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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 2

Published on July 30, 2013

Today began with a visit from Margi Preus!  Margi’s book, Heart of a Samurai, was based on the true story of John Manjiro, a Japanese boy who came to America.

When Margi first heard Manjiro’s story, she thought it would make a wonderful picture book.  However, she soon realized that his life was far too complex for just a picture book—to do the story justice, she needed to write a novel.  Margi originally thought that writing a book based on a true story would be easy.  After all, she wouldn’t have to think of a plot!  Before long, though, Margi discovered that it was very difficult: in addition to researching Manjiro himself, Margi needed to learn more about life during the 1800’s in both America and Japan.  In order to learn more about whaling, she read Moby Dick six times!  What she expected would take her three months to write ended up taking her three years.  In the end, her hard work paid off.  The book is popular in Japan as well as America.








Before taking off on our field trip, Margi showed us how to make samurai hats out of newspapers.  Don’t we look wise and fierce?


















Next up, we marched downtown for a visit to the special whale exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, guided by Margi.








We climbed in a whale heart, watched deep-sea videos, and learned about conservation. All the while, Margi instructed us the collect some materials for a story: we were tasked to find (among the whale bones) two characters, one place, two objects, one adjective, and one abstract word. After bidding adieu to Margi, we made our way quickly past some dinosaurs and out to the park for lunch in the utterly beautiful weather.








Over lunch, we worked on stories from the ideas we had collected at the museum. Whales and sharks and deep-sea divers, oh my! We lingered at the park for some much-needed sun and Capture the Flag.








Everyone was all smiles as we returned to Symphony Space. After a few minutes of free reading time, our brilliant teaching artist Matt Cody led a spooky-scary writing exercise and on that note – the end of day two!



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