Literary landmarks for the kids

Welcome back, readers! Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend. The family and I spent a couple of wonderful nights outside of Boston with friends, complete with all-American long weekend activities—barbecue, golf, lawn sports, etc. Even got a night off from the kids for an adult dinner at a real restaurant!

But perhaps the most special part of the trip was a visit downtown to the Boston Public Garden for the boys to check out the setting for Make Way for Ducklings. Surprisingly, there’s really not all that much in the Public Garden specifically dedicated to Robert McCloskey’s classic. There’s a group of statues of Mrs. Mallard and her chicks, but that’s really about it—yes, there are the swan boats, but they advertise no link to the book, nor is there anything to mark the island where the ducks make their home. And the only sign of Officer Michael was on an ice cream truck on Boylston Street.

Still, Henry was in heaven, partly because plenty of live ducks still make the pond their home. But more than that, I think he made the connection that here was the site where the book actually took place, and that the setting of a book can sometimes be a real place, as opposed to make believe. I have to say, I was pretty blown away by that moment of comprehension, and it made me think there must be other picture book locations I should be taking him to.

Next up is a bike ride to the little red lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge, but after that I’m drawing a blank. Any suggestions?

5 Responses to Literary landmarks for the kids

  1. I still remember taking my son and daughter to New York and having them look up at the Empire State Building and go, “Dad, that’s where the peach landed.” Took me a minute to realize it was from James and the Giant Peach.

  2. Joelle says:

    I love to use a mix of imagined and real places in my books, but they’re YA. I’m from Portland and you could take the kids there once they start reading Beverly Cleary – Klickatat St exists and in the park are a bunch of statues of characters from the books…Ramona and Beezus, etc. For MG, Paula Danziger did two great ones that hit a bunch of real locations…NYC and London. Not much help with the picture books though, am I?

  3. I’m glad you had a great holiday weekend. My first grade son brought home a PB from school called Winter’s Tail about the true story of a dolphin saved from a fishing net. A man-made tail was created for him, and he learned to swim again with the support of much encouragement and love from the trainers. By the end of the book I was crying, and my son asked if we could visit the real dolphin. The dolphin, Winter, is at the Clearwater Aquarium in Florida, and I’m really hoping to bring the kids there to see him.

  4. Jen says:

    Portsmouth market in maine, from oxcart man!

  5. Hmm, I feel like I should know more places in Boston with literary significance because my husband grew up around there and we always seem to end up in that area in the summer—not the best time, really. We have been to Salem. I think that’s about two hours outside of Boston. You can see the real House of the Seven Gables there and take a tour of the house Nathaniel Hawthorn was born in. I’m not sure little kids would be too into that though. I guess this is why I don’t write Frommer’s guides.

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