This week’s Children’s Book Week (April 30–May 6)—an annual program by the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader—is a nice excuse to pick up a book for your favorite pint-sized bookworm, or revisit some of your old favorites. It’s also a pretty good reason to recall the Golden State’s contributions to children’s books—many of which translate to kid-friendly literary stops for your next California vacation.
The 1960 Newbery Award–winning book by Scott O’Dell continues to be a staple for older elementary school readers, and a great piece of historical fiction for any age. It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl stranded on San Nicolas island, off the Central Coast—based on the true story of a 19th century Nicoleño Native American who lived alone on San Nicolas for 18 years. Today San Nicolas—part of Channel Islands National Park—is a naval training site, but kids will love exploring the other blissfully-remote-feeling islands, accessible by ferry from Ventura Harbor or Santa Barbara. Spend a day or weekend kayaking, hiking, and camping on Santa Cruz Island, or venture to Santa Rosa Island to hike, picnic, or go tidepooling—and keep an eye out for the unique island foxes.
Theodor Geisel, better known by his nom de plume Dr. Seuss, lived in the San Diego community of La Jolla for years, supposedly first taking local inspiration from the willowy eucalyptus trees and nasturtium plants while staying at the pink La Valencia Hotel (which itself looks like it would fit in well in a Seuss story). Pose with the Cat in the Hat statue outside the Geisiel Library on the campus of University of California–San Diego, or walk up to the cypress tree in the much-photographed Ellen Browning Scripps Park, which many people believe inspired the Lorax. At the La Jolla art gallery Legends Gallery, check out the very Seussian drawings Geisel did of local, well-heeled society ladies.
Come to San Diego this summer and you can see Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax performed at The Old Globe theater in Balboa Park—which also runs a beloved annual production during the holiday season of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa
The creator of the Peanuts gang lived and worked for decades in Sonoma County, and often included California spots in his storylines (like the longtime Wrist Wrestling Championship in Petaluma, or the desert town of Needles, home to Snoopy’s brother Spike). Visit the Santa Rosa museum to see a re-creation of Schulz’s studio, and wander the exhibits to see his letters and sketches of strips from over the years. Kids and grown-ups alike can take short classes on cartooning too.
Of course, the Golden State also has some solid literary history for more advanced readers—check out the places in California where you can celebrate John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill, Jack London, John Muir, and the L.A.-noir fiction of Raymond Chandler.