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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 19, 2016

Day 2 was a whirlwind success! In the morning we did some activities on the sidewalk right outside Symphony Space to prepare us for our author visit. Because Once Was a Time is a book about time travel, we thought about (and acted out) how people would behave or introduce themselves in different time periods, from the Stone Age to Roman Empire to present day. It was a fun, interactive way to think about a broad topic.

morning activity!

After the activity, Leila Sales arrived! Her presentation included some funny pictures of her reading constantly as a kid, in a variety of different places. She also showed us excerpts from her journals, and even a few pages from the first book she wrote at age 11! Leila told us why she chose the several different locations and time periods in Once  Was a Time. Lottie and Kitty live in Bristol, England, because Leila herself lived in Bristol for a year when she was in college. And the other part of the book was set in the Wisconsin suburbs because she traveled there to help campaign during the 2004 election! It’s cool to realize that practically ANYTHING in our lives could inspire a book.

Leila showing us a picture of Bristol!

After the presentation, Leila had us discuss which time period we’d most like to time travel to (if such a thing existed… but who knows?!) and why. Then we did a cool activity where we partnered up and tried to guess (using “psychic ESP”) what symbol our partner was thinking of (square, triangle, squiggly line, circle, etc.)  It all connected to themes and events in Leila’s book in unpredictable ways.

Leila leading discussion!



After taking a group picture and getting our books signed, we said goodbye to Leila (but only until the afternoon field trip!) and went out to Riverside Park for lunch.


book signing!


book signing!

book signing!

After a quick game of Capture the Flag, we headed down on the subway to Houston St. to visit Penguin Publishing (the Young Readers division!) The office was huge, like a labyrinth, and filled with people who publish our favorite books! Inside a conference room, we met up with Leila again, as well as one of the other editors at Penguin. The editor showed us a huge stack of drafts for ONE picture book – so many edits have to be made before a book is complete! It was definitely a reality check. She read us the first draft and the final draft so we could all see the difference between them.

Penguin editor showing us book drafts!

early drafts with a Penguin editor!

The editor and Leila also talked a lot about choosing book covers! Leila was editing a book that went through at least 6 different cover ideas before its final product. She showed us each cover – they all included similar themes or images but in different ways. Everyone in the marketing, sales, editorial, and art departments have to consider what will make a book sell to the biggest possible audience. We also learned how a book cover will look entirely different in other countries and other languages. Leila and the other editor showed us the Dutch, German, Russian, Australian, British, Finnish and American versions of a book called All the Truth That’s In Me. It was so cool seeing them all lined up in a row, and noting their differences and similarities!

comparing book covers!

the same book in different countries!

At the end of our field trip, everyone got TONS of cool ‘swag’ from Penguin – stickers, bookmarks, erasers, CDs, and even BOOKS! Everyone got to take home a different book to keep and read. Bonus book!!!

After thanking Leila and the other editor at Penguin, (perhaps some of us will work there some day!), we headed home to Symphony Space on the subway. Looking forward to meeting Michelle Knudsen tomorrow!


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