Another big day at the Thalia Kids’ Book Club Camp started early this morning with a long trip to the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows with Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Brian took us to the museum to talk about a new book that he is currently writing, and to show us some of the exhibitions that play a part in the story. Since Brian is still in the middle of writing and researching for the unfinished novel, we were let in on some of the top secret details of the book, but only after being sworn to complete secrecy! So, you won’t read any spoilers or hints at all about what the story is about, but you’ll hear all about what we saw at the Queens Museum. The book will probably be released in one or two years, so until then, you’ll just have to guess at how the exhibition we saw is connected to the plot.
If you’ve ever been to the Queens Museum, you probably know that it is one of the only remaining structures left from the 1939 World’s Fair, which was hosted in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York City. We learned that the building was originally the New York Pavilion for the Fair, and was called the New York City Building. The icon for the World’s Fair in 1964 is the Unisphere, an enormous metal structure representing the globe that is also a remaining structure in the park right next to the Queens Museum, and is an image that is still recognizable today. Since nearly all of the other structures from the Fair were demolished, it was amazing to be able to see these remnants of history.
After telling us all about the World’s Fair, Brian then handed us over to the experts at the Queens Museum to guide us through the Panorama – a 9,335 square foot architectural model of all five boroughs of NYC commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. Begun in 1961, this model includes every single building in the city up to 1992, which means a total of 895,000 structures! We pointed out where Symphony Space would be in the model, where our homes are, and countless other landmarks. There is an incredible amount of detail in the Panorama, and Brian explained that it was like what he calls a “memory map,” where you can point out all the places that you have memories from – it’s like you can map out and tell your entire life story in the Panorama!
We can’t say much more without giving away too many details, but Brian then told us how he has been doing lots of research on the Panorama and the Queens Museum, which is required even for fictional stories if they have a basis in a historical place and time. He told us how the Panorama and the idea of a “memory map” play important roles in his new book. Brian, like the previous authors who visited us, then talked about his writing process, which for his style in particular actually includes a drawing process as well. Like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian’s new book is part text and part pictures – except that these pictures don’t illustrate the text, they actually advance the plot! Showing us his sketches and drawings for the new novel, Brian talked us through the process of creating final versions of the pictures, which are integral to the plotline.
Unfortunately, we can’t say much more than that, since Brian is still researching, writing, and drawing for his project. He even stayed behind at the museum to do some more research after we left! We do, however, encourage you to visit the Queens Museum yourselves to experience the Panorama first-hand, and of course to check out The Invention of Hugo Cabret while you wait for his new book to finally come out! More pictures below!