Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2018: Day 2

Day 2 began with chores and the daily routine. Being the lone counselor has its advantages!

On day 1, we looked at what makes an adaptation. Today we drilled a bit down to what works and what doesn’t. We followed this core idea through baking and Hamilton, but then the kids decided what they would adapt.


We engaged in an apple pie experiment. Each kid selected their own apple at the store. We ended up with New York Ruby Frost, Fuji, Red Delicious, and two Honeycrisp. I chose Ambrosia.

Back at home, I had prepared a few changes to the pie recipe, cut the paper apart, and put the pieces in a bag for choosing.

  • leave peels on apples
  • omit sugar
  • omit cinnamon; add thyme and rosemary
  • crumble on bottom; crust on top
  • omit butter
  • twice the sugar

We allowed ourselves a standard crust, made by the thirteen-year-olds. It was made per recipe. Meanwhile, we rotated through the kitchen trying to make little ramekin pies with our differences.The ten-year-old got the apple peel instructions, and he was thrilled! Poor thing, he’d never had an apple pie with tough peels. He just knew he got to skip a step.One eleven-year-old omitted sugar and the other doubled it. The omitter substituted honey, and the doubler was ecstatic. The thirteen-year-old butter omitter substituted banana to make her crumble. The other thirteen-year-old added thyme and rosemary to the recipe. His leftover apples were abandoned by all. I built my ramekin pie with the crumble on bottom with severe doubts that it will be crumbly.


When Lin-Manuel Miranda created Hamilton, he changed parts of history. The most difficult for me: his friends weren’t at his wedding, at least according to Ron Chernow. But the opportunity to return to the original friendship song and to continue the thread of Aaron Burr versus the remainder–golden and waiting and right there.

In Hamilton: The Revolution, Miranda writes about Philip and Angelica both having more siblings than their songs would have you believe.

But the best example for the young writers in the house: the folks who confronted Hamilton about the Reynolds payments were not Jefferson, Madison, and Burr.

Miranda changed details to fit the effect he desired. Whether that was a rhyme, a clever twist on a familiar song, or the double duty of recognized villains–the changes matched Miranda’s palate.

Making Connections

Today’s experiment was forced. I gave a limited number of changes to the bakers. Because it can be hard to think outside the recipe. It can be daunting to imagine something different from what already exists. Later this week, the kids will make their own baking (and authoring) adaptations. This gentle prod brought them a bit closer.

Adaptation Planning

The kids decided the source material they would adapt and the format in which it would be adapted. Yay!

We talked about copyright and ownership. It’s a common discussion during book camp, because ownership means creativity can continue. The kids learned that for private home educational use, we can use any source material. We do not intend to publish the adaptations or share them beyond our own little circle, and we are learning. We talked about the need to ask permission, and in many circumstances the need to purchase rights, to adapt another person’s work. Then we looked at some examples of works in the public domain that may be adapted without legal ramifications.

Fort Night!

Yes, I know it’s not spelled that way. But then again, I’m not arming the children with axes and sending them out to their enemies either.

I’ve never felt more left out of my own home! The fort has subsumed the four biggest bookcases.



Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2018: Day 1

‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year! Three boys, 13, 11, and 10–Eldest, Middling, and Third–two girls, 13 and 11–First and Second–and me. Quarantined in a house for a glorious week of creativity.

This year our book camp centers on adaptations, and we’re studying Hamilton!

What is Adaptation?

The kids told me adaptation occurs when a plant or an animal changes for to better live in its environment. They had examples and everything. Yay science!

We moved to a new kind of science: food. If we make ten pies, each is a pie. We begin with a crust and fill it with apples or blueberries, chocolate, peaches, or meat. We could fill it with all kinds of yummy goodies, bake it, and devour. And that’s a kind of adaptation: adapt the crust and filling to our tastes and our needs.

We can also adapt apples from pie to all kinds of other tasty treats: apple sauce, apple cake, apple streusel muffins, apple butter, apple cookies, apple cider, apple tart, apple anything. Today we baked apple streusel muffins, then apple cake, then apple pie. Meanwhile, we cooked apple sauce. And we looked at how different the products turned out. From the same basic ingredients, we made four products that are eaten somewhat differently, that vary in sweetness, that will invariable satisfy some palates but not others.

In any adaptation, ingredients may largely be the same. But how they appear, when they appear, and what exactly they do may be different. There may be flavors in one that don’t appear in the other. Some may need help rising while others don’t. One adaptation may take eighteen minutes and the other an hour and a half. And we, as bakers, must learn what our adaptations need.


While the muffins cooled and the cake baked, we turned our attention to Hamilton: the musical, the album, The Revolution, and the biography inspiring the play. All four tell the story of Alexander Hamilton. The musical play and the album are both delicious, but one satisfies both visual and audio appetites, while the other is only for audio consumption. Depending on when we see the musical play, the voices may be somewhat different than the ones pressed into our brains from listening to the album on repeat.

The Revolution gives us words but no music. Today, we played a couple of scenes reading the lines and forcing the music from our minds. The effect felt wholly different. So the book takes away something but also adds notations and background information we could not consume elsewhere.

The biography, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, offers a different taste altogether. It is more meal than dessert. It is more fact, and the musical with its sibling adaptations are historical fiction.

But Chernow and Miranda began from the same place: adapting source material. Chernow adapted research into a biography. Miranda adapted the biography into something else entirely. The album and The Revolution were natural, necessary adaptations from there.

How Do We Begin Adapting?

For the five young writers in the house, we need to distill so much baking and Hamiltoning into some tenets for adaptations.

  1. Hone the source materials down to its most basic elements.
    • Apples, sugar, butter, flour, etc.
    • Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Revolutionary War, etc.
  2. Mash bits together to make them fit your form.
    • Use loaf pans because you don’t own a bundt pan. Change the order of process through trial and error. Substitute ingredients to avoid allergies.
    • Combine events or reorder them for time, space, or cohesion. Assign actions to substantial characters because the audience already knows them.
  3. Add flavor.
    • Use sweet apples instead of tart or vice versa for a new experience.
    • Use hip hop and rap to tell the story.
  4. Use new ingredients outside the source material.
    • Add cardamom to your apple spice profile. Use really great butter instead of oil.
    • Add conversation no one could know. Thread in tidbits others raise, like “you’ll be back,” or vine and fig tree.


The kids brainstormed their projects. What do they want to adapt this week? We’re keeping it tight: poem to story, scene to song, fairy tale to poem, or some other manageable task.

Watching an Adaptation

We talked about the similarities between comics and movies–visually and stylistically. And then we watched Spider-Man: Homecoming because it’s fun!

If you adapt something along with us this week, be sure to drop me a line.

Referenced Materials:

  1. Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  2. Hamilton: An American Musical, original soundtrack
  3. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
  4. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
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