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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 4

Published on July 23, 2015


It’s already Thursday and what a full Thursday it was!  We started the day in the Thalia.  Madeline came up with a fun game when we drew slips and paired an adjective with a body part.  Then we acted out the phrase and the others tried to guess.  The town of Woundabout is filled with interesting inventions and so we were all given a crazy invention.  We came up with a name for it, we wrote a description or copy for an ad, and made a little jingle.

By the time we finished around 10 am, the brothers Lev and Ellis Rosen had arrived.  The two brothers collaborated on a book together.  Lev wrote it and Ellis illustrated it.  From the very beginning it started as a whole family project.  The brothers mentioned the idea at Passover or Thanksgiving and their mother liked it so much that she would not rest until they wrote it.  From their mother also came the idea for the pet capybara, because they showed her a video and she thought it was so cute that it should be included.  So this book was both a family and collaborative project.  Some of our campers shared how they worked together with their siblings.  Two play duets together.  Another camper helps her brother with illustrations for his class projects.  Lev and Ellis each played different roles in the creation of the book and told us a bit about each.

Lev, the author, began by telling us about how books get published.  He says that writing begins as a solitary process but the farther you get, the more collaborative it becomes.  By the time you are working with an agent, and editor, and a publisher, a lot of people are involved.  He also told us about some of his inspirations and influences, including american folk tales and tall tales, and an american twist on steampunk.  One of our campers commented on how much he liked the representation of queer parents in the book and asked what moved Lev to include them.  Lev answered that he hoped him and his husband might have kids one day.  He always tries to include Jewish and lgbtq+ characters.

Ellis illustrated his brother’s words.  He began by telling us about the variety of different sketches and proposals for the shape, the style, and the look of the characters.  He says his big secret is tracing paper, which lets him match things he likes and fix things he doesn’t.  Another helpful tip was google sketch up.  When he knows a picture will be hard to draw, he builds himself a reference and works from that.  Coolest of all though was when he taught us all how to draw Kip, the pet capybara.  We all drew our own version, taking the advice of Ellis’s editor: what makes Kip cute, is the hair.

Lev also led an exercise, both in writing and collaboration.  We all paired up.  Then, on our own, we started a story about change.  After a few minutes, we switched our page with our partner and kept writing their story.  We edited the stories together until both partners were happy.  A few of our campers shared, with changes ranging from dealing with death, to moving, to a sibling leaving for college.

After a photo and book signing, we thanked the brothers for visiting and headed off to the park for lunch and games.  In the afternoon, we went to the Bank Street Bookstore.  There are about 36,000 books in store there.  We began by reading another short book by Kate Messner and then learned about some of the logistics of running an independent book shop.   Our campers asked some really interesting questions: how the store was organized, how they decide what books they order, sell, and keep in store, and how do you get the books.  We learned about how to be sustainable with a low profit margin.  Books come in at a set price, so the store gets some extra money through games and toys.  But it turns out right now is a great time to be an independent book store, because the community loves and depends on them, so they want to help and support them.  In the end, the biggest draw is the store’s expertise in children’s literature.  We learned about how they pick books to recommend to different readers, by using The Hunger Games as an example of a book that transcends categories, but may not be appropriate for every reader.

The store was very kind and gave us some of their advanced readers copies, which we handed out after arriving back at Symphony Space.  Tomorrow we will meet Max Brallier, the author of Galactic Hot Dogs!  


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