After a few short activities this morning, Day 2 officially began with a visit from Megan Frazer Blakemore, author of The Water Castle. The Water Castle is a book about a boy named Ephraim who moves with his family to a small town in Maine and begins to notice that everyone who lives there is a little bit smarter, faster, and stronger. Ephraim begins to wonder about the source of this seemingly magical quality, in the hopes of using it to help his father who has recently suffered a stroke. Ephraim’s family moves into his mother’s old family estate, a closed-up bottled water dispensary and resort called “The Water Castle.” Ephraim and a girl named Mallory, whose family has worked as the estate’s caretakers for 100 years, work together to solve the mystery of a Fountain of Youth that their ancestors spent their lives searching for. The book blends in several different historical time periods, including the advent of bottled water in the 1840s, Robert Peary’s and Frederick Cook’s competitive explorations of the North Pole, and rivalries between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
Megan’s presentation was a in-depth look at her research process for the book, which involved lots of libraries! She also talked about some of the book’s real-life counterparts, namely a 19th Century resort estate that her friend’s family owns in Maine and the Poland Spring House & Museum in Poland, Maine. It was fascinating to see the ways in which Megan combined many different areas of study into the book… physics, chemistry, cultural history, mythology, and fantasy. After a Q&A and more discussion on The Water Castle, Megan led us in a writing activity called “What If?”. She told us that each of her books, and all the stories she writes, always starts with the question What if…? As in, What if a boy moved to a new town and everyone there was smarter, faster, and stronger? She even told us about a few other authors who use this same technique. For the activity, Megan showed us several intriguing photographs. For each photograph, we had to come up with as many what if questions as possible, based on the setting in the photo. The first photo was of a house on a very, very steep island. We asked… “What if the island flooded? What if the house was haunted? What if Matt Cody lived in that house!?”
After our writing activity and a book signing with Megan, we ate our lunch in the park, followed by more Capture the Flag. After lunch, the whole group, including Megan, headed uptown a few stops to the picturesque Trinity Cemetery at 155th Street between Broadway and Riverside. This cemetery is one of the three burial grounds associated with Trinity Church on Wall Street, the first of which is over 300 years old. The uptown cemetery began being used in 1842 on what had been John James Audubon’s estate. Trinity Cemetery is a beautiful hillside with some fascinating graves, including those of legendary New Yorkers such as the Astor family, Ed Koch, Ralph Ellison, and Jerry Orbach.
Megan and Matt Cody led us in a few writing activities, and then we hunted through the tombstones and wrote stories about the names we saw there. We walked through and explored this quiet, historical landmark.
After a hot and humid journey back to 95th Street, we bid Megan farewell, and Day 2 came to a close.