The last day of this week’s Book Club Camp began with a trip to Grand Central Terminal to meet Katherine Marsh, author of The Night Tourist – a story about a boy who discovers a secret entrance to New York City’s underworld of ghosts in Grand Central, nine levels below the ground. Taking us on a tour of some of the places mentioned in her book, Katherine promptly whisked us to the whispering gallery, which is not only featured in The Night Tourist, but is also a popular tourist spot in the terminal. The whispering gallery, which is part of the terminal’s corridors, is like a dome supported by four columns, and two people standing at opposing columns, facing the marble, can hear each other speaking. We all tried it, and it was incredible! When someone at another column spoke into it, it really sounded like they were standing right next to you and whispering in your ear.
Based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, The Night Tourist retells the story by setting it in modern day NYC, placing the underworld known as Hades on the ninth level of Grand Central Terminal. How many levels there are under Grand Central in reality is unknown and kept a mystery. Some people, Katherine said, think it is only four levels deep, others believe that there are up to fifteen levels under the terminal. We talked some more about these urban myths that come up in the book, and Katherine even gave us a pop quiz on a few! Some stories, it turns out, are true – for example, Track 61 is an existing secret track through which President Franklin D. Roosevelt would enter the city, where a elevator would take him straight up to the garage of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Some stories, however, remain either mysteries or mere myths.
We then headed to the New York Public Library, which, in The Night Tourist, serves not only as a library but also as the venue for a nightly seminar for the newly deceased ghosts. We checked out the Children’s Center with Betsy Bird, where we saw the original stuffed animals that inspired the creation of the Winnie the Pooh books. Katherine also had lunch with us at Bryant Park, deep in conversation with our campers, whose copies of The Night Tourist she then signed.
After lunch, we came back to Symphony Space, where we had our final performance with our campers and their families. In this performance, one piece of writing that the campers created during this past week were each read by the actress Bernadette Quigley and actor/author Matthew Cody (who we had met on Wednesday), emulating Symphony Space’s well-known Selected Shorts program. We had a range of genres, from poems to short stories, that were all so creative and fantastic!
Unfortunately, however, this week of camp has come to an end, and we had to say goodbye to our wonderful campers. We’d like to thank them all for being such a terrific group, and for making the Thalia Kids’ Book Club Camp a great success. Hopefully we will see them return next summer, or during the year for the regular season the Thalia Kids’ Book Club. We have many more books, authors, and field trips in store for Week Two, which starts on Monday, so make sure check back for more updates!