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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 1

Published on July 31, 2017

The first day of the last week of camp! Wow! The summer is flying by. We started today on the stage getting to know one another by sharing favorite book titles, finding out who did or did not like fantasy and why, and what historical time period we might choose if we were writing a book. We had an opportunity to discuss all five books for the week during the mini-book club. And, finally, in the spirit of Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring, we played a version of “What’s My Line?” the old TV game show.  Each person in a group pretended to be the one person chosen and they all said, for example, “I have two sisters, I love pasta, and my favorite book is Lord of the Rings.” We had to guess the person for whom that was really true. We were frequently stumped, which bodes well for any future spies in the group.

After lunch, we had a visit from Daniel Nayeri, Publisher of the Children’s Group, and Colleen Venable, Art Director, at Workman Publishing, where Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring was created. Colleen and Daniel amazed us as they described all the unusual and creative books they have produced at Workman, from a picture book about a train that has a real little train that can travel from page to page without leaving the book, to a book about lettering that has a chalkboard built into it, to a book about archery that turns into a bow and arrow! Their office sounds awesome: a bunch of artists, inventors, and designers cooking up cool ideas and then making them. Almost all of the books are initially made in the office. They even have a 3D printer.

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring, the first in a series about spies throughout history, is by a secret author whose nom de plume is Enigma Alberti. It not only tells the fascinating story of a freed slave who insinuated herself into the household of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and proceeded to smuggle dozens of strategic documents to the Union, helping to win the Civil War, but teachers the reader spycraft! With Colleen and Daniel, we explored the world of codes and cipers and all the variations that can go into them, making our own ciphers with some basic materials that Colleen and Daniel gave us.  It was fun and the results were quite fascinating.

As always, we got our books signed and took a group picture with our guests. Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to meeting Sonia Manzano, author of Becoming Maria, creator of the “Sesame Street” character, Maria, and all around amazing person!


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