There’s no place like New York City for an author doing research. The libraries! The museums! The hustle and bustle! The lights, the action, the little hidden gems you can discover just by turning a corner! I’d like to share a few of my favorite places, and those of you who have read my books will see why I’ve chosen these particular ones.
1. I’ve got to start with the Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History. This houses not only the world-famous Hayden Planetarium (where there is currently a double feature Space Show), but the exhibits provide an excellent education on the creation of the universe, even for the youngest visitors. Plus you can see how much you’d weigh on the moon! I did a lot of research here for Every Soul a Star, which is about a total eclipse of the sun. I scribbled notes in the pitch dark of the planetarium. They were a little hard to read later! Also, a scene from Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life took place in this part of the museum, and my cameo for the upcoming film was shot outside the entrance. So you can see why this place is first on my list!
2. This next one is really part of the first one, but I just had to tell you about the coolest thing! The American Museum of Natural History recently launched a mobile application called Explorer that functions as an indoor GPS system! This means that wherever you are standing, you can activate your iPhone® or iPod® touch (or borrow one of the 300 devices they offer), and learn all the information about the objects surrounding you. It’s like your own personal tour guide in your pocket! Explorer also has a Fossil Treasure Hunt option.
3. You know when you’ve heard of some place forever and you keep meaning to get there but somehow you never do? That place for me was The Cloisters in Inwood. When I sat down to write a series based on old fairy tales, I knew I finally had my excuse to get there. I wanted to set the stories in medieval times, and taking the guided tour at The Cloisters was the perfect way to immerse myself in it. You really feel like you’ve been transported out of the busy city and into a quiet spot in Medieval Europe. Afterwards, have lunch in the beautiful gardens with views of the Hudson River.
4. In Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Jeremy goes on a quest to find four keys to fit the four locks of the mysterious box he received in the mail. I’ve always been fascinated with locks and keys, and how each one was made especially for the other. At the John M. Mossman Lock Collection, within the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, you can learn the history of locks and see more different kinds than you ever knew existed. Located in midtown, this is a great way to spend an hour.
5. The Jewish Museum is currently displaying an exhibit about Houdini, the amazing magician and escape artist. Come learn about his life story, and to how see pulled off some of his most famous tricks. Writing is sort of like magic in a way, because you’re creating something out of nothing. Maybe you’ll leave the exhibit wanting to turn a glass of milk into a dove (or write a poem).
6. Almost every branch of the New York Public Library in the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan has a children’s section. Some branches, like the Jefferson Market Library, look like they belong in a fairy tale. Others are brand new, like the Battery Park branch that lets in lots of light from the Hudson River. Look for reading time events and special performances and art activities—all free.
Wendy Mass is the author of the beloved books Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life and A Mango-Shaped Space. Her latest novel, The Candymakers, is a delectable concoction of mystery, friendship and humor told from the point-of-view of four narrators who find themselves in a candy-filled world of surprises. Wendy lives in New Jersey with her husband and twin daughter and son.