Last week, I shared my visit to the Boston Public Garden to see the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue https://onthechildrensshelf.com/make-way-for-ducklings/. Seeing the world inside the pages overlap with the world around you, makes reading so exciting for young readers (and honestly, readers of any age). So I thought I’d share some other books that take place in real places that readers could visit.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving takes place in the small town of Sleepy Hollow in New York. The town embraces their ties to the legend and readers can visit the Headless Horseman’s bridge and the Old Dutch Church. Aside from being one of my favorite stories, Sleepy Hollow is a favorite bookish spot to visit. There are less scary, younger reader versions of the legend.
“Eloise at the Plaza” by Kay Thompson – I read this book when I was little and desperately wanted to live in the Plaza. Eloise is a young girl who lives in the Plaza. She shares her adventures through the hotel, visiting all her friends who work there, and the mischief she gets into. Standing in front of that building, imagining Eloise and her adventures inside, brings the book to life.
“From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg follows Claudia and Jamie who run away from home and stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While I’m not condoning running away or sneaking into a Museum and staying there after it closes, definitely take your reader to visit the Museum after they finish the book. There’s so much to see and so easy for readers to see the book come alive all around them.
“A Bear Called Paddington” by Michael Bond follows the adventures of Paddington Bear after he arrives in London from Peru. Visit Paddington Station and see the bronze statue commemorating the book.
While in London, head over to King’s Cross Station to visit Platform 9 3/4 from J. K. Rowlings’ “Harry Potter” series. Young wizards can jump into the book as they attempt to pass through the wall to the most famous train platform in the wizarding world.
“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery introduces readers to Anne Shirley who has been living in foster care and is mistakenly sent to live at Green Gables with Matthew and Marilla Chutbert. Anne is not the strong boy they wanted, but they realize she is special, and Anne desperately wants to stay with them at Green Gables. I haven’t visited the Green Gables house but a trip to Prince Edward Island to visit Green Gables after reading the book would be incredible for any reader who loves this book.
So many children’s books have direct references to so many wonderful places. When we introduce a young reader to a great book and then (when possible) take them to visit a location from that book, we are strengthening that bond to the story. The reader has then experienced the book both through the words they read, the story they visualized while they read, and the real-world location they were able to stand in and look around. Visiting a location from a book gives readers an opportunity to step into that character’s shoes and see at least a small part of the book through their eyes. While we can’t literally climb inside the pages of a book we love, we can visit the places in a few favorite books.
*Jessica Collins is an award-winning writer and photographer whose column On The Children's Shelf (OTCS) has earned her national acclaim as well as several Connecticut Press Club awards. Follow her writing journey (and see her collection of OTCS) HERE.