Bringing a Book to Life for Your Child

Ann McDermitt - Atlanta
March 7, 2012

Imaginative play can become one of the greatest tools in your parenting toolbox. We've put some thought into experiences and settings around Atlanta which could easily become the backdrop to a favorite childhood book or story. Take an afternoon in your own personal storyland and make a literary connection with these ideas: 

Turn Zoo Atlanta into the setting for Good Night, Gorilla

It's bedtime at the zoo... 

Good night, Gorilla.
Good night, Elephant.
Good night, Giraffe.
Good night, Hyena.

Peggy Rathmann's delightfully illustrated story takes a trip through the zoo as the zookeeper locks each animal up for the night and wishes them a goodnight. The funny part of the story is the crafty gorilla who sneaks along behind the zookeeper unlocking each animal and eventually sneaking into the keeper's home with all of his zoo-mates. Young readers delight in the giggles which occur on each page with the animals. Zoo Atlanta begins with flamingos and winds it's way to the left, though the giraffes and elephants. The gorilla compound is a featured area of the zoo (They are housed in the African Rainforest Area, just before the Panda exhibit.) and if you arrive before the afternoon heat occurs there are plenty of antics to be seen as the families roam the hillside and the young spunky gorillas play like siblings. In fact, Atlanta has the largest gorilla collection in the United States. Bring along a pretend set of keys to reenact the scenes from the book which are perfect for pantomiming. Choose a spot along the Zoo Atlanta paths to enjoy your lunch and discuss how the animals in the book are similar to the personalities you have seen. Don't forget to take your own little silly gorilla home when the adventure is over. 

Little House in the Big Woods of the Peter Kolb Farm

A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin.

Among all the Civil War battle history at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park there is a vernacular log cabin which was home to the Kolb family. The Kolbs were blessed with a wealth of land and agricultural abilities long before the battle began on their 80 plus acres of land. Though the log cabin has been faithfully converted to house park employees and students, it still retains it's outer character and is a perfect setting to discuss a books like The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Self sufficiency was the key to life away from the city, and the Kolbs were able to live fruitfully on the land and run a grist mill for their grain processing. In 1863, the Kolbs left the beautifully chinked cabin with a traditional dogtrot to seek safety away from the Civil War conflict. Around the same time, families in other parts of the Eastern States were beginning to head west to the unknown future. By the 1870s census, families like the Wilders were headed to their new environments. Perfect timing for the backdrop of your discussion to provide a visual scene to ponder.

The cabin is across the highway from the park headquarters and there is a small drive and parking area which is open to the public during all park hours. As you walk around the structure, look for artillery shells which are still embedded in the building as evidence of the war which once occurred on this land. In May, the NPS hosts Heritage Craft Day which features craftsmen and living styles of the era. There are also summer camps and Junior Park Ranger badges which can be earned.

Gnomes in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens 

How do gnomes live? How do they make a living?How is a gnome's house built? Why, they use pinecone sections to fashion their roof! 

Hidden in the highest level of the Children's Garden in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is Rocky Pointe. The gnomes have nestled their homes securely under the grotto. Wil Nuygen's Gnome Book Series explores all the details of how a gnome family lives and works. You can also take this imaginative view of the garden further by letting your child imagine what everyday life is for this hidden group of characters which live among the plants. Don't be surprised if your little artist decides that flower petals would become the perfect chimney or butterflies are the mail carriers in this fun exploration. Take advantage of both The Children's Garden and other areas of the Botanical Garden while indulging in their ideas.   

Sing the Song of the South at The Wren's Nest  

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A 

My oh my, what a wonderful day

Plenty of sunshine heading my way

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A! 

The Wren's Nest is the quintessential Queen Anne style Victorian home with gingerbread details and it is the perfect scene to sit and listen to a masterful storyteller weave their magic. Harris set about to document the African-American stories which were passed down orally through generations because he felt it necessary to "preserve in permanent shape those curious mementos of a period that will no doubt be sadly misrepresented by historians of the future." With great care he penned the Uncle Remus Series. The home is now alive with the sounds of masterful storytellers weaving their magical words for all to enjoy. As an assistant Atlanta Journal Editor for 24 years, Harris was writing during a time of transition in both news and literature. Though the stories of Uncle Remus seem simple at first, the author's underlying disapproval for segregation and mistreatment of different races are the themes woven into the stories. A younger child can enjoy the animated words and laughter, but your older ones may actually understand the history connection this represents. 

Follow The Very Hungry Caterpillar into the Tulle Smith Farm Gardens  

One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. On Monday, he ate through one apple; on Tuesday he ate through two pears... 

Toddlers and older children will enjoy the working garden and plants which attract both colorful and camouflaged creatures. The Tulle Smith Farm Gardens are a part of the Atlanta History Center properties and have been preserved for all to enjoy. Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Tiny Seed make perfect science and art discussions. Once the talk has been completed, you can snack on the very foods that the caterpillar enjoyed as he became a butterfly. All mothers know that feeding helps keep their growing families from becoming animals of storybook legend.


From the Parents

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