Kids' Books with a Local Setting
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Kids' Books with a Local Setting
Does anyone know of any children's books (age approx 7) that are
set in the Bay area, or even Northern California? My daughter is
interested in reading, and loves to read about somewhere she
Try ''Dear Mr. Henshaw'' by Beverly Cleary. It's set in Northern
California, although a little south of here. Has a climactic scene
in the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary down by Big Sur. It's a chapter
book and will likely be a challenge still to a seven year old. But
Beverly Cleary's characters are all No. Cal. kids (''Ramona''
series, ''Beezus and Henry'', etc.).
''The Bracelet'' by Yoshiko Uchida is a story of a young girl (2nd
grade) sent from Berkeley with her family to an internment camp
in Utah. There are references to Berkeley, San Francisco and a
beautiful illustration of the Bay Bridge. Other than that, most
of the places no longer exist (Japanese markets, etc), but it is
a moving story about love and friendship in difficult times.
(The bracelet itself is a parting gift from her best friend, a
Caucasian girl named Laurie.)
Herb Caen wrote a book called ''The Cable Car and the Dragon''
which is set in San Francisco and has lots of references to
places in SF and the Bay. Another cute friendship story about a
run away cable car and a Chinese dragon set during Chinese New
Year. Somewhat long, but whimsical and entertaining.
Both these books are also great age-appropriate teaching tools
about Asian American history and culture and can probably be
found at Eastwind Books on University Ave. in Berkeley.
The Cable Car and the Dragon by Herb Caen.
Mitch and Amy by Beverly Cleary is set not just in the Bay Area but in
Berkeley. Check it out. I'd bet the school that they go to is Cragmont
Other good ones: Nate the Great has one set in the Bay Area (maybe
all, I've only seen that one).
Jar of Dreams is set in Berkeley as well. Quite good, Grade 4/5.
Another good writer is Patricia Polacco. A lot of her books are
set in Rockridge and Oakland.
My son has a great book called Humphrey The Lost Whale written
by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall. Based on a true story about a
humpback whale that entetred the SF bay in 1985 and migrated
past Benicia to Shag Slough.
One that came to mind I think is called Humphrey the Wayward
Humpback Whale (or similar) by Wendy Tokuda. I bet your local
library has several copies.
A really *great* kids book is ''Maybelle the Cable Car'' by
Virginia Lee Burton (author/illustrator of ''Mike Mulligan and His
Steam Shovel'' and others) which was reissued recently with art
retrieved from the San Francisco Public Library archives. You
can see how gorgeous it is on Amazon.com, I'm pretty sure the
libaries carry it, and it's also part of the anthology ''Mike Mulligan
& More'' (four collected Burton stories) which is terrific fun and
just came out last year. The story is great -- the true tale of
how the city of San Francisco banded together to save the cable
cars, told from the perspective of Maybelle -- and the
illustrations are really wonderful. The book is probably aimed
at older kids but my 2 1/2 year old loves it. ''Way out in the Far
West, there is a city of many hills, a city with water on three
sides round, a bay city, a sea port, a gay city, a friendly
city...THE CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO.''
When I was a girl I had a book called ''New Friends for Susan''
or ''A Friend for Susan'' that took place in Berkeley. I can't
remember the author. I had no idea where Berkeley was at the
time, but I loved that book. I wish I could find a copy of it
for my daughter, who is lucky enough to live in that mythical
If you go to San Francisco Public Library's web site (sfpl.org)
and click on the ''Kids'' link, you will find at the top of the
page a link to booklists. One of the lists is for children's
books set in SF. It is a comprehensive list, though naturally
focused just on the City.
I haven't checked with Berkeley Publc, but I bet they have a
similiar list for the EB.
Tikva Means Hope, by Patricia Polacco is set during the Oakland fire.
Someone mentioned ''New Friends for Susan.'' This is another book
by Yoshiko Uchida, one of her first. Rather hard to find
now--www.abe.com, a great book-finding service, lists it at $26
to $60!--but Berkeley Public Library has a copy.
I loved all of the Zilpha Keatly Snyder (sp?) books when I
was a kid. One is called the ''Egypt Game.'' It takes place in
Berkeley and includes parents who are graduate students
at Cal during the late 60s. I recently reread this book. As a
child I hadn't paid attention to the ethnicities of the
characters, but the story is about a very diverse group of
friends! Another one I liked was called ''Black and Blue
Magic,'' about a boy who gets a magic potion which grows
wings, and he flys all around the Bay Area. At one point, he
lands on Monkey Island at the SF Zoo (Bay Area old timers
will remember this!).
To follow up on a previous poster's recommendation for a book
that takes place in Berkeley: ''New friends for Susan'' was
written by one of my daughter's favorite authors, Yoshiko
Uchida. Here's a summary, pulled from an online book dealer:
''The author's rather hard-to-find second book for children.
Although written just a few years after her detention in
a 'wartime Assembly Center' (where she met Henry Sugimoto, the
illustrator of the this book), this is a sunny and upbeat story
of a thoroughly assimilated Japanese-American family living in
Berkeley, CA, a story based loosely on the author's childhood
Berkeley Public Library has a copy at the Central branch,
although it's checked out at the time I'm writing this.
Another book set right here in Berkeley, by a local writer and
college teacher Rosemary Graham is ''My Not So Terrible Time at
the Hippie Hotel''. I think it'll be in bookstores this week, or
you can buy it online. Check the fabulous website for the book
The book is aimed at young teens, but probably a great read for
their parents too!
Eleanor Cameron wrote a lovely series of books about a girl growing up
in Berkeley in the 1920s. The books are out of print, but the Berkeley
library has them all. They are (with appropriate grade levels after each): Julia's Magic (3-5), That Julia Redfern (4-6), Julia and the Hand of God (4-6) -- about the Berkeley fire in 1923, The Room Full of Windows (5-7), and The Private Worlds of Julia Redfern (7-8). It's great fun to try to figure out where in Berkeley Julia lived, played and visited!
Also Eleanor Cameron wrote another book called A Spell is Cast which
takes place on the California coast somewhere. My guess is that it is set
just below Point Lobos south of Carmel. There is a big stone house up on
the bluff at the south end of Gibson Beach that is similar to the house
in the book. Again, what fun to try to guess where the book takes place.
It's a wonderful book for 4-6 grade girls.
I, too, think that the school that Mitch and Amy (Berverly Cleary) went to
was Cragmont. Beverly Cleary lived on Creston Road and I think that
the book was written about that area of Berkeley.
this page was last updated: May 26, 2012
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