Blog, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12)

How to Plan a Book-Driven Trip

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A good book is a break from reality, an escape from the day- to-day into the extraordinary. And, taking a book-driven family trip can bring the words on a page into real life.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Yearling, made her home in Florida and fell in love with this land and its people. 
Reading through this novel with my teen was the perfect opportunity to plan a book-driven “field trip” together.
First, we looked up all the diverse flora, fauna, and food described in the book.
Like, what are cow peascorn pone, and ham hock?
What is a flutter-mill (seen on the Disney film), a demi-john, and a feist?
And, what ever happened to the Florida Red Wolf?
Another good read for younger children to tie-in with The Yearling is Lost in the Woods. For added fun, kids can try to find the “wolf shadow” in the middle of the book.

For ecology, we studied the Indian River Lagoon (which has free interactive learning tools here), and it brought back sweet memories.  
One summer when I was a young teen, my sister and I waded into the Indian River, combing through the muddy bottom in search for clams. We picked them up using our toes and had a clam bake dinner with my dad.
Now to find a yearling! A trip to the Brevard Zoo’s Florida wildlife exhibit was in order.

Who are these silly sea turtles?


In one exhibit, we were able to see a real live Red Wolf. These endangered species can be elusive; it kept dodging my camera.
Finally, I got one good shot.

Imagine meeting one of these in your backyard! The red wolf were hunted until there are no longer any left in the wild in Florida. The only other dangerous creatures left are Florida Panthers, our plethora of poisonous snakes, and one other reptile… 

The Florida Gator.
Not the football players in orange and blue, the scaly creatures leftover from when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

That’s about as close as I’ll let my children get to one. And there has to be a good fence!

Gator tail is a “tailgating” appetizer now, but in The Yearling, it was smoked and made into dog food. Maybe in old Florida, people didn’t think it tasted just like chicken.
Check out the tail on this one …

Rather than spotting a real yearling, we got an up close encounter with a doe much older than one year. Still, she was a friendly one who ate the dog-food-sized snacks we bought right out of our hands.

Here’s one more animal at the zoo not native to Florida, but I couldn’t help sharing…

Was this ‘the end’ of a fantastic week in reading Florida books and visiting related wildlife?

Not quite…


On the way back home, as we rocked out to “The Ballad of Jody Baxter” (an Andrew Peterson song inspired by The Yearling), we feasted our eyes on a brilliant Florida sunset.

After combining reading The Yearling and Lost in the Woods, with our visit to the zoo, we got to know Florida a little better. We felt closer to our roots and thankful for God’s glorious creation given for us to enjoy.

So, how about you? What books highlight the history of your state and what are some places you can visit to bring them to life for your children?

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