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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 3 Day 1

Published on July 28, 2014

Welcome, week 3 campers! This week is our final session of 9-11 year olds, and the group this week is a mix of first-time campers and several who have been with us last week. We started off with several games in Symphony Space’s theater, led by Week 3 teaching artists Nicole Haroutunian. Nicole works as a teaching artist in loads of New York cultural institutions, and this is her first time joining the Thalia Book Club Camp.

Our first activity was called “Snowball Fight in July.” Everyone wrote down their favorite book and something else they enjoy a lot. They scrunched up their piece of paper to make a “snowball” and had a snowball fight! We threw our scrunched up papers all around the stage. Then we each picked up up a new piece of paper and un-scrunched it. As we each then read aloud the information on the paper, the original writer introduced themselves and talked about the things they had written on their paper. Here’s a list of some of the most popular books and activities:



Under the Egg
The Percy Jackson series
When You Reach Me
His Dark Materials
Ice skating
Harry Potter series
A Mango Shaped Space

We played several other icebreaking games with lots of running around a fun. We also spent some time this morning discussing good guidelines and rules for camp. This morning we also conducted our traditional Mini-Book-Club — an activity we do each morning of Day 1, each week, each year. For five minutes each, we gather in small groups to have a flash discussion of each of the five books that we’ll be focusing on this week. After the first five minutes, the counselors ring a bell and we run across the stage to find a new discussion. This is a really fun and engaging way to refresh ourselves on the facts of each book, to brainstorm about great questions to ask the authors when they visit, and most of all, to share with our peers which books we all loved the most. Overall, it was a great first morning of camp —  names were learned and friends were made!

This afternoon we met with Helen Phillips, author of Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green. Before her arrival, we created a big, communal South American rainforest mural to transform the camp room into the setting for the book.
After making our mural, we headed out to have lunch at a nearby park, complete with some of camp’s favorite games: Capture the Flag, and Apples to Apples!
After lunch, we greeted Helen back at Symphony Space. Helen began her visit with a really interesting conversation about something special and unique about herself — since she was 11 years old, she’s had a condition called alopecia. Alopecia is a condition that caused all of Helen’s hair to fall out and never grow back. But, other than that, the condition isn’t harmful, painful, or unhealthy in any way. She told us about some of the many pros and cons of having no hair — sometimes, she gets wind and dirt in her eyes, but she has amazing, smooth skin! And people always remember her when they meet her. It’s a pretty cool fashion statement!
After our great discussion, we had a chance to really delve into Helen’s book Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green. It was great to ask Helen many questions about how she came up with her different ideas for the book, what inspired her. She also shared with us some great insider information about the editing and publishing of her book. It was fascinating to hear about the many changes that were made from the original ideas and drafts to the finished product. She said she had over 100 iterations of the title before finally choosing one. She also told us a little bit about how the cover design came together, and shared with us the UK and German editions of the book, which were similar but not quite exactly the same.
Helen also shared with us her two book trailers (one for the book we read, and another for Helen’s short story collection for adult readers, And Yet They Were Happy). Both of the trailers were made with stop motion animation but Helen’s husband, who is a graphic designer and animator.
After viewing the trailers and discussing, we finished our visit with Helen with a great writing activity. Using the mysterious, lush, beautiful, and scary jungle from her book as an inspiration, we each wrote a story about a location. We had two options: 1) Write about a beautiful location, but make it scary, or 2) Write about a scary location, and make it beautiful. After working hard on our stories and their intriguing settings, we got to share what we’d worked on so far with the group.
After a wonderful afternoon with Helen, we each got our books signed, and so it was the close of Day 1. 

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