Storybook Travels: From Eloise's New York to Harry Potter's London, Visits to 30 of the Best-Loved Landmarks in Children's Literature


In their imaginations, children travel the world when they read such books as Madeline, A Bear Called Paddington, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Little House on the Prairie. Make these imaginary journeys a reality for your children with visits to the actual settings of these and dozens more of the best-loved tales in children's literature. Storybook Travels is the ultimate guide for book-loving parents in search of vacations the whole family will enjoy. Let Storybook Travels ...
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In their imaginations, children travel the world when they read such books as Madeline, A Bear Called Paddington, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Little House on the Prairie. Make these imaginary journeys a reality for your children with visits to the actual settings of these and dozens more of the best-loved tales in children's literature. Storybook Travels is the ultimate guide for book-loving parents in search of vacations the whole family will enjoy. Let Storybook Travels be your family's companion on unforgettable excursions, including:

A magical walk through London looking for the mysterious spots young Harry frequents in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

A fun-filled visit to the Plaza Hotel in New York City, reliving the charmed existence of Eloise.

A busy day in the tiny Tuscan village of Collodi, watching a puppet show, exploring a hedge maze, and enjoying other activities in homage to The Adventures of Pinocchio.

A scenic trek following the same trail created by Brighty the Burro, a real-life hero whose story is told in Brighty of the Grand Canyon

A wonderful sojourn in Paris and surrounding areas, visiting museums, eating at typical French cafés, and spotting the famous water lilies at Monet's home in Giverny, all celebrated in Linnea in Monet's Garden.

An afternoon of barbecue and music at the Chicago Blues Festival, in the imaginary company of Yolonda and her harmonica-playing little brother, the stars of Yolonda's Genius.

With itineraries for more than thirty locales in North America and Europe, Storybook Travels explores destinations near and far, rural and urban. Whether you want to plan a trip that will mean as much to you as it will to your children (or grandchildren), are looking for ways to enrich already-planned trips, or want to bring to life the fondly remembered books of your own childhood, Storybook Travels is your guide to one enchanting journey after another.

"An approach to family travel that keeps the child alive in all of us, and in the process helps us to understand the history, the meaning, the mythology, and the mystery of these very special storybook places." —Peter Greenberg, travel editor, The Today Show

About the Authors
COLLEEN DUNN BATES and SUSAN LATEMPA live in Pasadena and Culver City, respectively. They have worked together since Bates was the restaurant critic and LaTempa an editor at L.A. Style magazine. As freelancers, they collaborate for such magazines as Parenting and Working Mother. The two moms are coauthors of The Unofficial Guide to California with Kids.

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Editorial Reviews

Peter Greenberg
An approach to family travel that keeps the child alive in all of us, and in the process helps us to understand the history, the meaning, the mythology, and the mystery of these very special storybook places.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609807798
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/4/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

COLLEEN DUNN BATES and SUSAN LATEMPA live in Pasadena and Culver City, respectively. They have worked together since Bates was the restaurant critic and LaTempa an editor at L.A. Style magazine. As freelancers, they collaborate for such magazines as Parenting and Working Mother. The two moms are coauthors of The Unofficial Guide® to California with Kids.

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Read an Excerpt

The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883)
by Carlo Collodi
Collodi, Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is a well-known A-list destination for traveling grown-ups -- but not many people know that because of the tiny village of Collodi it's also a wonderful place to take children. In the 1950s, the proud residents of Collodi built Parco di Pinocchio to honor native son Carlo Lorenzini, the author of Italy's most beloved children's book, who used his village's name for his pen name. For children (and adults) who have read the original book, Parco di Pinocchio makes an excellent day's outing.

This trip is ideal for families with readers between the ages of 9 and 12, although even toddlers will enjoy the park.

The Book

Forget the Disney movie -- Pinocchio is no adorable, cherub-faced moppet. Born in 1881, when the first in a series of Italian newspaper-serial chapters was published, he is a lanky, sharp-featured marionette carved out of a magic piece of wood by Geppetto, who is not a kindly toymaker but an old man known in the village for his silly yellow wig and his fierce temper. From the first instant, Pinocchio is a wild little monster, beginning life by kicking his new father, running away, and inadvertently getting Geppetto jailed for child abuse.

And don't expect to get the warm fuzzies from Jiminy Cricket. Called the Talking Cricket in the book, he so annoys Pinocchio with his advice that in the first few pages, the impulsive puppet hurls a hammer at the cricket and kills him.

The surprise was how much our kids, who've seen the Disney movie about a thousand times, enjoyed the book. True, it has many of the same characters and plot lines as the film: Pinocchio is misled by the thieving Fox and Cat, runs off to the Land of the Toys (Pleasure Island in the movie), is turned into a donkey, and is swallowed by a giant shark (a whale in the movie), in whose belly he is reunited with his father. And at the end, of course, he becomes a real boy.

But the book describes (and sometimes satirizes) the rough life of Italian village peasants more than a hundred years ago, a life that seems unimaginable to today's pampered American kids. People are thrown in jail often and for little reason. Brawls, fistfights, and beatings are common. And children are expected to dote on and eventually provide for their parents, not the other way around. In fact, what finally makes Pinocchio a real boy, and a success in life, is not his schooling or work but the fact that he takes care of his aging parents (by the end the Azure Fairy has become his mother figure).

Perhaps those differences add to the book's appeal for modern kids. Or, more likely, the sheer fancifulness of the story is what really captivates them. Pinocchio and Geppetto may be humble peasants, but their lives are full of magic and hair-raising adventure. In true serial fashion, every chapter details some close call, chase, fight, or reconciliation. The marionette nearly loses his life at least six times and gets into countless scrapes, typically vowing to return to school and be a good boy after each mishap. But because growing up doesn't happen overnight, it takes Pinocchio thirty-six chapters and lots of trial and error to become worthy of being a real boy.

Take note that there are many, many editions of this book. Try to find an unabridged version, which is much richer in adventure and detail. If you can't find one in the United States, just wait until you arrive in Italy. Just about every bookstore and souvenir shop in Tuscany sells English-language versions of the unabridged story.

The Experience

Although our research had uncovered next to nothing on Parco di Pinocchio (it's almost never mentioned in English-language guidebooks), we parents knew not to expect Disney-style rides and multimedia showmanship. An American-style theme park just wouldn't make sense in this landscape of rolling forests, tidy vineyards, and Renaissance-era hilltop villages. Sure enough, Parco di Pinocchio was exactly what we grown-ups expected, a culturally uplifting place created by adults in the 1950s to honor the book, using bronze sculptures, mosaics, and other artwork created by the leading artists of the era. There wasn't a single ride or video game. And yet the kids adored it.

Because they'd read the book in the days immediately preceding our outing (Erin, 10, read it on her own, and we parents read it aloud to 7-year-old Emily), the characters and stories were fresh in their minds. They raced joyfully through the gardens, stopping first at the puppet show in progress. The Italian dialogue soon sent Emily wandering to the neighboring playground to swing and climb, but her older sister was able to figure out the gist of the story from the puppets' behavior, the inflections, and the few words she could understand. She enjoyed the challenge and was pleased with herself for being so international.

Next they ran into the mosaic square, whose tiled walls tell the story of Pinocchio in pictures. They picked out the main characters and events, then continued on into the mazelike garden, the heart of the park. Around each bend was a surprise. My daughters were most enchanted with the House of the Blue Fairy, a dollhouse-like structure with prismatic windows allowing glimpses into shimmering blue "rooms." Emily decided right then and there to be the Blue Fairy for the next Halloween. But their favorite feature was the huge shark's mouth (which looks more like a whale's). It's the most interactive of the sculptures: stepping-stones across water took them into its gaping mouth, and a spiral staircase took them atop his head, from which water shot forth regularly. They loved it.

Running along the garden paths with them, and getting lost in the labyrinth next to them, were kids and parents from all over: a couple of Americans, a few more Brits, some Italians, and a mix of French, Germans, Belgians, and other Europeans. But their numbers were relatively few; the sculptures seemed as plentiful as the people. Crowds are clearly not an issue here.


An outing to Parco di Pinocchio can take a couple of hours or a whole day, depending on where your Tuscan starting point is. If you're staying north of Florence -- say, in Lucca, a wonderful sixteenth-century walled town with fairy-tale appeal -- the park should be a fairly quick drive, perhaps twenty minutes. If you're staying south of Florence, as we did, you'll have a longer drive and Florence traffic to contend with. On the map it didn't seem far from our tiny Chianti village to the equally tiny village of Collodi, but the combination of stop-and-go country roads and autostrada bottlenecks resulted in a two-hour drive each way. Although it is significant to Italians, the park is low-key by American theme-park standards, and it's not exactly on anyone's beaten path. From the A11 autostrada, take the Chiesina U. exit and follow the many (but small) signs that will lead you to the park via the midsize town of Pescia.

If you're hungry, consider stopping in Pescia, where there are many more choices than in Collodi. We were quite pleased with the pizza at Del Magro, a plain little bar/café where the four of us had pizza and Pellegrino for only $10; several other nearby restaurants looked worthy. Or allow time for a sit-down meal at Osteria del Gambero Rosso (House of the Red Shrimp), Parco di Pinocchio's adjacent restaurant. Or, perhaps best of all if the weather's fine, pick up picnic fare in Pescia and have lunch at one of the many tables in the park.

As you enter the ancient hillside village of Collodi, you'll see a grand building on the hillside to your right. Called Villa Garzoni, this fanciful castle is known for its ornate eighteenth-century terraced gardens, complete with strange topiary, statues of mythical beasts, and water staircases. If you have time, stop here for a spell; because of its eccentricity, it's far more interesting to kids than most gardens.

A little further on lies Parco di Pinocchio. Outside the park's gate (manned by one sleepy ticket seller) is a row of souvenir stands. Skip these and head into the park, whose own shop is a little better. Once you're through the gate, pathways will guide you through the property: past Emilio Greco's sculpture Pinocchio and the Fairy, through the outdoor puppet theater and the mosaic piazza (created by Venturino Venturi), to the giant chessboard, and into the garden maze. The kids can race ahead on the paths and make the discoveries: the House of the Blue Fairy, statues of the book's many characters (the Assassins, the Crab, the Blue Fairy, Pinocchio, the Serpent), the aforementioned Giant Shark, a cool underground pirate's cave (although there are no pirates in the book), some immobile boats on water, whose connection to the book are mysterious, and a mock village that unsuccessfully attempts to remind kids of Pinocchio's village. Behind the Giant Shark is a labyrinth that's fun to brave.

Parco di Pinocchio is a small place, and high-energy kids could whip through the whole place in forty-five minutes. But encourage them to slow down. Try watching the puppet show, even if the language is a mystery. Hang around the playground for a while. Linger over a game of giant chess. Stop in the little café/souvenir shop for an ice cream and a wooden Pinocchio doll. And make sure to allow time to browse in the museum/library center. Our whole family found the collection of Pinocchio-related toys, dolls, movie posters, and books fascinating (yes, Disney is well represented here). After seeing the exhibits, along with several academic treatises on the significance of Pinocchio to Italy's national identity, we began to understand the cultural significance of the little wooden boy.

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Table of Contents

How Storybook Travels came to be, what makes a storybook journey, and some thoughts on literary family travel.
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The Traveling Family
Some things to keep in mind when planning a storybook travel/or any vacation with children.
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The Adventures of Pinocchio,
by Carlo Collodi
Destination: Collodi, Tuscany, Italy
In the tiny Tuscan village where Pinocchio's creator lived, you'll find the 1950s–era Parco di Pinocchio, home to a huge bronze Pinocchio and a giant whale for climbing on and into, as well as a hedge maze, a little museum, and other fanciful diversions.
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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,
by Mark Twain
Destination: Hannibal, Missouri
The barefoot spirit of boyhood can be still be found in this small riverfront town, where kids can ride a riverboat like the ones piloted by young Sam Clemens, camp on Jackson Island, and tour the labyrinthine cave in which Tom and Becky were lost.
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And Now Miguel,
by Joseph Krumgold
Destination: Taos, New Mexico
The annual Wool Growers festival, a living-history hacienda museum, a church painted by Georgia O'Keeffe, and a Rio Grande hike are among the stops for families visiting sites from this beloved book about a sheep-ranching family.
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Anne of Green Gables, Other Titles,
by L. M. Montgomery
Destination: Prince Edward Island, Canada
A vacation to Prince Edward Island includes not only a visit to Green Gables National Park, but also sand-dune walks, tea with strawberry preserves, wagon rides, and an engaging musical-theater presentation of Anne's story.
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A Bear Called Paddington, Other Titles,
by Michael Bond
Illustrations by Peggy Fortnum
Destination: London, England
As naïve little Paddington explores London, in either the chapter-book or picture-book versions of this popular series, so do we, from Paddington Station, to a night at the theater, to riding in a London cab.
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The Black Stallion,
by Walter Farley
Destination: Belmont Park, New York
An excursion to Long Island's Belmont Park during the early-morning exercise sessions of the world's greatest racehorses will give children the flavor of Alec's exciting secret midnight rides on the wild black stallion that saved his life.
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Brighty of the Grand Canyon,
by Marguerite Henry
Destination: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Brighty the burro, who as a famous real-life national park character at the turn of the century, lives on at the Grand Canyon, where kids can see the trail he created, take the mule ride to his haunts, and look down at the bridge he (along with President Theodore Roosevelt) helped inaugurate.

Sidebar:Horses, Horses Everywhere
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Child of the Owl,
by Laurence Yep
Destination: Chinatown, San Francisco, California
A streetwise twelve-year-old Chinese-American girl who is sent to live with her grandmother is our guide to San Francisco's Chinatown circa 1964, where she encounters (as we might) neon on a rainy night, dim sum restaurants, and Hong Kong martial arts movies.
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by Kay Thompson;
Illustrated by Hilary Knight
Plaza Hotel, New York City
Whether you stop by for tea or spring for an overnight stay, people-watching at the Plaza (with the cooperation of staff members who gallantly play along) might result in the spotting of the fashionable lady with the dog, or the frazzled room-service waiter or—quick—wasn't that Eloise herself?

Sidebar: Stuart Little's New York City
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg
Destination: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
When Claudia runs away from home, she does it in style, inviting her younger brother along and selecting the Metropolitan Museum for their new home. Their live-in adventures enliven Renaissance beds, Egyptian tombs, and medieval armor halls for young-reader visitors.
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Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates,
by Mary Mapes Dodge
Destination: Haarlem, Amsterdam, and nearby villages, The Netherlands
Seldom has a country been as carefully and fully detailed in fiction for the young reader as in this quaintly entertaining book, whose young characters skate through a landscape of windmills, villages, churches, and canals—a landscape that is preserved today in Holland's open-air museums.
Sidebar: More Dutch Treats
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Other Titles,
by J. K. Rowling
Destination: London, Windsor, and Durham, England
A child's tour of London, nearby Windsor, and the northern city of Durham will gain richness and a bit of mystery with some Harry Potter sleuthing. Search for Platform 9 3?4 at King's Cross Station, and get a feel for Hogwarts on a tour of Eton, the historic boarding school, or on a visit to magnificent Durham Cathedral, which served as Hogwarts in the feature film.
Sidebar: Harry on Audio
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by Johanna Spyri
Destination: Maienfeld, Switzerland
A footpath up the mountain leads past cheese huts and meadows (where goatherds are sometimes seen) to a high mountain hut not unlike Alm Uncle's in the Swiss village of Maienfeld, where Spyri lived and set her heartfelt tale.
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Hill of Fire,
by Thomas P. Lewis;
Illustrated by Joan Sandin
Destination: Paracutin Volcano, Michoacán, Mexico
This easy-reader novel about a young Mexican boy's amazing experience as a witness to the birth of a volcano is based on a true story. Visitors to the volcano, Paracutín, can see the ruins of the church and easily imagine Pablo's surprise in the village where nothing had ever happened before.
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Island of the Blue Dolphins,
by Scott O'Dell
Destination: Channel Islands National Park, Ventura, California
Present day visitors to the islands where Karana the Indian girl lived alone for eighteen years will find themselves on a wonderful boat and walking trip through a wildlife preserve where they'll be surrounded by the birds, otters, and dolphins she turned to for companionship.
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by Robert Louis Stevenson
Destination: Isle of Mull, Scotland
Although it's now liked by ferry to the mainland, the Isle of Mull still conveys the awe-inspiring isolation that awaited the kidnapped, shipwrecked young hero who landed there in Stevenson's adventure story.
Sidebar:Castles and Moors
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Linnea in Monet's Garden,
Christina Bjork;
Illustrated by Lena Anderson
Destination: Paris and Giverny, France
Follow the art-loving young Swedish girl, Linnea, to Paris's Left Bank, the Marmottan Museum, the Orangerie, and, finally, to Claude Monet's home and garden in Giverny, one of Europe's most remarkable cultural treasures.
Sidebar: Linnea o Video
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Little House on the Prairie, Other Titles,
by Laura Ingalls Wilder;
Illustrated by Garth Williams
Destination: De Smet, South Dakota
A complete Laura Ingalls Wilder pilgrimage covers too many miles for most families, so head straight to De Smet, where, at the Ingalls Homestead, young visitors can play in the hayloft, dress in period clothes, and have a lesson from a real schoolmarm.
Sidebars: More Ingalls Homesteads
Newbery Girls in Wisconsin

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge,
by Hildegarde H. Swift
Destination: Fort Washington Park, New York City
This classic picture book honors a vintage lighthouse that is still loved today. Pay tribute to this tale of plucky determination in the face of “progress' with a visit to Fort Washington Park (in the shadow of the great gray George Washington Bridge on the Hudson River) and a tour of the historic lighthouse.
Sidebar: Tar Beach and the Great Gray Bridge
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Little Women,
by Louisa May Alcott
Destination: Concord, Massachusetts
The rare author's house that is meaningful for kids, Orchard House contains Louisa's desk, the costume trunk she and her sisters used for their “theatricals,” and a room in which her artist sister May literally drew on the walls.
Sidebars: Plan Ahead for Programs
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
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Madeline, Other Titles,
by Ludwig Bemelmans
Destination: Paris, France
Join Madeline on a walk across the Pont Neuf (but don't fall in like she did!), a visit to Notre Dame, and a dog search through the Tuileries and under the tables of Les Deux Magots. You just might find the “old house in Paris that was covered with vines.”
Sidebar: Madeline on Film and Disk
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Make Way for Ducklings,
by Robert McCloskey
Destination: Boston, Massachusetts
Not only do real ducks and swan boats ply the Public Garden lake shown in this beloved picture book, but there's also a series of statues honoring the storybook duck family that settled there. Walking the ducklings' route serves as a perfect child-size introduction to Boston.
Sidebars: Robert McCloskey and New England
Boston and Baseball
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Maybelle the Cable Car,
by Virginia Lee Burton
Destination: San Francisco, California
Nothing captivates young San Francisco visitors more than a ride on a cable car, so make the experience even more meaningful by reading about the travails of Maybelle and viewing the giant underground pulleys and wheels at the Cable Car Museum.
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by Holling C. Holling
Destination: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
With this beautifully illustrated, award-winning book about a canoe carved by an Indian boy in hand, a trip to Niagara Falls and a ride on a Maid of the Mists boat to the foot of the falls is especially memorable.
Sidebar: Journeys Through Time and Space
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The Pied Piper of Hamelin,
by Robert Browning
Destination: Hamelin, Germany
Several authors, including the great English poet Robert Browning, were inspired by the legend of Hamelin's mysterious medieval tragedy. This makes Hamelin, a rare intact Renaissance-era town with summertime Pied Piper pageants, a key point on the family-travel map.
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Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Other Titles,
by Beverly Cleary
Destination: Portland, Oregon
Yes, Virginia, there is a Klickitat Street! Other Cleary landmarks in this bookish town are a city playground with statues of Ramona, Beezus, Ribsy, and Henry Huggins, as well as the Beverly Cleary Children's Library.
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Song of the Swallows,
by Leo Politi
Destination: San Juan Capistrano, California
One of the best restored and most interesting of the California missions is the setting for this award-winning picture book, which describes the miraculous yearly return of migrating swallows, seen through the eyes of Juan, a young boy who loves the mission and its old caretaker.
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The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Other Titles,
by Beatrix Potter
Destination: The Lake District, England
The pastures, stone walls, and barnyards drawn by Beatrix Potter to illustrate her enduring tales are a principal feature of the Lake District, where you'll find picturesque small villages, the author's farm, a gallery of her paintings, and plenty of real-life Jeremy Frogs, Jemima Puddleducks, and Tom Kittens.
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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963,
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Destination: Birmingham, Alabama
As your family tours Birmingham's Civil Rights District to learn about the brave people who fought against racism, you'll be accompanied by young Kenneth Watson, the fictional boy who visits his grandmother's neighborhood during the turbulent, historic weeks of September, 1963.
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Yolonda's Genius,
by Carol Fenner
Destination: Chicago, Illinois
Share smart, sassy Yolonda's love of Chicago with a trip to the annual Blues Festival in Grant Park, where she schemes to show the world that her little brother, a quiet boy who can't (won't?) learn to read, is a musical genius. The stars at the book's climax—B.B. King, John Hammond, Koko Taylor—could very well be playing at next summer's festival.
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More Storybook Travels
Our collection of thirty storybook travels is a fine beginning—and here are some more wonderful children's books with real-world settings.
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Index of Book Titles
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2002



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