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Kids' Books with a Local Setting

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > The Arts, Books, Entertainment, & Media > Kids' Books with a Local Setting


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Books for 7yo set in Bay Area or N. California?

May 2003

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 recognises. Thanks.


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.). deb
''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. D. Moran


The Cable Car and the Dragon by Herb Caen. Liz
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 too.

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. Myriam


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. Courtney
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. j12
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.'' Isabel
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 place. robbie
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. denise


Tikva Means Hope, by Patricia Polacco is set during the Oakland fire. Sophie
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. Melanie
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!). Jenne
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 experiences.''

Berkeley Public Library has a copy at the Central branch, although it's checked out at the time I'm writing this. Greg


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 at http://www.hippiehotel.com/ The book is aimed at young teens, but probably a great read for their parents too! Orit
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. Susie


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