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!

Crevasse Challenge

crevasse challenge jumpOne, two, three, jump! Are you ready to meet our most popular toddler activity of all time? Ladies and gentleman, may I present…the Crevasse Challenge.

The Crevasse Challenge was one of many activities offered at a large-scale Journey to the Centre of the Earth event we hosted in 2013. The YMCA was one of our event participants, and we wanted their activity to involve both geology and exercise. Rock climbing, of course, was the most obvious choice. But we already had a huge inflatable climbing wall in another area of the event.

climbing wallWe needed something else. Something less vertical. Additionally, the climbing wall had age and height restrictions, so we wanted an activity everyone could try. So it needed to be adventurous, on the ground, with no age restrictions, and still rock related.

What about the challenge of jumping over a big, dark, mysterious crevasse? Perfect!

The crevasse needed to be constructed out of something that wouldn’t rip, bubble, slide, or otherwise become a trip hazard. The solution? Black contact paper. I bought a big 18″ x 75′ roll on Amazon (it was $27 and I had lots left over). We used the contact paper to make a jagged, 18′ long crevasse. Then, we used additional pieces to make smaller cracks branching off the main crack. Here’s the shape of our crevasse:

crevasse challenge outlineIt’s important to mark where the different pieces of the crevasse fit together. That way, on the day of the event, you simply match the pieces, peel the backing off the contact paper, and stick everything in place. We used the matching lettering system below to pair the side cracks with the main crack (the letters were written on the backs of the pieces in permanent marker):

crevasse matched lettersThe crevasse is done. Are you ready to rock? I bought these “riverstones” from Discount School Supply. Not only are they colorful and sturdy, they have anti-slip bottoms. At $70 a set, they are a bit of a splurge (especially since we bought 2 sets). But I considered it an investment in quality and safety. After the event, we donated both sets to our local YMCA for further fun.

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Image from Discount School Supply

If the rocks aren’t within your budget, I found some circular “poly-vinyl spot markers”  in the Discount School Supply online catalog. They’re made of thick, no-rip vinyl, and I’m assuming they won’t slide around on the floor (but definitely test them first). A set of 6 circles cost $15.  An even cheaper option? Use masking tape to outline rock shapes on the floor. I don’t recommend cardboard or paper rocks because they’re potential slip hazards.

After some trial and error, we strategically placed the rocks around the crevasse. Then we took a picture of the rock placement (Katie shot the photo below with the panoramic feature on her phone). The photo allowed us to set up the Crevasse Challenge quickly and easily the morning of the event. In fact, by lettering the backs of the matching crevasse pieces and providing a photo of the rock placement, event volunteers set the whole thing up, without any oversight from us.

crevasse challenge rock placementThe rules for the Crevasse Challenge were simple. Starting on a yellow rock, you had to travel the length of the crevasse and land on the other yellow rock. If you fell off a rock, you had to start all over again (unless you were very young, and then you just climbed back up on the rock and tried again). If older kids wanted to increase the challenge, they had to complete the course only using the large rocks.

The prize for a successful run was a 1.75″ metal carabiner from Oriental Trading Company. Specifically, they are the “colorful key chain carabiner clips.” A pack of 50 costs $12. The prize is purely optional though (honestly, most of the toddlers at the event were blissfully unaware that there was a prize).

carabinersOn event day, the Crevasse Challenge was hopping for five hours straight. Kids went nuts for it! The crevasse! The rocks! The jumping! The carabiners! The only challenge was keeping the course clear of kid collisions. But the YMCA folks were total pros, and we had no accidents.

crevasse challenge 2Big kids tried it, little kids tried it, grown-ups tried it, but the toddlers were they main players. They couldn’t get enough of it! My daughter, who was 2 at the time, spent 45 minutes hopping, jumping, running, and trying different rocks. And just look at this cute little guy!

crevasse challenge 3

If you’d like to try a variation on the Crevasse Challenge, buy blue contact paper. Voila! Instant river rock hopping adventures. Another fantastic use of contact paper? How about this giant floor maze?