In M Is for Magic, Neil Gaiman has written: “Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.” Today we will take you to the places you rarely ever visit, and share our list with several places that bring children’s literature to life. If you want to embark on an adventure with your children, get inspiration from this article and plan the family trip of your lifetime!
1. New York
Following the steps of:
1) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967) by E. L. Konigsburg
The book follows the story of two siblings Claudia and Jamie. They run away from their home to visit the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art. They bathe in the fountain, spent the night discovering a special exhibition, and stumble upon a mystery. The idea of sleeping in a museum and having an adventure was then re-created in the book Night at the Museum (1993) written and illustrated by the Croatian illustrator Milan Trenc. Later on, in 2006 it was made into a movie with the same name. The film star Ben Stiller plays a divorced father who applies for a job as a security guard at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History and subsequently discovers that the exhibits, animated by a magical Egyptian
artifact, comes to life at night.
Locations: Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History
2) Stuart Little (1945) by E.B. White
The little mouse living with his human family in New York City is famous all around the world. It’s considered a children’s classic now, but when Stuart Little was published it was heavily criticized. Malcolm Cowley, reviewing the book in the New York Times, expected more from White and said that he “found it a little disappointing.” White did not get affected by the critics, and his story of Stuart’s adventures in New York quickly became a favourite of kids and adults alike. In one of the book’s most famous scenes, Stuart competes in a sailboat race at Conservatory Water (Fifth Avenue in Manhattan), a model boat pond in Central Park. Today, people can still rent remote-controlled sailboats or simply show up to watch the model boat races that are still held every Saturday at 10 AM at the pond in Central Park.
Locations: Central Park
3) Harriet the Spy (1964) by Louise Fitzhugh
On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, just a few blocks from Gracie Mansion (the official residence of the Mayor), Harriet the Spy is taking notes about her neighbours and eating tomato sandwiches. Encouraged by her nanny, Catherine, Harriet observes others and writes what she sees in a notebook in order to prepare for her future dream career – to be a writer. She follows an afternoon “spy route”, during which she observes her classmates, friends, and people who reside in her neighbourhood. However, Harriet’s life changes after her nanny’s suitor, Mr. Waldenstein, proposes and she accepts. The nanny tells her that she has to leave because Harriet is old enough to care for herself, but the girl is heartbroken because she loves her nanny as a mother.
Locations: Manhattan, Gracie Mansion, Carl Schurz Park
4) Eloise (1955) by Kay Thompson.
Six-year-old Eloise wanders the Plaza hotel’s halls, spies on guests, and always charges her meals to room service. Her mother is perpetually absent, having left her child in the care of an English nanny. It’s hard to imagine that a real-life Eloise actually existed, but she may have been based the character on her goddaughter Liza Minnelli (Yes, the actress!). You can visit the Plaza Hotel, located at the corner of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue and follow the steps of Eloise. You can dine in the Palm Court, just as Eloise did, and then visit the Eloise Shop. If you really want to splurge, you can even stay in the Betsey Johnson–designed Eloise Suite, which features original prints from Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight on the walls, black-and-pink decor that echoes the book, and an Eloise bathrobe.
Locations: Plaza Hotel, Palm Court, Eloise Shop
5) James and the Giant Peach (1961) by Roald Dahl
The plot centres on a young English orphan boy who enters a gigantic, magical peach, and has a wild and surreal cross-world adventure with seven magically-altered garden bugs he meets. They set off on a journey to escape from James’ two mean and cruel aunts. Roald Dahl was originally going to write about a giant cherry but changed it to James and the Giant Peach. The peach crashes down to earth onto the top of the Empire State Building, and that’s one place that will be on your itinerary if you head to follow the journey of the book.
Locations: Empire State Building
Following the steps of:
1) Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Almost 140 years ago, J.M. Barrie was invited to join the ‘pirate crew at Dumfries Academy in Dumfries, Scotland’. Together with his classmate, Stuart Gordon, and other boys, they embarked on an adventure in the backyard of Gordon’s home. There Barrie began to imagine the magical realm of Neverland and the boy who would never grow up. In his memoirs, he wrote, “When the shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians changed their skins, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates in a sort of Odyssey that was afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan. For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, were certainly the genesis of that nefarious work.” If you are a fan of Peter Pan, you can visit Scotland and see where J. M. Barrie got his inspiration from. You will not regret it!
Locations: Neverland, Peter Pan Park, Moat Brae
2) Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew
When Katie meets the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, fun and adventures become their routine. Nessie shows Katie how beautiful and stunning the country is as they take in the sights. You can collect all 13 Katie titles and learn about the mesmerizing country. When asked about her book Mayhew says: “Katie in Scotland is a celebration of the things I love about Scotland, with Katie, her brother Jack and – for once – even Grandma having the holiday of a lifetime when Scotland’s most elusive citizen reveals herself and joins them on their travels.”
Locations: Loch Ness, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park and Museum, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood, The Royal Mile, The National Gallery and Portrait Gallery and Greyfriar’s Bobby.
3. New Zealand
Following the steps of:
1) The Hobbit (1937) by J.R.R Tolkien
The book is very popular and is recognized as a classic in children’s literature. The publisher was encouraged by the book’s critical and financial success and, therefore, requested a sequel. As Tolkien’s work progressed on the successor The Lord of the Rings, he made retrospective accommodations for it in The Hobbit. The movie after the book was entirely shot in New Zealand. The country is considered the real Middle‑earth and you will see that by exploring the dramatic, contrasting landscapes that have inspired the world’s best filmmakers. The famous actor, Martin Freeman who plays in The Hobbit has said: “A lot of the world’s impression of New Zealand is that landscape; the rolling hills, the mountains and the fiords…it’s got everything in it.” If you want to discover the latest news about visiting Hobbiton check here.
Locations: Matamata (North Island) – Hobbiton, Queenstown (a resort town in Otago)
2) The Lord of the Rings (1954) by J.R.R Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy best-selling novel, famous all around the world with over 150 million copies sold. The book has inspired and continues to inspire, artwork, music, films and television, video games, board games, and subsequent literature. The landscapes of Middle‑earth came alive after they were featured in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy from 2001-2003. Over 150 real New Zealand locations were used so you can discover a lot of places when visiting this amazing country.
Locations: Matamata (North Island) – Hobbiton, Queenstown, Dimrill Dale, Southern Lakes, Wellington
Following the steps of:
1) The Jungle Book (1984) by Rudyard Kipling
Kipling’s original is the best primer for a trip to the Indian jungle. As you probably already know, most of the characters in the book are animals such as Shere Khan the tiger and Baloo the bear, though the main character is the boy Mowgli, who is raised in the jungle by wolves. The Jungle Book has remained popular, partly through its many adaptations for film and other media. The stories are set in a forest in India. One place mentioned repeatedly is “Seonee” (Seoni), in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan is the ideal stand-in for the steamy forests where Mowgli and Baloo gambolled. If you are lucky, you might even spot a real sloth bear, tigers, and leopards.
Locations: Madhya Pradesh, Ranthambhore National Park (Rajasthan)
2) A Thousand & One Nights (Anonymous folk tales)
One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. It is often known in English as the Arabian Nights. the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryār and his wife Scheherazade and the framing device incorporated throughout the tales themselves. Indian folklore is represented in the Nights by certain animal stories, which reflect influence from ancient Sanskrit fables. The influence of the Panchatantra and Baital Pachisi is particularly notable. The Jataka Tales are a collection of 547 Buddhist stories, which are for the most part moral stories with an ethical purpose. Various characters from this epic have themselves become cultural icons in Western culture, such as Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba. Part of its popularity may have sprung from improved standards of historical and geographical knowledge.
3) The Tiger-Skin Rug (1979) by Gerald Rose
The story follows the journey of a tiger who masquerades as a tiger-skin rug and saves a maharaja. It’s amazing how easy it is for the tiger to pass himself off as a rug – he enjoys a life of luxury with the Rajah’s family, snacking on midnight feasts and playing with his children. He goes entirely undetected, until one night, when he risks expulsion from his comfortable abode as burglars break into the palace and he has to decide whether to stay in disguise as a rug – or save the Rajah from a horrible beating. However, tigers who live in houses can have happy endings, as seen in this perfect picture book.
Images courtesy of Shutter Stock.