A Pickerington girl who aspires to be an author recently was one of just 10 central Ohio middle school students selected for the Thurber House's Young Docent Program.
Last summer, a friend encouraged Madisen Baker to attend a summer camp at Thurber House, a nonprofit literary center and former home of famed humorist, author and New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber on Columbus' near East Side in the city's Discovery District, because it would be fun.
The experience not only proofed enjoyable and exposed Baker, who lives in Pickerington and is a fifth-grader at Grace Christian School in Blacklick, to many published artists.
It also brought her to the attention of Thurber House administrators, who selected Baker to take part in Thurber House's Young Docent Program.
Now, Baker is among 10 central Ohio fifth- and sixth-graders who lead periodic tours of the Thurber House, a nationally-registered historic place, and teach others of the life and times of Thurber.
"It's very fun," said Baker, the daughter of Erika and Jeff Baker.
"I can tell the people who don't really know about James Thurber all about him."
The Thurber House's young docents program is for central Ohio fifth- and sixth-graders who've previously participated in the organization's various youth activities.
The students essentially educate new visitors to the house about Thurber and serve as stewards of the organization as they lead tours through the literary center and museum.
Meg Brown, Thurber House manager of children's programming, said students are selected based on their interest in literature and the Thurber House.
Those who are attentive, well-spoken and comfortable with public speaking are ideal candidates to be young docents, she said.
"Usually, they're in our Young Writer's Program or have done something with the Thurber House in the past," Brown said.
"They have opportunities to give tours of Thurber House, which is what they're trained for.
"There's also opportunities for them to do other fun activities at Thurber House."
Brown said other activities availed to the young docents include participating in highly-competitive "quiz bowls," and taking trips to Greenlawn Cemetery on Columbus' South Side, where Thurber and some of his family are buried.
"We do the (Young Docent) training when they're in the fifth and sixth grades and they can stay involved for as long as they want to stay involved," Brown said.
"Madisen had great speaking abilities, was very comfortable talking in front of others and was very easy to get along with.
"She's also very hard-working. We're very, very lucky to have her."
Baker said she's learned much about Thurber through her time at Thurber House. Her favorite tid bit, however, is that he staunchly disliked the word "doodle," despite all accounts that many of his sketches and cartoons were born from a process many might describe as "doodling."
Baker's appreciation of irony goes beyond Thurber.
She said she's considering a career in writing, and currently wishes to tap into themes that teeter thin lines between comedy and tragedy.
"I think I might become an author," Baker said. "I would probably write comedy, but not really. It would be stuff that's funny, but it's really not."
Baker's interest in writing has been significantly boosted through her time at Thurber House.
She said she enjoys touring the Thurber House museum last summer, and she's attended literary readings from authors who visit and stay at Thurber House.
Further, she hasn't been swayed by legend -- supported by many of the visiting writers -- that Thurber House is inhabited by ghosts and various otherworldly spirits.
"Since this summer, we've been doing the summer camp and tours and all kinds of fun things like that," she said.
"We went to the art museum and took a lot of pictures and got a lot of authors to read their books to us."