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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 2

Published on August 2, 2016

After a few fun games – and our favorite activity, reading – on the stage, we jumped on a subway heading downtown for today’s field trip.


We crowded into the little hallway downstairs and my fellow camper groaned, “it smells awful in here”.  This morning we took a field-trip to the Joffrey Ballet School in the Village…hence the overwhelming scent of feet and sweat.  We watched most of a ballet class of about twenty-five dancers.


Before coming to the Joffrey we’d read the book The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma.  This book, about ballerinas and ordinary teenagers, is largely set within the walls of a maximum-security prison and, according to The New York Times Book Review, it “explores the balance of power between the talented and the mediocre, the rich and the poor, the brave and the cowardly”.  Two of the main characters in The Walls Around Us are aspiring ballerinas, so today’s field-trip led us a little deeper into this world that we’d read about.  And we all felt a differently about the actual class we observed.  Some of us sat bolt-upright, watching every movement and twitching along with the piano music ourselves.  Some of us found our pencils more interesting or it was more peaceful to just look at the ceiling.  Regardless, when class ended, we all thanked the dancers and left the studio.  Now we get to think about the ballerinas we saw and write our own characters!

After lunch we returned to our classroom, where we met Nova Ren Suma, author of this week’s The Walls Around Us.  First, Nova was interested in hearing what we thought of our trip to the Joffrey.  She told us how she had taken ballet as a child and how the idea of the ballerina–being perfect on the outside but chaotic on the inside–is interesting to her.








Next, we shared the story ideas that our visit to the Joffrey inspired.  Nova listened very closely to each of us and her questions helped us further develop our stories.  Nova then spoke of her use of Magical Realism in her work.  Magical Realism, she explained is “writing the familiar with a fantastical twist”.  She continued to say that Magical Realism “start[s] grounded in the real world and then adds one strange or magical thing.”


To help us practice with Magical Realism in our own writing, Nova handed out cards that contained these three elements:  character, place, and a fantastical twist.  We then wrote stories based on the information on our cards.  Finally, we shared some of our writing and we ended the afternoon with questions and a group photograph.






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