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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 5

Published on August 2, 2013

We began the morning by heading to the Thalia Stage to play a wonderfully silly game. We were each assigned an animal. It involved going into a circle and clapping out a beat. Every third beat, someone had to mime their animal and then three beats later they had mime someone else’s animal movement. And on it went. Complicated, but hilarious.

Still in the theater, we discussed the themes and time period of today’s book, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. The three main characters live in the segregated world of the 1960s. To fully understand the context, we received transcripts of a section from the documentary film Eyes on the Prize.  Volunteers went up to read the parts aloud. Focusing on segregation, the transcripts featured a variety of real people including former president Eisenhower, the governor of Alabama at the time, and a member of the Little Rock Nine.


Afterwards, we connected what we had just heard read from the transcripts to One Crazy Summer as well as other aspects covered this week. In the book, we saw the same segregation through the eyes of three girls. This time of nonviolent revolution came alive as the back drop of the story. We also connected the transcript – especially the second one which explained the Little Rock Nine – to an exercise Andrea Pinkney had done with us on Wednesday. Instead of Sit-Ins (discussed Wednesday), today we imagined what it must have felt like to be going to a new school being the only different one. When asked what it would feel like, a camper answered, “Like jumping off a springboard into a volcano.” The fear but also bravery required just to go to school was an incredible thing to imagine, especially in today’s world. Other feelings such as “Insulted,” “Proud,” and “Scared” were thrown out. It is difficult to be different, but it’s even worse to be tormented because of it.

The discussion ended, when our guest author Rita Williams-Garcia arrived and we headed back into the camp room. She began her presentation talking about her childhood. She grew up around the same time that her book takes place. Of this time period she commented on how “forward thinking but still far behind” the people were. Even as a child she loved to write. She showed us a story she had written in first or second grade, which was all about how she and her siblings made boats for people during a flood and because of that became rich and famous. The story didn’t come from nowhere, though. She took a memory of men on boats during a flood and made a whole tale out of it. A couple of years later, Rita started learning how to be a successful author. “Every night I would write 500 words,” she told us.  She’d send out manuscript after manuscript and get nothing but rejections until finally Highlights magazine sent her a letter with a contract. A little while later, her first published story came out titled “Ben-Ji Speaks.” It wasn’t until after she’d gone to college and gotten a “normal” job that a second piece of hers was published. This time it was a young adult novel and from then on she fell into writing for both young adults and children. Rita also talked about how important research was to her during the writing of One Crazy Summer.

Following her presentation, she gave us all a writing prompt. Using a story we’d already created, we had to come up with objects that would be closely associated with our main character. We wrote small scenes involving our character interacting with their object. A couple of us shared our scenes and then we all lined up to get our books signed and take a group picture with Rita Williams-Garcia.

Lunch time came around, as too did our very last games of Capture the Flag.

After lunch and free time, we discussed the jobs of the Editorial Team – writing the blurb and creating a title – as well as the Artistic Directors’ — which is creating the cover – at a publishing house. The main ingredients, it was decided, for working in such groups were teamwork, patience, and creativity.We were then broken up into teams of four or five. Each team was designated their own publishing house. Half of the group would be the editorial team, while the other half would be the artistic team. The pieces we had to create blurbs, titles, and covers for would be chosen from the past two weeks’ books except with a twist. All the elements were separated – main character, setting, and conflict – and put into grab bags. We then had to randomly select an element from each bag and make a story out of it.

As you can imagine, we were hit with several roadblocks. We had to learn (and be willing) to make compromises, try to make random elements connect, and not shoot each others’ ideas down.

Eventually, though, each team delivered a cover, blurb, and title by the final deadline.  Our final titles included such works as The Way to Success, Home is Where the Heart is, Black Jewel, Mr. Star, and A Flower Grows in the Library.

After our masterpieces were shared, we returned once more to the Thalia Stage to share our favorite books or, in a couple of cases, books we had written ourselves.

The books we shared were:

  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpoel
  • The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • The Phantom of the Opera Graphic Novel (written and illustrated by one of our campers)
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Phillip(written by one of our campers)
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
  • In a Glass Grimly by Adam Gidwitz
  • Spirit Animals
  • 39 Clues
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Cold Cereal by Adam Rex
  • The Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson
  • Powerless and Super by our very own Matthew Cody
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

The day, and week, ended with a little celebration filled with snacks and farewells. See you all next year!

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