Sometimes places take on special meanings to people who live or visit there; especially during the times of growing up.

Considering the places I have lived in, visited, and found fascinating, while growing up, and recently, I thought middle grade readers might have fun reading interesting fictional stories about young people’s experiences connected to actual unique happenings in particular places; with happenings being one time big events, annual events, events connected to special landmarks, and so on.

Here is a potpourri of stories I’ve discovered, set in places I have lived, or remember visiting, sometimes during special events. These stories are fictional, but realistic; mostly; as happens in “The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” in NY City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the shadow or spotlight of the Brooklyn Bridge, 12 year old Francie lives in poverty with her mom, dad, 11 year old brother, then baby sister in Williamsburg Brooklyn NY around 1910; in the shade of an ailanthus tree (a favored decorative street tree sometimes called “tree of life”). She helps her mom with chores, enjoys going to a library, goes to a school that isn’t nice, but then, thanks to her dad, gets to a nicer school. Then her dad dies. She must get a job; her brother only can go to high school. Eventually, a sergeant offers to marry her mom, adopt the little sister, and send the brother, and Francie, to college, after she takes some courses. // (Wikipedia notes: the ailanthus tree is “an analogy for the ability to thrive in a difficult environment.” It was common in neglected urban areas. Author Betty White wrote in the novel: “There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly…survives without sun, water, and seemingly earth….” — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Introduction)

On his 11th birthday, a boy living in New York City hopes for a dog as a present. He and his classmates are suddenly sent home early from school. His mom calls, delayed at work. She warns: don’t watch the TV; take care of your little sister. Then a stray dog shows up at the door. The boy will surely have an unusual birthday in a place and on a day that he is witness to a monumental happening and deals with being in the midst of it.  

12 year old Nikki lives with her dad just across the street from Central Park in New York City, on 77th Street by the Explorers Gate park entrance. She often visits the park, and is acquainted with the park’s tour guide, Mrs. G, and regular or special events. Things aren’t always what they seem to be in the park though, as Nikki notices at quiet times strange incidents happening. Then a treasure hunt turns into something much more, with the statues right in the center of it all.

Is there really something haunting Sleepy Hollow in New York near where the author of the well-known story lived long ago? Are things not just the ‘for fun’ spooky festivities at a camp? What are some rather strange things that are happening? Three young people decide to find out.

A boy who lives in Hawaii is sent to spend the summer with some grandparents who live in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. He really doesn’t want to go. He finds, however, that this place offers him something unique to experience and take part in.

Three young people are invited and excited to take part in an archaeological dig in one of the first settlements of the American colonies, but then something unusual is found. The young people are determined to solve the mystery.

In Monticello, in Virginia, three young people find a journal written by the 2nd U.S. president’s (Thomas Jefferson’s) granddaughters, but then it’s stolen. The young people strive to get the journal back where it belongs, although danger lurks.

In the mountains of Virginia, (the Blue Ridge Mountains?), two brothers explore the woods outside their new home. Exploring, not only amid the trees, but also caves, rushing waters, and hidden passages, the boys discover something that causes them to eagerly search for clues to find a special type of treasure lost years ago.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, some young people discover that the real Liberty Bell is missing. They are determined to find the real one before the next July 4th celebration. Along the way they get clues from some unique characters. Who are they?!

A boy and his cousin, living along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, decide to visit an island said to have something strange about it.

12 year old Melanie is bored by her hometown’s (New Orleans’) celebration of Mardi Gras, but then she finds a code on a Mardi Gras float. As her interest in the holiday reignites, she decides to find out what the code means, along with some help from some friends.

Nancy and her friends visit New Orleans during a Mardi Gras event, While there, they find out about an art theft. Nancy is determined to locate the masterpiece, and happens to discover a secret too.

Follow the adventure of a fictional First Daughter of a first fictional woman U.S. president. The girl finds a diary (fictional) of a real First Daughter: precocious Alice Roosevelt, who lived in the White House starting in 1901 at age 17

Through this guide, young visitors can get ready for a trip to Washington DC, by delving into the scavenger hunt around the city’s landmarks.

It’s so awesome that interesting places can be brought alive in fascinating ways for young readers through adventures in the literary world!

Carolyn M Johnson on Blogger
Carolyn M Johnson
independent librarian-writer - Rowman-Littlefield and others
librarian/writer / author of MG novel manuscript / published author of Net-based schooling aids for students / published author of nature-related travel articles / published poet (e.g Modern Haiku) / published puzzle for Highlights' Puzzlemania / a variety of other manuscripts in progress
2 Comments
  1. Thanks! Rosi

  2. This is quite a list. I haven’t read most of these. I would really like to have time to re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is such a wonderful book. Thanks for the post.

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