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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, Week 2, Day 4

Published on August 4, 2011

Camp began this morning with a visit from the author and artist Brian Floca, illustrator of today’s graphic novel City of Light, City of Dark and of Lightship. Brian started off by showing us some of his earliest drawings; weasels, dinosaurs, Spiderman, and the Sesame Street duo Bert and Ernie were some of his favorite subjects as a child.

While studying art in college, Brian was drawn to images that told stories. In addition to painting, he wrote and illustrated his own cartoon strip and began to take an interest in children’s books after taking classes with renowned author and illustrator David Macaulay.

After graduating, Brian began work on the illustrations for his first major book, City of Light, City of Dark, written by Newbery Medal-winning author Avi. Brian told us that since then he’s worked on a wide variety of projects and that he is constantly searching for inspiration.

The Ambrose lightship, currently docked at the South Street Seaport Museum, ended up sparking Brian’s imagination and leading him to write and illustrate the book Lightship. To learn more about what inspired him, we took a trip downtown to see the ship for ourselves.

At the seaport, Brian explained that lightships were used in places where the water was too deep to build a lighthouse, and that their task of remaining anchored in the same spot wasn’t as easy (or as safe) as it sounds. On board the Ambrose, we explored the various below-deck compartments to get an idea of what life was like for sailors living on a lightship.

Brian was full of information about the Ambrose and pointed out to us the different parts of the ship he chose to illustrate, including the tiny galley kitchen and the engine room.

Back on the pier, we sat down in the shade to eat lunch and write stories set at sea.

In a Thalia Book Club Camp first, our writing activity was interrupted by a schooner which docked right in front of where we were working.

After changing locations and finishing up our stories, we read aloud our stories of encounters with whales, stormy seas, and crews who resort to cannibalism.

After parting ways with Brian, we headed back uptown to Symphony Space to play a game on the stage. With the modern-day myth of City of Light, City of Dark in mind, we acted out scenes showing how we thought the Greek gods would react to blackouts, traffic jams, stalled subway cars, and other challenges faced in present day New York.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

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