The Literary Traveling Family

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When planning your family’s next vacation, keep in mind that even the most unexpected places can become a literary destination.

Whether you visit a real place that inspired a story, pay homage to your favorite characters, or learn more about an author’s life, books can be a passport to adventures of all types.

Here is just a sample to whet the appetites of growing bookworms.

Castro Valley, CA

Countless people visit San Francisco every year to  marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoy the thrill of a cable car ride down the steep hills, and tour the infamous Alcatraz. But just 26 miles from the city is one of the most unique book destinations.  Pyzanno’s Pizzeria in Castro Valley, owned by Tony Gemignani.  In his picture book for children,  “Tony and the Pizza Champions,” Tony shares his story of assembling a team and traveling to Italy to become the reigning world Pizza Tossing Champions. We’re not talking basic twirling dough in the air, think Harlem Globetrotters (with dough instead of basketballs) meets Cirque du Soleil. One of their team members even twirls while riding a unicycle.

Matthew Trueman’s illustrations are vibrant, fun and cartoony. Somehow it looks as though the pages are splattered with flour. Included in the back of the book are real photos of Tony and his team, a recipe for pizza dough and a step-by-step guide for pizza tossing.

Reading this book and then eating in Tony’s pizza place is a literary and a culinary adventure.

Spencer, IA

While Iowa may not be on the top of most people’s vacation wish list, if you do find yourself  in Spencer, make sure to leave enough time in your schedule for a visit and a tour of the  Spencer Public Library.

Fifty states and 19 countries are represented in the guest book there.  They come to pay their respects to Dewey, the cat who lived in the library for 18 years.

In 1988, librarian Vicki Myron heard something coming from the library book return box outside as she came to work one freezing day. Inside she found a tiny kitten that someone had dumped.  When Dewey died in 2006, Myron wrote a book about him called “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.” It became a bestseller and his obituary ran in 200 newspapers.

Amherst, MA

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to children’s picture book art. This is no rinky-dink operation.  The museum is housed in an impressive 44,000-square-foot building on more than 7 acres.

Opened in November 2002, the museum includes three galleries, an auditorium, gift shop and café. There is something for everyone. The bustling calendar of events includes guest speakers, story times, special events, performances, classes and workshops for children, parents, and educators.

It was founded in large part by and named for Eric Carle, whose unmistakable colorful collage illustrations are known all over the world and can be seen in more than 70 children’s books.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” his best known book since its release in 1969, epitomizes the perfect picture book in that the art is as important as the text.

Carle is not interested in simply promoting his own work. Past exhibits include “The Wonderful Art of Oz,” “Picture Stories: A Celebration of African American Illustrators,” and “Maurice Sendak, Inside and Out.”

As in a traditional art museum, the art is displayed on the walls in frames or in glass cases. However, unlike a traditional art museum, much of the art is hung at the eye level of children.  Although the kids may not touch the art in the galleries, there are plenty of opportunities to roll up their sleeves and unleash the artist within in other parts of the museum.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is only 2-3 hours from New York City and Boston.

I encourage readers to share their favorite literary destination on www.newport













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