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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.

Book Club Camp Begins!

Published on July 23, 2012

Welcome to Thalia Kid’s Book Club Camp 2012! All of the counselors and camp directors were excited to meet a new group of book-loving campers. To start off the day, everyone took their seats and began decorating the front of their personal journal for the week, which will soon be filled with their own creative writing and drawing.

We soon made our way up to the nicely air-conditioned main theater of Symphony Space, where we all participated in some ice breaking activities. The first one helped us  introduce ourselves to our fellow campmates. We were all given a sheet of paper with a diverse list of experiences or preferences and then we were let loose to circle the room collecting signatures from others who disliked chocolate (more unusual) or played on a sports team. We learned who amongst us has green eyes, who speaks more than one language, who owns more than one pet, who has been to another country, who was an only child, and who preferred reading Deadweather & Sunrise over the other four novels of the week.

Once  everyone was happily chattering away,  it was time to break up into our small book groups for discussion. Campers circulated the room every twelve minutes to discuss favorite scenes, moments that surprised them, characters they admired (or hated!), and questions they were dying to ask the author when he or she arrives. Each group had a very lively discussion!

We all headed back down to the camp room to do a Cold Cereal related activity in preparation for our visit from author Adam Rex. Each camper was given an envelope with an assortment of random cereal-related words, and then we made up some wacky cereal titles that may or may not become big hits at your nearest supermarket! They included crunchy critters, mini sugar mush, choco clusters, artificial sugarcoated blueberry pops, and cereals that contain a hint of ponies or porcupines! Most of us also created accompanying jingles or cereal box designs.

With all this talk of yummy cereals, stomachs inevitably started grumbling and we headed for Riverside Park to have our lunch. After everyone’s hunger was satisfied, a rowdy game of Capture the Flag began with dramatic dashes across boundary lines and epic escapes from the gnarled stump dubbed “jail”. When the flag was finally in the hands of the winning team, we were all ready to get back to Symphony Space for some air-conditioning to cool our sweaty faces!

We were welcomed back from the park by Adam Rex, who had arrived to discuss his book. After some of the campers amused him with their silly cereal titles, he surprised us by reading aloud a sneak-peek of the manuscript for his upcoming novel, Unlucky Charms, which is the sequel to Cold Cereal. The manuscript, full of cross-outs and highlighted notes, hinted at the process of writing a novel and preparing it for publication. Adam also allowed his sketchbook to be passed around, so everyone could see up close the drawings that inspired his book ideas.

Adam told us that originally, he started out as an illustrator (and studied illustration in college) before he decided he wanted to write as well. He showed us some of his earliest work (at ages 4, 6 and 11!) and each drawing was incredible. He wisely told us that “even if you think you’re the best artist in your class, you can always get better.”

He shared with us some of his earlier works as well, including a book he illustrated with author Amy Timberlake entitled Dirty Cowboy, about a boy who didn’t bathe as often as he should have! He told us an interesting story about the circumstances involving this particular book getting banned. Some of his illustrations, in order to stay true to the story, were of the boy finally bathing! Adam was careful to keep the illustrations devoid of nudity, but one family still ended up being offended. Adam told us that though he respects everyone’s opinion, banning a book from school libraries takes away the opportunity for kids to enjoy it. Book bans throughout history have been controversial.

Adam also provided some advice for budding young writers. He personally was working on seven different stories when he decided that he liked aspects of all of them, which he then compressed into what is now Cold Cereal. He advised that in order to be a writer, one only needs to KEEP WRITING! “It’s easy to become involved watching cat videos on the internet,” Adam admitted. But as long as your butt stays in the chair and you keep writing, whether it’s an epic fantasy or a log of your daily activities, you’ll accomplish something.

Finally, he gave the campers a fun writing prompt to work with. He asked everyone to envision a place that is seemingly normal, and then imagine that same place being occupied at an unusual time by a group of people doing something strange: what’s going on, and why are they there? Everyone scribbled away for ten minutes or so before reading their stories aloud (or having Adam read theirs aloud!) Mysterious settings included Wendy’s, Carnegie Hall, Random House, Disney World, Symphony Space, Trader Joe’s and Toys R US.

The day culminated with book-signings and the handing out of official camp T-shirts, which look very comfy…

Photos to come!

See everyone tomorrow!

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