|The Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens|
One day we took a long walk in the lovely Kensington Gardens, the park where J. M. Barrie met Llewelyn Davies children, with and for whom he wrote Peter Pan. And we sought out the Peter Pan statue that Barrie commissioned in 1912.
Along the Long Water in Kensington Gardens there was a large pictorial plaque identifying common British birds that frequent the river. N. was very excited to see, first on the plaque and then in the river itself, many birds we'd read about in the Swallows and Amazons series, especially coots, cormorants, and great-crested grebes.
Another day, we walked through Primrose Hill and Regent's Park, the setting for many outings in the Mary Poppins books.
We went to Paddington Station on our previous trip to England and again this time, imagining a little bear with sticky paws and a squashy hat emerging from a corner.
We saw the Victorian Leadenhall Market, used as the setting for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films (which N. hasn't seen, but he's read books 1-3).
I asked N. (as I'm also asking my students) if it makes a difference to the way he thinks about the Paddington stories or Mary Poppins to have walked in the locations where the characters walked, to see where the scenes are set. He said, "no, because I already imagined them." I thought this was a really interesting answer! These books were fully alive for him when we read them aloud. They effectively conjured complete worlds (as the best fiction does!) and he got no extra insight from seeing the locations that inspired them.
On the other hand, N. is currently reading The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, a recent novel set in contemporary London. This was a birthday gift from friends, and N. is totally absorbed in it. He's been telling me with great excitement when places that we've been to are named in the text. And today he and I went up in the London Eye, which he's always wanted to do but was especially urging this week as he reads Dowd's novel. Perhaps place matters more because he's reading this book on his own (rather than listening to it as a read-aloud), perhaps because it is a contemporary novel, perhaps because he's reading it now, here in London, rather than retracing the world of books we read a year or two ago. Whatever the reasons, while discovering the locations of other much-loved books didn't add much to their value for him, N.is really enjoying reading The London Eye Mystery on location.
|A coot on the Long Water|
|Looking down on London from the London Eye|