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!

It’s Elementary

elementaryCalling all consulting detectives…grab your sparkle stem magnifying glass and examine this most intriguing collection of 18th and 19th century puzzle cards. And, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, the answers to these cards are at the end of the post (and you can print a set of your own)!

You’ll need:

Cut a drinking straw down to 3″. Gently fold a sparkle stem in half (soft fold, not hard) and thread the ends into the straw. Round the sparkle stem loop sticking out of the top of the straw. Done!

sparkle stem magnifying glassAnd what of those curious cards? They are reproductions of 18th and 19th century rebus puzzle cards in our library’s special collections. A rebus (also called a hieroglyphic) puzzle is created using pictures in place of syllables or entire words. Sometimes, the placement of an object is important to the puzzle as well.

Here are 6 cards from our vaults, all hailing from England. The top three cards are from Feronica’s Hieroglyphical Riddles (publisher unknown, circa 1840). Across the bottom row, from left to right, are cards from Peter Ponder’s First Pack of Puzzle Cards (J. Aldis, 1808), Wallis’s New Pack of Puzzles for 1798 (John Wallis and Champante & Whitrow, 1798), and An Entire Pack of New Puzzle Cards (W. and T. Darton, circa 1805).

Want to try these puzzle cards on a few young detectives? You’ll find a printable set here!

rebus cards, from the collections of the cotsen children's library, princeton university


The solutions, moving top row to bottom row, left to right:

Handsome is that handsome does
Better a little fish than empty dish
Awl is well that ends well
Two implements of an excellent sport: bat and ball (for Cricket, of course!)
What most people are fond of: toasted muffin
Troublesome insects: ant, caterpillar, snail, earwig, and ladybird

Victorian Tea

joani pours her victorian teaYou had a sneak peek here. Now, it’s time for tea! In honor of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we hosted a Victorian tea with all the trimmings. It was an ambitious, fun, and fully immersive historical program. Definitely one of my top five most favorite programs of all time. The tea was hosted at, and catered by, Palmer House, Princeton University’s bed & breakfast.

palmer house

Photo courtesy of Palmer House

Palmer House was built circa 1823-24, and was bequeathed to the University in 1968. It was absolutely beautiful. A big shout out to Innkeeper Jodi Pianka for allowing us to take over the entire downstairs the day of the program. She even let us use Palmer House’s historic front entrance!

front entranceUpon arrival, the kids were greeted by our “maidservant” (otherwise known as Anna, a sophomore at Princeton). Anna stayed in character the entire time. Let me tell you, she does an extremely authentic curtsy and fantastically demure “Yes ma’am.” She shares about her experience here.

The kids were shown to the library, where they awaited the arrival of the matriarch of the house (that was me). While they waited, Marissa and Joani, (who played my “daughters”) helped them settle in and personalize a tent card for the tea table. We used images of Victorian calling cards to create the tent cards (thank you, Google image search).

table cardsWhen everyone had arrived, I was officially announced by Anna. I sashayed into the room, greeted everyone, and proceeded to do a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation on the history of tea in England.

power point presentationThe historical content and connections for this program were quite extensive, and this post is already going to be rather long. So I’m going to describe the historical content in very broad brushstrokes. At the program, kids learned how tea was initially an expensive import available only to the upper class. It was also heavily taxed (sometimes over 100%). This resulted in a roaring trade in smuggled and adulterated tea. However, as tea became more affordable, it was enjoyed by all the citizens of England.

We talked about the advent of Victorian afternoon tea, the progression of the tea set from handle-less cups and bowl-like saucers to super fancy family heirlooms, and how “High Tea” was originally associated with the lower class. The presentation was full of historic photos, paintings, humor, and interesting facts.

Then it was time for tea. I escorted the kids through the gorgeous grand parlor…

grand parlorTo the dining room where our splendid tea table was laid out!

tea tableWaiting at each chair was a unique teacup and saucer. The kids got to take home these cups and saucers as mementos. They were so excited.

tea cup 3The take-home teacup was something I really, really wanted to do when I first conceptualized this program. So I sent a request through our library’s recycling program. The response was amazing. I couldn’t believe the incredible teacups my co-workers donated! Here’s one of my favorites. Look at the little feet!

teacup 2I also stopped by Nearly New, a local thrift store/consignment shop. They completely hooked me up with some delightful cups and saucers.

Once everyone was seated, and before we started serving the goodies, there was a little more history. I decided not to use PowerPoint for this portion of the presentation, opting instead for props and photos reprinted on 8.5 x 11 card stock. This is because while we were at the tea table, I wanted things to feel very natural and low tech.

One of the things I demonstrated was how tea was traditionally brewed (i.e. loose leaves steeped in a pot). I had some more modern tea infusers, as well as loose leaf green and black tea on display.

tea instructionI couldn’t resist demonstrating tea pods as well. Have you seen these things? They are dried herbal pods you drop into hot water, and they “bloom” as they steep in the hot water. I first spotted one in Sophia Coppola’s movie Marie Antoinette. As luck would have it, Infini-T, our local tea shop, had them!

tea pod demo

Finally, tea. We served Twinings English black tea (decaf of course) in teabags. To avoid  scalding hazards, kids brought their cups and saucers over to a silver tea urn.

tea urnI was stationed next to the urn, offering milk and sugar. I can’t resist sharing this little history fact…way back when, sugar came in big cones you had to break apart with a special tool called sugar nippers. This resulted in irregular lumps of sugar. Hence the question “one lump or two?”

When everyone had settled with their cups, The maid and my daughters circled the room, bearing trays filled with mini-cupcakes, mini-scones, mini-croissants, and cookies. Jam and butter were also available. Mmmmm.

cupcakes

joani servestea table 5

tea table 1anna servestea table 3tea table 6tea table 4tea table 7Having coached the kids on Victorian etiquette earlier in the program, I am happy to report that our young ladies and gentleman did very well indeed. Napkins were on laps, voices were not raised. We conversed very genially about their activities, interests, holiday doings, and travel adventures.

After tea, we retired to the grand parlor. I explained that after family teas or parties, Victorians like to play parlor games. And we tried a few period games!

To play “The Laughing Game,” stand in a circle facing each other. The first person says “Ha.” The next person says “Ha Ha.” The third person says “Ha Ha Ha” and so on. This must be done with a completely straight face. The first person who smiles or laughs must pay a forfeit. We never made it past the fourth person.

the laughing gameTo play “Hunt the Thimble,” have everyone leave the room except for one person. That person must hide a thimble somewhere in the room (however, it must be in plain view and not hidden behind anything). The players reenter the room and silently begin searching. If you spot the thimble, you immediately sit on the floor. The last person standing must pay a forfeit.

hunt the thimbleAnd now, for the crowning glory of the program. Joani, who is in Glee Club, agreed to research and perform some popular period music pieces. She sang two, including “How Doth the Little Crocodile.” The song is, of course, the poem from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland set to music. It’s from a rare 1872 Alice in Wonderland songbook from our special collections.


After that, the merry tea drinkers departed, carrying their cups and saucers home in white paper bags. We managed to snap some photos of our guests. On the invitation to the tea, kids were encouraged to dress up. Look at these two lovely ladies!

lovely ladiesWe asked these kids to sit and look “proper.”

looking proper in the parlorAnd check out the breeches on the young gentleman! I do believe those are modified baseball pants. That, my friends, is innovation.

photoBut this “dress up” took the Wonderland cake. Behold the queen of hearts!

queen of heartsSo how did the Victorian tea program go over? Amazingly well. Astonishingly well. We had a jolly good time I tell you! And while I loved the setting, the teacups, the costumes, and the cupcakes, the best part for me was how much history was packed in with the fun. Honestly, I don’t think any of them will ever look at a cup of tea in the same way again.

However, I think it was Anna who received the most authentic Victorian experience that day. We ran two sessions, a 10am and a 1pm. Anna was dashing around as the maid for hours. The poor girl was completely wiped out at the end! Thus, this portrait of a very tired maid.

anna is way tired


Thank you again to Palmer House for hosting the tea, McCarter Theater for the costume loans, and for everyone who donated teacups and saucers. You helped make the program truly amazing. Thank you!