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!

Legendary

books of wonder nyc photo 5

New York City is quite the literary town, but there is one place I hear about repeatedly in my line of work. The famous, fun, and fabulous children’s bookstore, Books of Wonder. On a recent trip to the city, Katie and I stopped by their 18th Street location to bask in the stuff of legend.

Independently owned and operated, Books of Wonder first opened its doors in 1980. Originally slated to sell antiquarian children’s books, the stock soon expanded to encompass new children’s books as well. In 37 years of business, Books of Wonder has moved, expanded multiple times, coordinated events both large and small, launched a publishing division, and become the keepers and champions of Frank Baum’s Oz books. Another interesting fact – Books of Wonder inspired the setting for the children’s bookstore in You’ve Got Mail, right down to being measured, photographed, and rebuilt on the movie’s sound stage.

books of wonder nyc photo 2_1Books of Wonder is PACKED with a huge selection of books. The books are so enticingly displayed, you just want to grab one and read it right away (and plenty of readers were camped out on the floor and in little chairs, doing just that). They have quantities of signed copies too.

books of wonder nyc photo 3Katie left with not one but two signed copies of The Girl Who Drank the Moon (the 2017 Newbery winner). Once I torn myself away from the stacks, I turned my eyes to the quirky and inviting decor.

Layered on endcaps, tables, walls, and bookshelves are posters, original artwork, and characters from illustrated books. It almost feels like you’re inside some sort of awesome pop-up book. Do you recognize the dragon in the image that started this post?

legendary 2Yup! It’s by author and illustrator Steve Light, wielder of the fountain pen extraordinaire (we made these fantastical steampunk airship for his book, Zephyr Takes Flight). The artwork pops up in unusual places too. Curious George swinging from a light fixture…

books of wonder nyc photo 6A street scene on the floor of the gallery:

books of wonder nyc photo 7The back wall of the store is dedicated to Books of Wonder’s extensive antiquarian and rare books section.

books of wonder nyc photo 8Here you can find an amazing array of your favorites. If you’re wondering how much a first edition of Where the Wild Things Are (inscribed, with an original sketch) is going for these days, it’s $22,500.

books of wonder nyc photo 9Not far from the rare books, I was delighted to find a real live author signing books! In fact, I shouted across three shelves of retail space to tell Katie that Rowboat Watkins was in the store. Rowboat is the author and illustrator of Rude Cakes (which I love, and which we story timed here). His newest book is Pete With No Pants. Not only did I get a signed copy of Rude Cakes, Rowboat let me model his awesome headgear.

dr. dana and rowbot watkins, rude cakesMoving towards the front of the store, I soon discovered “Blind Date With A Book.”

books of wonder nyc photo 10Essentially, it’s a book wrapped in brown paper with a suggested age range, genre, and enticing teaser. YES!

books of wonder nyc photo 11I almost bought this one…

books of wonder nyc photo 12One more fantastic detail. At the front of the store are thank you illustrations from visiting artists. It reminded me of the fabulous conference room walls at the Mazza Museum (which you can see at the end of this post).

books of wonder nyc photo 13Here’s my personal favorite:

books of wonder nyc photo 14Katie and I spent a happy hour shopping Books of Wonder before we had to dash to catch our train. My only regret is that I spotted this cool canvas logo bag as I was walking out the door. Too late to go back and snag it, darn it!

books of wonder nyc photo 15But not to worry. I’ll definitely return. In fact, in September a second location will be opening on 217 West 84th Street. If you’re in town, definitely make Books of Wonder a destination. Just be prepared to leave with LOTS of books. This store is bursting with love for children’s books. How can you resist taking some of the love home with you?

Going Underground

going undergroundHello from the Big Apple…we’re riding New York City’s subways today! We made tissue box subways, toilet paper tube passengers, and customized some special story time dollars. A quick stop at the MetroCard machine, and we were ready to zip through the tubes (and we mean that quite literally)!

We read Subway by Christoph Niemann (Greenwillow Book, 2010). It’s raining, and a Dad and his two kids decide to spend the entire day riding NYC’s subway trains. The clever, bouncy rhymes not only introduce the subway trains and their riders, but the various routes as well. There’s even a shout out to the “critters” who live on the tracks of the J! This vibrantly illustrated book is a fun read-aloud and a useful map for the twists and turns on NYC’s famous transit system.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 subway template, printed on two, 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of white card stock
  • 2 jumbo paperclips
  • String
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Decorating supplies for subway passenger (more on this below!)
  • Magic bucks template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • MetroCard template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 MetroCard machine (more on this below!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

I did this project at my library’s story time, but I also brought it to my son’s kindergarten class!  I’ll begin with the story time version first, then show you how I simplified the program for a classroom setting.

Begin by cutting the top off a large tissue box. Cut and color the pieces of the subway template, then tape (or hot glue) them to the sides of the box.

finished subwayUse tape to attach a jumbo paper clip underneath the front of the subway. The paperclip should extend approximately 0.75″ past the box. Later, we’ll use this paperclip to pull your subway through the tunnel.

subway paperclipCut a toilet paper tube down until it fits inside your subway box, then decorate (we offered multicultural construction paper, regular construction paper, patterned paper, and patterned tape. Use markers to draw features on the face. Place the passenger in the subway.

subway passengerCut and color some magic bucks from the template (you might recognize them from this itty bitty retail story time). Cut the MetroCards from their template as well. All you need now is a MetroCard machine!

metrocardI made my machine out of a copy paper box. I cut slits for the money and the cards, then decorated it with poster board and construction paper. During story time, when the kids slid their cash into the slot, the machine would promptly dispense a MetroCard (this was done by a helper sitting behind the machine, catching the dollars and feeding cards through the slot).

The kids were super delighted by this marvel of technology! One little girl was peering closely at the machine, obviously working something out. Suddenly, she put her hands on her hips and shouted “Hey! I figured it out! There’s a person behind that machine!”

The subways are ready, the passengers are aboard, the MetroCard is in hand. Now for the ride! This entire story time was inspired by a 6′ tube gifted to me via library recycling. I taped some paper towel tubes to the sides to keep it steady. Voila! A subway tunnel!

recycled tubeIf you don’t have a tube, don’t worry! Throw a sheet over a table, or use a couple boxes to make a tunnel. So long as the subway travels through something, you’re good to go!

However, if you are using a tube, test to make sure your finished subway fits in it. We tested the boxes at the beginning of our prep work, but we didn’t test them after we attached the templates. “Pish,” we thought, “the templates don’t extend that far beyond the original box, yup no problem here.” Well, the morning of story time, we discovered that our subways were too tall to slide through the tube! We had to do some quick chopping to make it work.

Next, tie a long string to a jumbo paperclip, then bend one end of the paperclip out a bit.

subway paperclip stringYou’ll notice there are two strings attached to the paperclip in the above photo. The second string allowed my helper to pull the paperclip back through the tube after each subway had finished. Otherwise, we would have had to stop, stand the tube on its end, and let the paperclip slide back down to the mouth of the tube every time.

Ready to ride? The kids gathered at the mouth of the tube with their subways. One by one, a helper slid the subway’s paperclip onto the string’s paperclip…

attached subwayThen the kids dashed to the other end of the tube, crouched down, and watched as I pulled their subway down the tube towards them. Awesome.

subway in tube

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I brought this story time to my son’s kindergarten class. I definitely had to tweak it. For starters, we only had 15-20 minutes! So I prepped all the subways in advance. I hot glued the subway templates to 16 tissue boxes and attached the paperclips to the front. At the story time, all the class had to do was color in their subways.

Also, instead of using lots of supplies to decorate the passengers, I brought white toilet paper tubes and asked the kids to draw directly on the tubes (if you don’t have white toilet paper tubes, wrap the brown ones with white paper). Here are the lovely passengers, waiting to board. I especially like the hairy one with the pink eyes all the way to the left.

classroom passengersFollow exactly the same steps with the magic bucks and the MetroCard machine…and then haul the subways through the tube. The story time was a big hit! And the MetroCard machine actually stayed in the classroom, where it happily dispensed cards for the remainder of the school year.