouraged us to see the cemetery as a window into the past.


We then sat down to write stories sparked by reading the names and inscriptions on the gravestones we  had walked by.   The atmosphere of the cemetery really seemed to ignite our imaginations.

A few campers read their stories in progress, standing on the grassy hillside overlooking the Hudson River.

After that it was back on the train to Symphony Space where we had snacks and cooled down after a long day.

See you tomorrow!

P.S. More pictures from today’s field trip will be posted later in the week.

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