Posted in FYI

All About Week 4!

Hey there, fellow bookworms! Week 3 of camp is in our rearview mirror now and we’re fast approaching our LAST week of camp for 2019. I can’t believe how fast the time flies; you can relive all the highlights with our blog posts from Week 3 by scrolling down to our last few posts. But we’re looking ahead to Week 4, so read on for a sneak peek of what we’ll be up to!

“Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the color of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.”

We kick off the week with magical realism gem The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. Leigh knows her mother isn’t dead – no, her mother has turned into a bird and flown away, waiting for Leigh to find her. So she travels to her mother’s native Taiwan in hopes of finding her, unraveling long-unspoken family secrets along the way.

Astonishing Color totally blew me away; it’s an incredibly powerful story about grief and loss, full of love and effortlessly blending the realistic with the fantastic. This book broke my heart and put it back together again piece by piece, and I was never quite sure what was true or what was merely Leigh’s perspective, and found ultimately that both could be true! As another great quote from the book notes, “Believing is a type of magic.”

“No one was only the sum of the broken things inside themselves.”

Tuesday sees us switching gears to a much different story (but still involving birds): fantasy adventure Black Wings Beating by Alexander London, a returning (and beloved) camp author! Birds of prey are central to life in the land of Uztar, constant figures in their culture, folklore, and way of life, and nobody commands more respect than a falconer. Twins Brysen and Kylee embark on a dangerous quest to capture the legendary Ghost Eagle – for wildly different reasons – and discover a dangerous world awaiting them. But the twins may be the only ones who can stop a coming war…if they survive, that is.

The mythology of this world is so endlessly fascinating! Black Wings Beating creates a living, breathing world rife with danger and magic, populated with a range of complex characters. I loved all the layers of the bond between polar opposite twins Brysen and Kylee, how they’re connected by a fierce love, yet still keeping important secrets from each other. The rotating POV between the twins served to balance their dynamic, allowing the reader to understand both perspectives – even when Brysen and Kylee didn’t see eye to eye.

“NO ENTRY. NO PHOTOS. NO SURVIVORS.”

On Wednesday, we enter the Spill Zone, the graphic novel duology by Scott Westerfeld. A mysterious incident leaves Poughkeepsie a distorted, radioactive wasteland – a wasteland protagonist Addison regularly enters to take photos to sell to collectors. But her life changes forever when she brings something back from the Zone…and she’s not the only one with a connection to all the weirdness in the ruins.

I actually first read Spill Zone earlier last year and loved it then, so I’m super excited we’re featuring it at camp! I adore the art in these two books, especially the harsh angles and clashing neon coloring of the phenomena in the Spill Zone, and the enigmatic plot unravels in a really unexpected way across both books. And I’m probably just as excited to meet Scott Westerfeld as the campers are – his Uglies series was a favorite of mine as a tween!

“Life’s all about the revolution, isn’t it? The one inside, I mean. You can’t change history. You can’t change the world. All you can ever change is yourself.”

Thursday takes us back to the real – with maybe a little twist of the fantastic, depending on your perspective – with returning camp author Jennifer Donnelly’s novel Revolution. Protagonist Andi is still grieving the loss of her younger brother and on the verge of flunking out of school when her father whisks her away to Paris. While there, Andi discovers a girl’s diary from the French Revolution and escapes into the past, enmeshing herself in a centuries-old mystery.

Revolution defies a genre label, because depending on who you ask, it’s either realistic fiction or fantasy – I won’t spoil why, but either way, it’s a completely satisfying journey. Andi is lost in a raging grief and finds a kindred spirit in Alexandrine, the author of the diary she finds. Her journey towards accepting the tragedy that shattered her family is fraught and heart-breaking and so real – Andi leaps off the page and embeds herself in your heart. Or at least she did for me!

“Patience has never been one of my strong points. I used to think ‘a good imagination’ was one of them…but I’m not so sure anymore.”

And on Friday, our very last book of the whole summer is Colleen AF Venable’s graphic novel Kiss Number 8, a coming-of-age, coming-out story about a girl navigating her way through growing up and counting all her kisses – and all the kisses she wishes she could have, too. Mads is also on the cusp of discovering a secret that tore her family apart – one which she finds an unexpected kinship with.

Kiss Number 8 is an unflinchingly real story; it explores its characters’ strengths and flaws with equal attention, reveling in the ensuing complexity. Mads is earnest and empathetic and confused, unsure of herself as she comes to terms with her own sexuality and always letting her heart lead her. And listening to your heart isn’t always the best solution. But the story remains ever hopeful to the last page, and that’s what touched me the most about it.

And that’s Week 4! It’s a bit of a maelstrom of emotion, which is fine by me, because I love getting my heartstrings tugged. What’s the point of a book that doesn’t overwhelm you with emotion at least once while you’re reading it, I say! As for our other activities during the week, I shan’t give much away. But we will be getting up close and personal with some important characters from one of our books and taking a museum trip into the past, as well as working with our guest authors to create new stories of our very own – including writing some stories all together! But that’s all I can tell you.

Thanks for reading this literary round-up, for the last time this summer! Stay tuned for daily updates from Week 4, starting on Monday the 29th.

-Maggie

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We're the Thalia Kids' Book Club Camp at Symphony Space! Here you'll find regular blog posts about everything that happens at camp.