Literary Landmarks

Fiction writers are famous for creating elaborate new worlds. But sometimes a book location actually exists in the real world! We searched for real locations made famous by stories (but not the movie versions of the books – sorry Hobbiton, New Zealand). Even more exciting….Katie has actually visited one of the more exotic locations, as evidenced in the above photo.


EAST 104th & FIRST STREET, NEW YORK CITY

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief brought Greek mythology into the 21th century and introduced scores of eager young readers to Greco-Roman gods, demigods, deities and other fantastical creatures. But before Percy Jackson knew he was the demigod son of Poseidon, he and his mother lived in an apartment complex on the corner of East 104th and First Streets in NYC. Cue the monster attacks.

Screenshot from Google Maps


THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

While we’re in New York City, we also want to give a nod to the Met, which featured oh-so-promptly in From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The fountain is gone, but you can still scoot under the Tester Bed if you manage to sneakily stay after hours!


SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN

Curious souls beware of the Superstition Wilderness Area! Located near Apache Junction, Arizona, it is also the setting of Missing on Superstition Mountain. This impressive mountain looms over its desert domain, which offers numerous hiking trails and the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. In the book, the mountain wields almost supernatural powers, which many locals claim is true.


MORIN-JI TEMPLE, JAPAN

We discovered this location while researching folks tales for a Pokémon event! While there are several variations of the “Good Fortune Kettle,” the common link is the beautiful Morin-ji Temple in Tatebayashi City, Japan. This is where the famous transforming badger tea kettle, or kama-tanuki, still resides. It’s a short walk from the Morinjimae train station to the 15th century Zen temple, and along the way there are signs that tell the story of the charming kama-tanuki.


SHERWOOD FOREST

There really is a Sherwood Forest in England! About 4 hours north of London is Sherwood Forest County Park, located in Nottinghamshire. Not only can you explore the paths that Robin Hood tread, you can visit the star of the forest: the Major Oak. The Major Oak is a Quercus Robur, or English oak. It’s thought to be over 800 years old and, according to legend, its hollow trunk was used as a hideout by Robin Hood and his Merry Men.


MACHU PICCHU, PERU

If you haven’t read Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas, find a copy, fast! Machu Picchu has been on Katie’s travel bucket list since she was young, so having it included in Addison Cooke’s crazy adventures through South America was a feast for her reading eyes. Located near Cusco, Peru, the 15th century Incan ruins are found high on a mountaintop overlooking the Sacred Valley. Machu Picchu takes some effort to reach, but it is well worth the journey. Or you can build your own temple and search for treasure.


MADHYA PRADESH, INDIA

There is some debate as to where The Jungle Book is set, but some scholars believe it was in “Seeone,” or the Seoni region in Madhya Pradesh, India. Rudyard Kipling lived in India as a child, but never actually visited the purported home of Mowgli and his animal family. Madhya Pradesh hosts 10 national parks, including Kanha National Park, which is where you can catch a glimpse of wild Bengal tigers like Shere Khan.


PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, CANADA

Anne of Green Gables launched Prince Edward Island, Canada onto the international literary scene. Adopted home of the precocious Anne Shirley, readers delighted in her adventures in the fictional island town of Avonlea. Cavendish is the real town where you can find Green Gables Heritage Place and immerse yourself in the world of Anne and her life on the farm. Nearby Prince Edward Island National Park offers gorgeous red cliffs, sandy beaches and tall dunes.


CATSKILLS MOUNTAINS, NEW YORK STATE

Raise your hand if you wanted to run away with Sam Gribley and live in a tree! My Side of the Mountain had generations of readers wishing they could test their survival skills. And perhaps score a pet falcon. We also want to give a shout out to Hatchet’s North Woods, Longleaf‘s Conecuh National Forest, Halfway to the Sky‘s Appalachian Trail, and Backwater‘s Adirondack Mountains.


SNÆFELLSJÖKULL VOLCANO, ICELAND

Jules Verne was the master of taking his readers on epic adventures, whether it was under the sea or around the world in 80 days. In Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Verne’s characters follow the directions of a runic manuscript and descend into the Snæfellsjökull Volcano located on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland. Katie made her own pilgrimage to the infamous volcano, but was not lucky enough to find the exact spot to enter the caldera and witness an epic dinosaur battle.


KLICKITAT STREET, PORTLAND

Beverly Cleary grew up in a northeast suburb of Portland, Oregon near Klickitat Street,  home of her famous literary character, Ramona Quimby. Ramona, Beezus, and Henry Huggins (along with Ribsy the dog!) lived at Klickitat and 28th Street, just a few blocks from Grant Park. Today, you can find the bronze sculptures of the gang at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children.


KING’S CROSS STATION, ENGLAND

You KNOW this one was coming. Young witches and wizards heading to Hogwarts must pass through the invisible barrier to Platform 9 ¾. Today, even Muggles can view the entrance! There’s a special spot at King’s Cross Station in London where you can pose with a trolley passing into the brick wall. However, before you depart on the local version of the Hogwarts Express, don’t forget to stop by the official Harry Potter shop for a package of chocolate frogs!

Adventure Awaits

adventure awaitsSolve the riddles, find 3 keys, and discover an ancient temple at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for ages 6-8. Crawl inside the temple to find treasure, but be warned – the traps hidden within these dark walls will make your blood run cold. Unless, of course, you like traps. Then it’s going to be AWESOME!

We read Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes (Philomel Books, 2016). Addison Cooke and his younger sister Molly live in New York City with their  Aunt Delia and Uncle Nigel, who are world-renowned archeologists. Uncle Nigel has just discovered the first of three mythical Incan keys rumored to lead to a vast treasure. Unfortunately, Uncle Nigel’s nemesis, the ruthless Professor Ragar, wants that treasure very badly. He kidnaps Uncle Nigel and Aunt Delia, expecting them to lead him to the treasure. But what he doesn’t expect is the intrepid Cooke children mobilizing their friends and, with the assistance of Uncle’s credit cards, heading off to South America to beat Ragar to the treasure and rescue their family. Caiman-infested rivers, booby-traps in buried treasure vaults, limousines driven by panicky middle-schoolers…nothing can stop Addison Cooke when he sets his mind to something!

When the kids arrived at story time, I read them the first of 4 clues. This led them to a plastic box with a key and a clue to the next box (here’s the template for the keys if you’d like it).

clue box with key The 3 box locations were quite some distance apart on Princeton University’s campus, so there was a fair amount of excited running. Marissa went with the gang, and managed to get some great action shots.

prospect garden clueHere’s my favorite. Look at those feet coming completely off the ground!

feet off groundI don’t know about you, but I find rhyming clues really challenging to write. Especially when you want the kids to figure out where to go without being too obvious or clunky. I was, however, pretty happy with this one. Here’s a photo of the location:

chapel clue settingAnd here’s the clue that led to it:

It’s time to hurry! The last key awaits!
Next to the Chapel, in a special place.
Facing Firestone, peaceful and bright,
Benches of stone and flowers of white.

While Marissa and the kids were finding keys around campus, I was busy setting up the mysterious temple back at the library. It was a whopping 87″ long and 50″ high. We used 15 boxes, 2 tubes, 7 cardboard flats, multiple rolls of packing tape, and gray paint we had left over from this knight helmet project. The temple broke into three pieces so we could get it out of storage, hustle it through a doorway, and set it up in the gallery.

Incan templeHere’s a shot from the side so you can get an idea of the size and how we constructed it.

side of Incan templeThe ramp in the front of the temple lifted to reveal a felt-covered doorway. From there, kids entered a creepy, cob-web covered chamber illuminated with votive LED candles. One at a time, the kids crawled across a floor rigged with bubble wrap to snag a golden treasure box (which we lit from above with an LED light mounted in the top of the treasure vault box).

interior of templeThe minute the treasure left the vault, it triggered cardboard spikes dropping from the ceiling! That was me outside the box, manually raising and lowering the spikes from a slit in the ceiling. There was lots of laughing and screaming. Good times!

interior of temple with spikesThe characters in the book have a couple run-ins with caiman, so the final touch was an alligator puppet (operated by Marissa) that snapped at the kids as they exited the temple. The hard-earned treasure boxes were plastic jewelry boxes I found at the Dollar Store. They were loaded with plastic gemstones as well. Each kid received a treasure box, and, to make reloading the treasure vault easier, we cut a little trap door in the back of the box.

treasure box and gemsAfter everyone had received a treasure box, we opened the temple back up and just let the kids have fun entering and exiting, dodging the spikes. Some of the younger siblings tried too (sans spikes of course). And then there was this little baby who was totally fascinated by the interior of the temple. She hung out for quite a while!

brave babyAddison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas is a fantastic read-aloud. It’s hilarious, adventurous, faced-paced, with strong strains of Indiana Jones and The Goonies. Definitely looking forward to reading more books in this series!