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Local books for Santa Cruz kids

Ever since my husband and I read The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet*, which is set in Pacific Grove, to our son, I’ve had a passion for snooping out books with local flavor. It’s such a passion that I was sure I’d written about it before. But having searched my files, I have to admit that I have not, in fact, written about all these wonderful books! So here it is, my rundown of kids’ books I have read (and a few I haven’t) that are set in or near the Monterey Bay area.

1. Kildee House by Rutherford G. Montgomery

This has to be the first book on my list, because it holds such an important place in my reader’s heart. I was introduced to this book by my son’s first-grade teacher. After she read it aloud in class, he came home and asked if we could read it again! It’s the story of an old man, retired from a career as a headstone-maker, who builds a little cabin against a massive redwood tree. When we did this with my daughter’s book club, we met at Henry Cowell inside of the hotel tree! It was magical, to sit inside a tree with dim lanterns, sipping hot chocolate and talking about literature.

2. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (and sequels) by Eleanor CameronWonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

What can I say about this very weird, truly excellent book? It’s one of the ones I remember from my childhood, which is why, when we started to read chapter books to our son, I just had to read it again. And lo and behold, it takes place in Pacific Grove. I’m guessing there aren’t many works of fiction that take place there, but this one makes up for the lack of others. My husband has even searched to find out if the address in the book exists (it doesn’t). Great book to read to younger kids.

3. I Am Lavina Cumming by Susan Lowell

This rather obscure little book was recommended to me by Gay, the wonderful children’s book buyer at Bookshop Santa Cruz. It’s historical fiction about a real girl who lived in Santa Cruz during the earthquake of 1906. The writer posits (I’m not sure that this was the case) that Lavina counted amongst her friends the youthful Susan Pitts (later to be known as the famous actress Zazu Pitts). It’s a nice little book, and I suggest that upon reading it, find the detail that tells you without a doubt that the author has never lived in Santa Cruz (or anywhere on the California coast, for that matter).

Operation Redwood4. Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

I haven’t read this one yet, though it’s been on my shelves for a while. My son read it and liked it — probably good for pre-teen kids.

5. Star Lost by Patsey Gray

One of my correspondents recommended this long out-of-print book, which our local library doesn’t even have a copy of. If you have a copy, donate it to the library and ask them to get it on the shelves so we can read it!

6. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

This is a young adult book (definitely not for the kids, judging from the description) that is partly set in Santa Cruz. I haven’t read it yet!

7. The Changeling by Zylpha Keatly Snyder

Again, I haven’t read this, but a correspondent tells me that it’s set in an unnamed coastal California town. She also recommends The Egypt Game, which is set in Berkeley.

8. Eight Mules from Monterey by Patricia Beatty

From Nancy Winans: “I actually met her when I was a child when I was part of a junior library reading club and read several of her books, all historical fiction centered around her experiences living on the Pacific West Coast as a child.  Two were centered near where I lived in So Cal, one about the orange growing business and the other about boron miners.  Others focused on quilters in Oregon and a Quileute family in Washington state. I think they might still hold up to today’s readers, with parents explaining when they were written and about how people weren’t as aware of certain issues then.” [Visit Nancy’s Choices4Learning website]

9. The Terrible Churnadryne by Eleanor Cameron

Another from Nancy: “Another book I read as a child that was inspired by the Monterey Peninsula but which uses other place names.  I just re-read it last year for fun – only then realizing there were so many parallels to our area and finding out that the author lived here.”

10. Frosty: A Raccoon to Remember by Harriet E. Weaver

From another correspondent: “Apropos of Kildee House there’s also the 1973 “Frosty: A Raccoon to Remember” by park ranger Harriet E. Weaver, about half of which takes place in Big Basin and half in Southern California. Frosty even causes some commotion in the Mission St. Safeway parking lot.”


Posted in Homeschooling.

3 Responses

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  1. Viva says

    Thanks for this list! I’m going to have to check these out (literally! From the library!).

Continuing the Discussion

  1. The wonderful world of Diana Wynne Jones – Avant Parenting linked to this post on September 16, 2012

    […] Local books for Santa Cruz kids […]

  2. My essential children’s library – Avant Parenting linked to this post on June 13, 2014

    […] Coast, we have collected both fiction and nonfiction about our area. If you’re a local here, check out my book list of children’s books set in our area. We also have multiple books on redwood forests, a local mushroom guide, several books about the […]

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