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Boston

Our recent trip to Boston was a reminder that  “plans are worthless, but planning is everything,” well that or “no plan survives first contact!”  We arrived at 10:30pm which I thought would be perfect since we were on West Coast time so it would be bedtime for the kids. I pictured arriving, tucking them in, and, well, essentially a seamless adjustment to the time change. Of course, somehow I forgot to factor in the time it would take to get the luggage, rent the car, find the hotel, check in, and get something to eat.  By the time everything was said and done it was almost 1:00 am and everyone was exhausted. I also had visions of getting up early and seeing the sights before we continued on our trip, but again there’s that time change thing so while the boys woke up at their normal time of 6:00 am, that meant it was already 9:00 am in Boston and we still needed to get dressed, eat, and check out of the hotel.  Not exactly an early start.  But, we were close to our first stop, so we grabbed breakfast and headed over to the New England Aquarium. As you walk up to the aquarium, there’s a huge tank with Atlantic Harbor Seals, just like André in André The Famous Harbor Seal.  I don’t know if this is the same tank that André stayed in when he wintered in Boston, but he did stay at this aquarium.  When you walk into the Aquarium, the first thing you see is the penguin exhibit and this huge four story column rising in the middle filled with other ocean creatures including a Caribbean coral reef, sea turtles, sharks,  barracuda, file fish, cowfish and lots of other tropical fish.  Also on the main floor is a shark and sting ray touch tank.  Here’s a picture of my two year old trying to touch one of the sting rays.  I’m sure if we’d given him the chance he would have jumped right in.  You could easily spend the entire day at the aquarium.  There are exhibits all the way around the four story coral reef, a second touch tank called the Edge of the Sea, where you can touch animals frequently found in tidal pools...

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André The Famous Harbor Seal

André The Famous Harbor Seal

  Andre the Famous Harbor Seal, written by Fran Hodgkins and illustrated by Yetti Fenkel, tells the true story of the incredible bond between André the seal and Harry Goodridge, the harbormaster of Rockport, Maine and the twenty-five years they spent together. The story opens by explaining that today you aren’t allowed to catch wild seals, but that in 1961 there were no regulations prohibiting the keeping of seals.  In the beginning,  Harry kept André at his house with his family and a menagerie of other pets, with twice daily trips to Rockport Harbor for a swim  (my son wanted to know if we could get a permit to keep a seal in our bathtub too.) Once André learned to eat fish, he began spending entire days in the ocean, but he always came back for dinner.  Harry started teaching André tricks based on the seal’s natural behavior and he quickly became famous, giving shows when he returned to the harbor at dinnertime.  My 6 year old was really excited to find out that his dad had actually seen André when he was a child. In order to keep him safe, André spent winters at the New England Aquarium in Boston or the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.  In the spring, he would be released in either Marblehead Harbor, MA or Cape Cod, MA and would swim back home to Rockport.  Though he died in 1986, André is still remembered  in Rockport and there’s even a  statue of him in the Rockport Marine Park.  There are also lots of boat tours departing out of  Bar Harbor, Booth Bay, and Casco Bay, to see Harbor Seals in the...

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By the Great Horn Spoon!

By the Great Horn Spoon!

By the Great Horn Spoon!by Sid Fleishman is a rip roaring swashbuckling kind of a tall tale.  It’s a great book (though the cover on this edition is awful).  Twelve year old Jack stows away in a potato barrel on a boat from Boston to California with his Aunt’s butler, Praiseworthy, in an effort to make his fortune and help his Aunt Arabella save the family home.  The book is great for reading aloud and it’s one my six year old doesn’t want me to put down. The first half of the book focuses on the trip itself, with Jack and Praiseworth stowing away aboard the Lady Wilma in Boston, stopping in Rio de Janeiro, heading for Cape Horn and crossing through the Straits of Magellan in an effort to beat another boat. We’ve had interesting discussions regarding the six months it took Jack and Praiseworthy to get from Boston to California and comparing that to how we can now fly there in less than a day.  I wasn’t sure how to tag this book, it doesn’t really take place in Boston, but it does a good job of contrasting the life that Jack was leaving with the adventures and dangers of the Gold Rush and how the lure of instant riches drew people from all places and walks of life.  By the end of the story fortunes are made and lost and made again, but they never quite make it back to Boston! During the Gold Rush, San Francisco grew from 200 residents in 1846 to more than 36000 in 1852.  There’s a gold rush trail that traces the original shoreline of the city.  There’s also a gold rush tour which talks about the fleet of abandoned ships mentioned at the end of  By the Great Horn Spoon!   It must have been quite a sight, ships abandoned as everyone headed to make their...

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You can’t take a balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts

You can’t take a balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Artsby Jacqueline Preiss Weitzmann and Robin Preiss Glasser was published in 2002.  It is a wordless story of the adventures of two children and their grandparents and is a great tour of the city. As the story starts off, the little girl can’t take her green balloon into the museum, so her grandmother offers to hold it while the others go inside.  Unfortunately, before the children even get into the museum, the balloon escapes and grandma desperately chases it, hoping to get it back before her granddaughter finds out.  Grandma quickly flags down a passing motorcyclist and chases the balloon through the city streets with her antics mirroring the images in the paintings the children see in the museum.  The balloon floats into the Boston Public Library (this link includes a list of current activities for children) then on into the public gardens, onto the Boston common, through Boston’s Chinatown and to the wharf and a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party.  The balloon continues to elude Grandma as the crowd follows it to Quincy market,  past the old North Church, Comcast Amphitheater and on into Fenway Park where the balloon gets tangled into a baseball and hit back to the Museum of Fine Arts.  At each stop Grandma collects another passerby, all of whom resemble subjects in the pictures the children have been viewing.  This is an entertaining tour of the city and a reminder that art can resemble...

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Sleds on Boston Common

Sleds on Boston Common

Sleds on Boston Common: A Story from the American Revolution by Louise Borden was first published in 2000.  It tells the story of Henry, a young boy trying to live a normal life in Boston in December of 1774.  The last royal governor, General Thomas Gage has closed the harbor and there was little work for the men on Long Wharf which had been the busiest pier in North America.  (The harbor can be toured by boat  or by public transit ; it is also adjacent to the New England Aquarium )  “Every day, there were more and more of the king’s soldiers marching on Boston Common.” But all Henry wants to do is use the new sled he received for his ninth birthday.  When he gets to the sledding hill, he discovers that the soldiers have camped in the middle of the sled runs on Boston Common.  Gathering his courage, he approaches General Gage about the ruined sled runs.  After a long conversation, the General authorizes sledding over the commons and instructs the soldiers to keep the ice unbroken on one of the ponds.  Henry manages to get his sledding in, flying down the hill over and over again until it is time to hurry back to school for afternoon...

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