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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 21, 2015


Today was pretty jam-packed! With an author visit and a field trip, we had a lot in store. We began the day by playing theater games in the Thalia. First we filled up posters with words associated to today’s book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Then we started with theater games by thinking about conflict, and how it can be portrayed. Madeline had us play the “Yes/No” game. Back and forth we said, “yes” and responded with “no” all the way around the circle. It was amazing to see how many meaning we could put into just two words. Then we split into pairs, picked a word from the posters, and made a sketch for the others to guess what our word was.

By 10am, the author, Jacqueline Kelly arrived.  She told us about how she wrote the book or, as she called it, the evolution of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  One of the houses she lived in influenced the book.  So did seeing grasshoppers, which she researched by talking to one of the leading grasshopper experts.  She also told us about how she builds characters.  The dog Ajax is based off of her dog Elvis.  Calpurnia is 60% her, 30% her mother, and 10% Jacqueline’s friends.  Granddaddy is a combination of 3 men.  Jacqueline says he is the granddaddy she wishes she had, because hers lived far away in New Zealand.

She showed us the original cover design, but said she likes the one her book has now more.  Jacqueline told us the cover is a paper cut made by an artist, which was a popular art form at the time of the book.  The artist said the hardest part was to cut the little grasshopper in the jar in the lower left hand corner.  In publishing, authors usually don’t get to pick the cover, but Jacqueline’s publisher was really nice and let her have input. Jacqueline was a big reader so she thought she might like to write a book when she was about our campers’ age.  But she didn’t start writing until she was 45, which goes to show that it’s never too late to start!

Together we did a writing exercise based off an excerpt of the third book in the series, which she is currently working on.  She read us a few paragraphs and we wrote what we thought would happen next. Then Jacqueline read us her ending, which was totally different from what we imagined! Jacqueline also brought in a big surprise– live caterpillars! She wants us to watch how they evolve into butterflies.  We will post photos on the blog of how they change and then release them when they’ve transformed! Each of the campers got a copy of Jacqueline’s new book, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, and she signed both books.

After lunch we made our way to the Museum of Natural History.  In the hall of biodiversity, we drew pictures and made field notes of different lifeforms, just like Callie Vee, one of the character’s in Jacqueline’s book. We looked at different animals and tried to infer what about their habitat or lifestyle accounted for the way they look. There were so many strange looking creatures. Hopefully some of them will show up in our writing!

When we returned to camp, some of our campers got to try on a corset, just like the ones that Callie’s mother might have to wear. Madeline used to be a costume designer, so she has tons of wonderful garments like this one. While the corset might look cool to wear, it makes sitting pretty difficult! Tomorrow we will meet Kate Messner, the author of All the Answers. We can’t wait!

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