Book Tour: Luckiest Girl Alive

Welcome to Fictionista Book Tours, where our job is to take you on a journey into the real-world locations behind a book and your job is to sit back, relax, and take it in.

Upon picking it up, I was so excited to find out that Luckiest Girl Alive took place pretty close to me. The author so clearly based it off her own experiences that even street names were the same. So I knew I had to do a Book Tour! (This used to be referred to as Exploring Setting in the inaugural post, but now it’s a Book Tour because it sounds better.) Now unfortunately, she does name a lot of roads and such that don’t have a lot of spottable locations. Others I couldn’t find (such as “The Spot” which had later been torn down) because they were probably fictional. There is also no Google street view for Nantucket, where they vacation, so that is omitted as well.

Disclaimer: Screenshots are grabbed from Google Maps and are an attempt to make a setting more authentic. Allegations to fictional places are not necessarily true and some are just speculation. Images of buildings or businesses does not mean endorsement or lack thereof.

First, we’re going back to school. Our MC TifAni attended the Bradley School, but in real life the author attended the Shipley School, a school that my middle school used to play in sports. I’m almost positive that she based her experiences off of it, even down to the school colors. The mansion-like main building, which in real life is probably administration, is shown below:

A lot of the private schools in my area didn’t exactly fit the stereotype exactly (what school does?). I never had an evil clique ruling the school, and if you were ever nervous about lunch it was because you just needed someone, anyone, to sit with. But given the ritzy area, I’m sure there are some not-so-nice, spoiled kids as well. Isn’t this when you think of when you think “private school?”

TifAni goes to a diner with some “friends” at one point in the novel. Minella’s is real, and there is a Chili’s next door as described in the novel. It was here that she asked her mom to come pick her up.

The documentary project meets near a Starbucks that’s described as being next to a “sad looking pub.” I haven’t found that arrangement yet, but there is a beer shop behind this one, so perhaps this is where that section was based on?

TifAni stays at the Radnor Hotel when she comes to town to film the documentary (it was more of a demand that they put her up). I was shocked to see that it looks like a dump; apparently it looks nicer in the front but the streets here are so winding that it’s hard to find a front view of anything! It was very hard to find the front of the place to begin with, as it’s tucked away between some businesses. It’s not a place I can imagine adult Ani staying.

Ani somehow convinced her mom that she needed an entirely new wardrobe to impress her classmates so they took off to the King of Prussia mall for new clothes. I still haven’t been to this giant mall, but I’m sure it’s an adventure.

Speaking of Ani and her mom, one of their “things” to do was go to a Chinese fusion place. Yangming also plays a part near the end of the novel where Ani is tricked into having dinner with her mom. She also has a last talk with her former teacher in this parking lot.

Although not a major point of interest, the train station is below. Ani often took a train to school (hard for me to imagine personally). It’s also where she first noticed the Planned Parenthood.

Probably the inspiration for the school where Arthur transferred, Archbishop John Carroll is located in the next town over. That clearly didn’t work out well for many people.

I would probably have a hard time adjusting to NYC life after going to school in Bryn Mawr. However, that’s exactly what Ani did. While I don’t have any images from there yet (it’s been a while since I read the book), perhaps they’ll be here in the future.

Thank you for taking another journey with Fictionista Book Tours. If you have requests for any other destinations, let me know in the comments!


Exploring Settings: Judy Blume’s Fudge books

Heads up: I recommend viewing this on a computer.

In a recent post I wrote about my love for Judy Blume’s Fudge series and how I once looked up some of the locales in the book.

I want to show you how fun it can be to dig deeper into novels by looking up the setting. This particular post, though, may make more sense if you’ve read the books. Even if you haven’t, I encourage you to read the post and see how building a setting off existing places can be an interesting concept.

Disclaimer: Screenshots are grabbed from Google Maps and are an attempt to make a setting more authentic. Allegations to fictional places are not necessarily true and some are just speculation. Images of buildings or businesses does not mean endorsement or lack thereof. Additionally, both brief quotes are taken from Fudge-A-Mania and Double Fudge, both by Judy Blume, used for review purposes, and I take no ownership of them.

The Family’s Vacation Locale

In book 3, Peter’s family travels to Maine for three weeks with Sheila’s family, a classmate that Peter does not always get along with. The result is a highly realistic, funny novel. They end up in a town called Southwest Harbor.

The island is located a very long drive from my own house. One could probably even fly there. Peter said that it took ten hours for the family to get there from NYC. I believe it!

Peter described Southwest Harbor as a tiny town that had a main road surrounded by a few shops. You’ll find that to be Route 102. A lot of the businesses in the book are, in fact, fictional, because the owners play roles in the books. However you can see the locations which may have inspired Bicycle Bob’s (Southwest Cycle) and Ickle’s (Quietside Cafe). Looking at the book, I’m 99% sure that these places were the inspiration. And the book never actually says that the shop was CALLED Bicycle Bob’s…hmm…

Southwest Cycle aka Bicycle Bob’s

Peter then describes pulling into a dirt driveway and pulling up to a house near the end of it. Assuming that the house is a very short bike ride from town and walking distance from the beach (context clues are given), it could have been one of these three. (EDIT: This is now moot, because the family “took a left” presumably off 102, so it would be on the other side of the street; one surrounded by trees because there was a path through them to the beach. They didn’t have to cross a road to get there, I believe. However, I am not sure if these beaches are public or private, so this is hard to say. Perhaps this was a detail that got made up.)

When Fudge lets Uncle Feather out of his cage, they think he’s escaped the house and Peter and Fudge must go asking around if anyone has seen him. There they meet the neighbors, Mrs. Apfel and her visiting daughter Mitzi. They supposedly walk through a path through the woods and come to a beachfront house. I would assume their house to be one of these below. It’s probably expensive, but considering what Mrs. A’s husband used to do, they could afford it I’m sure…see below.

Now, paths are very hard to find (supposedly they took a path through the woods and most of the paths on the map lead to private property), but assuming that their vacation house is down one of the driveways I found, I find that this is plausible.

Here is another(actually probably better) possibility I found down the road:

Now let’s go back to town again.

“We went to town the next afternoon. The gears on Dad’s bike were stuck so he dropped it off at Bicycle Bob’s shop for repairs. Bicycle Bob is a big, friendly guy who wears a T-shirt that says I’d Rather Be Biking. Then we went to Sawyer’s Market for groceries and to Oz Books, where Fudge and I each got two paperbacks.” (24-25, p. 1991 Yearling edition)

Oz Books does not seem to exist. But…ba-bam! Sawyer’s Market is an 100% real place still operating today. A front view:

The library is right next door, just as described in the book later on. The exterior was described as a building that looked like a house with flowerpots at the entrance. Here is the inspiration for the building where Fudge demands a book about himself and where Peter falls in love with the librarian. I wonder if any copies of Fudge-a-Mania are there?

Peter, Jimmy, Grandma, and some of the Tubmans go on a sailing adventure. The group that went sailing wasn’t on the water for more than three/four hours. It is easy to believe that they got a boat at one of the marinas in this area, like the one on the far left, and set up camp at one of these islands, perhaps Sutton. But I don’t know how far you get in an hour of sailing, so…take it with a grain of salt.

Here’s a pond where Mom and Dad may have taken baby Tootsie to see the ducks:

There is also a rocky beach to the other side of the pond where the gang spends some time, so I wonder if my second finding really is the location of the Apfels’ place because it’s so close. The only qualm is that it’s so close to the road. Perhaps a lot of the beach areas that stretch down farther really are public, or are for the sake of the book.

Weekly baseball games took place at the high school field. Everyone took part in them, including former baseball great Big Apfel who lived down the street from the rental house. This is the only high school in the area, so I assume this to be the field.

And as a bonus, here is the place that served as the turning point in Book 4 in Washington D.C. Money-obsessed Fudge goes on a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where they run into long-lost cousins. I have heard rumors that the tour location has moved or is different now or something but in 2002, this is where they were.

Other tourists in the building. Could Cousin Howie be among them? Thanks to Google user ajques for the Maps image.

The Hometown

Peter’s family lives in NYC, where two of the books take place.

The apartment was easy to find. 25 West 68th. But does it have at least sixteen floors, as mentioned in book 4? Hard to tell. Fun fact: it’s right across the street from where Michael Hobbs went to school in the movie Elf, further proving a theory of mine that they live very close by. (Though the real life school is Jewish, the area looks exactly the same as the shot in the movie, down to the brownstone steps Buddy is sitting on.)

Some of the view down the street. Times Square it ain’t. Heck, I could probably even manage living there.

In a previous post about these books I stated that I couldn’t find a Harry’s shoe store on Broadway. There is one. (Two, actually…the adult Harry’s is just down the street.) This is where Fudge had a tantrum after not being able to buy the several pairs of shoes he wanted.

There is also a vet’s office on 62nd between York and the FDR Drive just as Blume said. Cousin Howie drove the boys there when Uncle Feather crashed into the window.

Um…I’ll stick to my vet’s office in the suburbs with easy parking, thanks.

And finally, does anyone remember what happened at this subway station?

Well, let Peter explain…

“It wasn’t until we got off the subway at Spring Street that I noticed Fudge was wearing just one shoe….”Where’s your shoe?” I asked him. “What shoe?” “The shoe that’s not on your foot.” “Oh, that shoe.” Dad said, “Put on your other shoe, Fudge.” “I can’t.” “Why not?” Dad asked. “I took it off to itch my foot and now its gone.” “Gone?” Dad said. “Yes,” Fudge said.”That was one of your new shoes,” Dad told him. “I know, Dad.” “And now you’ve lost it.” “I didn’t lose it. I know where it is. It’s on the subway.” “The subway?” Dad said. “Yes,” Fudge said. (Double Fudge, pg 50, p. 2002, Scholastic)

Lesson learned: don’t take your little brother anywhere.

Detailed settings are a testament to how knowledge of your setting can make a richer book. Judy Blume does a wonderful job and has clearly been to all the locations.

Let me know if there are any other books you’d like to see an exploration of in the comments. They should take place in the United States, and also need to be a book I’ve read. I definitely want to do more of these posts in the future, and hopefully for adult books that more blog readers will be familiar with. Let me know, and thank you for taking the inaugural journey with Fictionista Book Tours.