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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 1 Day 4

Published on July 16, 2015


It’s already Thursday, and with an author visit and a field trip, it was certainly a full day! We started the day on the Sharp stage, playing games and creating legends. Our guest author was Tracey Baptiste who was here to discuss her book The Jumbies. Jumbies are very tricky shapeshifting creatures from Carribbean folklore, who take many different forms and like to eat humans. To prepare for her visit, our teaching artist Matt gave us each a spooky picture which we used to create our own legends. We shared stories about a haunted prison where you can still hear the laughs of dead prisoners; an actress who haunts a theater still waiting to take center stage; and a summer camp whose lake hides a mysterious (and man-eating) monster.

Then it was time to meet Tracey! Tracey told us that she was born in Trinidad, and was inspired to write The Jumbies after years of hearing her family and friends pass on stories about these mythical spirits. There’s the lagahoo, who is half man and half wolf; the soucouyant, who appears as an old lady by day, and sheds her skin at night to become a fireball; La Diabless, whose name means ‘female devil’ and who eats men; douens, who are spirit babies and are really good at mimicking voices to trick humans, and a ton of others! Then, Tracey gave us the best tips for keeping jumbies away. Each jumbie has a different personality, so you have to learn how to recognize and outmaneuver each one. Tracey also brought in costumes for us to try on, which no author has ever done at camp before! Here are some of us dressed as jumbies.

With all of our new tips in mind, we then drew a graphic novel panel about an interaction with a jumbie. Who would we meet and how would we trick it? We illustrated ourselves wearing our clothes inside out to confuse La Diabless, or spilling a bag of rice to distract a soucouyant, who will stop to pick up every single grain. Then Tracey signed our books and took a photo with us!

We said goodbye to Tracey and took the bus to Central Park to eat lunch before our field trip.

After lunch, we headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to meet with Madeline Cohen, Director of Education at Symphony Space, and teaching artist for Week 2. Madeline took us to the African Art section, where we saw some ceremonial masks and learned a little bit about African folklore. We had the chance to explore the gallery for a little while and use the art in the room as inspiration for jumbies that we created ourselves.

We shared our imagined jumbies with each other. There was jumbie who was part elephant, part human, and always looking for chocolate; another who stole people’s awesomeness; and one who carried a beautiful staff carved from ivory.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Symphony Space! Tomorrow we’re excited to meet Geoff Rodkey and for our end-of-week party.

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