Where does story come from? On a recent trip to London, I found myself asking this over and over. When planning my trip, I knew I was going to visit many Kid-Lit sites. Here’s a blog post I wrote for the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) which will give you a big overview of my trip. Before I zoomed across the pond, though, I had some books to read. I knew I’d be staying close to Hyde Park, and there’s a Peter Pan statue there, so I tried to re-read that classic. Maybe I should have listened to the audiobook, because Jim Dale’s voice might have gotten me through it. As it was, I could not stand Peter and the old-fashioned and deplorable attitude towards women and “Indians”. While I appreciated Barrie’s writing style, I just thought Peter was a jerk. It is no wonder that I never found the Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park. I think that little brat was hiding from me. Hyde Park was, however, full of trees that seemed to step right out of a book and ask to be characters.
Brian Selznick’s gorgeously heartbreaking story, The Marvels, prompted a visit to the Dennis Severs House. There were so many stories sitting out in plain view there that I had to take a rest after my visit. But not for long because I had to head over to the Winnie the Pooh exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum. My re-read of Winnie the Pooh was much more enjoyable, and I even read The House at Pooh Corner as well. If it has been a while since you’ve read these books, I highly recommend them for any age. They are still just downright delightful, as was seeing some of Ernest Shepard’s decorations in person.
Later that day my travel partner and I got a bit lost. We came to a canal that was littered with barges, including a Book Barge. The sign outside that said “Children’s Books 50% off” pulled us inside. There we browsed the collection and upon purchase of a book, were treated to a rather piratical bookseller who recited an Edward Lear poem for us. As I said, the stories in London are just under the surface, ready to spring out at a moment’s notice.
The next day I went to the British Library. This rather modern looking building holds over 2 million items, including a huge collection of Medieval manuscripts. But we were there for the Harry Potter exhibit, which also featured manuscripts, as well as paintings, a huge globe, and all sorts of magical items. The stories in that building must somehow be contained by magic. The rest of the afternoon was spent on a tour of secret London, led by author Jacob Sager Weinstein.I read his book, Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath, and was treated to a live action peek into the book, plus a sneak peek into the next one!
There were stories around every corner. Jacob lead us down to the Thames, where we found Cleopatra’s Needle. I had read about one of these in Ami McKay’s book, The Witches of New York, and was surprised to find one in London. Every place I went, I was immersed in story. I’ve been reading books set in Britain pretty much since I learned to read, so it seemed pretty familiar on those red double-decker buses. I know that more stories are waiting, and I think I can hear Peter cackling still.
–-Angela J. Reynolds, Community Engagement Coordinator