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Based on a true location: The places where iconic children’s authors played

Based on a true location: The places where iconic children’s authors played

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Rudyard Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book, and to celebrate we have launched an online resource mapping the places where famous children’s authors played when they were children.

With this resource, our aim is to allow kids and parents to visit 14 locations that might have inspired some of their most-loved children’s stories: from J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) roaming in the Forest of Dean, England, to the Massachusetts Zoo whose animals inspired Dr. Seuss (The Cat in the Hat).

Working with biographers, academics, and societies dedicated to celebrated writers (as well as some writers themselves), we hope these fantastic places will inspire the next generation of imaginative authors!

The places where the authors played:

  • C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The ‘Little End Room’, Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • David Almond, Skellig: Felling-on-Tyne, North East England
  • Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat: Forest Park, Massachusetts, USA 
  • Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Vier Buchen, Stuttgart, Germany
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden: Islington Square, Salford, North West England 
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter series: Forest of Dean, South West England
  • J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Moat Brae, Dumfries, Scotland
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prarie: Silver Lake, South Dakota, USA 
  • Lewis Carroll, the Alice books: The Croft Rectory, Croft-on-Tees, North East England
  • L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz: Brewerton Road, Mattydale, New York, USA 
  • Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Sweet shop in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island: No. 17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book: JJ School of Art and its environs, Mumbai, India
  • Robert Westall, The Machine Gunners: Bank Top, North Shields, North East England


The ‘Little End Room’, Dundela Avenue, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Inspired The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
(54°35'55.4"N 5°52'37.6"W)

Dr Michael Ward, Senior Member of The Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, and author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis:

“C.S. Lewis remembered playing more indoors than outside owing to the ‘seemingly endless rainy afternoons’ that dominated his childhood in Belfast. He wasn’t sporty or athletic or adventurous, partly because of a problem he had with his thumbs; he could only bend them at one of the two joints. He seems to have spent most of his childhood roaming around the large house where he grew up with his older brother, and playing in the ‘Little End Room’ in the attic, reading and writing stories from an early age.”

Felling-On-Tyne, Gateshead, England
Inspired Skellig by David Almond
(54°57'02.3"N 1°34'13.7"W)

David Almond, author:
“I grew up in a Catholic family in Felling-on-Tyne, a little damaged lovely town that stretches from the river to the sky. The sky above is filled with light and skylarks, the earth below is riddled with ancient mining tunnels.

On the best days it seemed a kind of Heaven, on the worst, a kind of Hell. I wrote about it first in the story collection, Counting Stars. I found a way to turn personal experience into fiction, to write about people I knew and loved. The tales merge memory and imagination, reality and dream, truth and lies.”

Forest Park, Massachusetts, United States Of America
Inspired The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
(42°04'32.3"N 72°33'53.3"W)
forestpark
XPLORA Research Team:
“As a child, Theodor Seuss Geise (later to become Dr. Seuss) was brought to Forest Park in Springfield, MA by his father, who worked there. His father’s job granted him access to behind-the-scenes tours of the zoo in the park. Geise would bring along a sketch pad to draw the animals he saw, which no doubt played a part in the illustrations that he later drew in his books.”


Vier Buchen, Stuttgart, Germany

Inspired The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
(48°47'10.3"N 9°06'39.2"E)

Rachel Hass, Eric Carle Studio:
“Eric Carle often talks about how he used to go on walks in the forests of Stuttgart, Germany with his father who would peel back the bark of a tree to show him the tiny creatures who lived there. Little crawly insects. These are very important memories for Eric of his time with his father and he connects them to his books. He has said: ‘In a way I honor him with my books and my interest in animals and insects.’”

A walled garden in Islington Square, Salford, England
Inspired The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
(53° 28' 58.1484'' N 2° 15' 39.1428'' W)

Jean Shirley, author of Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden:
“Frances Hodgson Burnett was born in 1849 in Manchester, England. Her father’s store sold luxurious home furnishings. After his death, when Frances was three, her mother ran the store. They lived in a house with beautiful gardens, where Frances loved to play and pretend. But business fell off in hard times, and when Frances was five, her mother moved the family to a run-down city neighborhood. Near their new house, Frances found a walled garden with a locked door. Frances always loved gardens and she always used her imagination to make the best of a bad situation.”

Forest of Dean, England
Inspired Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
(51°39'22.0"N 2°40'58.0"W)

XPLORA Research Team:
“When she was nine, J. K. Rowling moved to Tutshill, which is on the edge of the Forest of Dean, South West England. This rather mythical place has influenced both the books and films in the Harry Potter franchise. One example is from the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, when Hermione Granger refers to a holiday from her childhood. ‘I came here once with Mum and Dad. That was years ago. It’s just how I remember it. The trees, the river, everything. Like nothing’s changed.’”

Moat Brae, Dumfries, Scotland
Inspired Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
(55°04'17.5"N 3°36'46.8"W)
peter pan
Cally Phillips, J.M. Barrie Literary Society:
“Barrie was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland. He put on plays for his young friends in a wash-house attached to his cottage. He played ‘pirates’ in the garden of a friend’s house, Moat Brae, which is now a centre for storytelling. This is credited as inspiration for his most famous work.”

Silver Lake, South Dakota, United States of America
Inspired Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
(44° 22' 51.9816'' N 97° 31' 58.2348'' W)

Nancy Tystad Koupal, Director of the Pioneer Girl Project, South Dakota State Historical Society:

“Coming from a humble family whose livelihood depended on hunting, trapping, farming, and odd jobs, the young Laura Ingalls Wilder found pleasure in the world around her, taking long walks on the prairies of what would become South Dakota, hunting for wild flowers, riding horses with her cousin at age twelve, sliding across frozen Silver Lake near De Smet hand in hand with her sister in the moonlight. “We had no skates nor sled,” Wilder recalled, “but holding hands we would run as fast as we could, then stop running and slide across the smooth ice. The faster we ran the farther we slid.”

The Croft Rectory, Croft-on-Tees, Yorkshire, England
Inspired Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
(54° 28' 55.7292'' N 1° 33' 18.27'' W)

Angelica Shirley Carpenter, author of Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass:
“Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire, England. In 1843 Charles’s father was appointed rector in Croft-on-Tees in Yorkshire and the family moved to the Croft Rectory. Charles often cared for his three brothers and seven sisters, even after they were adults. He loved entertaining his siblings. When it snowed, he stamped out a maze for them on the lawn. Other times, dresses as a magician in a brown wig and a long white nightshirt, he amazed the family with magic tricks. Charles published family magazines while living at the Rectory, illustrating them with his own charming drawings. He loved entertaining children with wordplay and humor based on current events. The Alice books reflect both interests. He wrote and illustrated Alice’s Adventures Underground for Alice Liddell. When he published it later, he hired artist John Tenniel to illustrate it. Tenniel based many pictures in the finished book on those Charles had drawn.”

Brewerton Road, Mattydale, New York, United States of America
Inspired The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
(43°06'09.6"N 76°08'47.0"W)

Angelica Shirley Carpenter, Curator Emerita of the Arne Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at California State University, and author of L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz:

“When Frank was about five, his family moved to a 15-acre farm in what is now the Syracuse suburb of Mattydale. Frank's father had a large house built among the rolling green hills. Winding paths covered with white gravel cut across the lawns like lines on a map. The house was surrounded by fruit trees, grapevines, and hundreds of rose bushes. Frank's father owned two neighboring farms where he raised grain, livestock, and chickens. Frank liked to feed the chickens and sometimes he pretended they could talk. Frank [also] later collected "fancy fowls" (a popular fad), chickens called Hamburgs. His first published book was The Book of the Hamburgs (1886). He wrote about Billina the chicken in Ozma of Oz and sequels. When Dorothy chides her for eating live bugs, Billina accuses Dorothy of eating dead things. Frank was [also] afraid of scarecrows as a child. The area where Frank lived in upstate New York is just beautiful, with tall forests, lots of hills, lakes, and rivers. It could easily be imagined as Oz when Oz characters go on journeys in that magic land.”

Llandaff sweet shop, Llandaff, Wales
Inspired Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
(51°29'38.7"N 3°13'08.0"W)

XPLORA Research Team:
“Roald Dahl’s imagination and adventurous spirit were evident from an early age, and certainly inspired his writing later on. At a sweet shop in Llandaff, Cardiff, he and some friends orchestrated the “Great Mouse Plot of 1924”, which involved putting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers. This act of revenge against the shop owner, Mrs Pratchett, led to the group being caned. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory children that misbehave are severely punished, and it also features the ‘Everlasting Gobstopper’, which shows this early episode of Roald Dahl’s life directly influenced his writing.”

17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inspired Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
(55°57'18.9"N 3°12'08.0"W)

Angelica Shirley Carpenter, Curator Emerita of the Arne Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at California State University, and co-author of Robert Louis Stevenson: Finding Treasure Island:

“When he (Stevenson) was six, the family moved to No. 17 Heriot Row in Edinburgh. His home faced Queen Street Gardens, where he liked to play pirate. His happiest days were spent with his cousins in Colinton on the banks of the River Leith. Lewis led his cousins in games, inventing scary adventures on a dark pathway that led from their grandfather’s garden to the kirkyard.”

JJ School of Art, Mumbai, India
Inspired The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
(18° 56' 41.73'' N 72° 50' 0.5316'' E)

Mike Kipling, Chairman of the Kipling Society, with help from
fellow members, Commander Alastair Wilson and Professor Jan Montefiore:

“Rudyard Kipling was born in India in 1865 and spent most of his first five years there. His upbringing was often left in the hands of Indian servants, who would make toys out of oranges and nuts, take him to Hindu temples and recount local folk tales. He particularly liked a story about a tiger, during which the teller would throw a tiger-skin rug over her head and make savage jungle noises. It is easy to see how this might have contributed to Shere Khan, Mowgli’s tiger adversary in The Jungle Book.”

Bank Top, North Shields, England
Inspired The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
(55°02'11.5"N 1°25'55.5"W)

Robert Westall, author: 
“We lived on our bikes, looking for Defences, which seemed in perilously short supply. Every little bit of barbed wire went down in our notebooks, even the thin strands round farmers' fields, which didn't really count but we put them down just the same. Then real Defences appeared - single pom-poms on the Bank Top; armed trawlers. We inspected them daily, looking for improvements, and making sure the crews knew their job.”