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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 4 Day 1

Published on August 4, 2014

Happy Week 4, everyone! Today marks the first day of our one week session of 12 and 13 year olds. We welcomed many campers who’ve attended in years past, as well as some new faces. We began the morning with some ice breaker games, played on the stage in Symphony Space’s Sharp theater, led by Week 4 teaching artist Nicole Haroutunian. We also started the day off right with mini-book group discussions about each book. On the first day of camp each session, we hold five five-minute discussions about each of that week’s selections, in small groups. After the first minutes are up, we ring a bell and dash off to the next mini-group. It’s a great way brainstorm all the investigative questions we want to ask of the authors when we get to meet with them. It is also always fascinating to see which campers love which books, and to find our which of our peers have similar tastes and opinions. 

In the second half of the morning, Nicole led a writing exercise derived from the great digital magazine Underwater New York. We were each assigned an object — the objects were utterly random, their only commonality being they are all real objects that were uncovered (one way or another) in the waterways of New York. We took some time to write stories or poems related to our object, and then several of us shared our work with the class. It was interesting to see how each writer worked with their objects. In some stories, the objects spurred all the action, while in others the underwater objects were simply a small seed that began a big thread of a greater story.

For lunch we walked a few blocks away to a nearby park, and enjoyed the great weather and some card games. Back at Symphony Space, we greeted day 1 author Aaron Stramer, author The Riverman. It was a good thing Aaron was first, because his book had so many cliff-hangers, that we were super eager to meet him and ask our zillions of questions! Aaron’s presentation was all about his early years, childhood and high school, and some key events that led to his first interest in writing stories. Aaron even brought along a big stack of some of his earliest writings! He showed us the very first story he wrote, which was in kindergarten and was mostly just one big scribble. He came along way from there, however, writing an 18 page story in middle school which his teachers bound and put in circulation at their school library. This led him to be selected for a special one-on-one meeting with Marc Brown, author of the Arthur series. Aaron told us that his meeting with Marc was a pivotal, inspiring moment that he never forgot.

Besides telling us about his early literary aspirations, Aaron also thrilled us with some spooky stories about some of his wayward childhood adventures. Something about a barn and a deer and a noose… (we won’t ruin the ending!). Aaron’s presentation was a lively portrait of how he came to write The Riverman. We were also really thrilled to learn that The Riverman is actually just the first book in a trilogy. The next volume, The Whisper, will be published in March 2015, and, lucky us, Aaron read us the first few pages and showed us an “ARC” (advance review copy) of the new book.

After Aaron departed, we had suddenly reached the end of Day 1. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure with Delia Sherman, author of The Freedom Maze, and our trip to the American Folk Art Museum.

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