Children, Books, and Museums

With the winter holidays fast approaching, many children’s literature aficionados will find themselves traveling to visit friends and family in distant cities or staying close to Champaign-Urbana with a little time to spare. And what better way to pass the time than with some museums? There are several children’s museums within easy driving distance of the University of Illinois campus, as well as picture book museums in the Midwest, south, and northeast United States. There are even children’s author museums around the world. Check out some of these great options!

Local and Regional Children’s Museums

Orpheum Children’s Science Museum (Champaign, IL)

Located in downtown Champaign, the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum aims to inspire, engage and educate children through exploration of science and the arts. Current exhibits include Castle Workalot, Curious Creatures, and Dino Dig.

Chicago Children’s Museum

This museum at Navy Pier seeks to activate the intellectual and creative potential of children up through fifth grade by being a catalyst for the process of learning through play. Current exhibits include Treehouse Trails, WaterWays, and Kraft Artabounds Studio.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Not only is this the world’s largest children’s museum, it aims to create extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. Current exhibits feature Frogs: A Chorus of Colors, Take Me There: Egypt, and Barbie: The Fashion Experience.

The Magic House (St. Louis, MO)

The Magic House will engage all children in hands-on learning experiences that encourage experimentation, creativity and the development of problem solving skills within a place of beauty, wonder, joy and magic. Current exhibits include Alice’s Wonderland, Magic Treehouse, and Lewis and Clark Adventure.
Museums about Children’s Literature

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Amherst, MA)

The mission of the museum is to inspire, especially in children and their families, an appreciation for and an understanding of the art of the picture book. Current exhibits include Growing Every Which Way But Up: The Children’s Book Art of Jules Feiffer, The Art of Eric Carle: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, and And The Rest Is History: Stories of America’s Children.

Mazza Museum: International Art from Picture Books (Findlay, OH)

Located at the University of Findlay, the Mazza Museum is the world’s largest museum devoted to literacy and the art of children’s picture books. The collection includes original artwork by artists such as H. A. Rey, Jan Brett, and Randolph Caldecott.

National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (Abilene, TX)

The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature collaborates with award-winning artists to produce exhibitions of their artwork that are distinctive, appealing to museum visitors of all ages, and of the highest quality. Current exhibits feature original art by Ed Young, Brian Selznick, and Golden Books.
Children’s Author Museums

Hill Top [Beatrix Potter’s Home] (Sawrey, England)

Enjoy the tale of Beatrix Potter – Hill Top is a time capsule of this amazing woman’s life. Full of her favorite things, the house appears as if Beatrix had just stepped out for a walk. Every room contains a reference to a picture in a ‘tale.’ In addition to the house, there is a children’s garden trail and an English country garden.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre (Great Missenden, England)

Situated in the village where Roald Dahl lived and wrote for 36 years, the Museum was created as a home for the author’s unique archive and to inspire a love of stories and creative writing in visitors. Activities include biographical galleries and a Story Centre that encourages dress-up, storytelling, and other creative activities.

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House (Concord, MA)

Louisa May Alcott wrote and set Little Women in Orchard House. No major structural changes have been made since the Alcotts lived there in the mid-nineteenth century and 80% of the furnishings were owned by the Alcotts, allowing visitors to “walk through Little Women!” tours. School programs and special events are offered throughout the year.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum (Walnut Grove, MN)

The Museum exhibits include artifacts spanning over a century of the lives of the pioneering history described in the “Little House” books. The life, writings and career of Rose Wilder Lane are also featured in a section of the museum. Recreations of rooms from Rose’s homes, her desks, her manuscripts, and souvenirs from her world travels are also displayed.

Hans Christian Andersen Museum (Odense, Denmark)

The Hans Christian Andersen Museum opened in 1908 as a museum focusing on the life and work of the writer, making it one of the first writer museums in the world. Exhibits provide a biographical overview of Andersen’s life and display his art and books.

Gary Soto Literary Museum (Fresno, CA)

This small museum, which opened at Fresno City College in February 2011, provides visitors with a glimpse into Soto’s life as a writer. Exhibits focus on his life story as well as his writings. An audio tour narrated by the author is available.
Museums in Children’s Books

Even if you can’t visit any of these museums over your break, you can still visit the S-Collection! We have books by all of the authors whose museums are mentioned above as well as children’s books about museums. A short bibliography is included below.

To find additional resources in the library catalog, pair the subject term “museum” with “juvenile fiction” for fiction materials, “juvenile literature” for nonfiction materials, or “juvenile” to find both types of youth materials.
Cousins, Lucy. Maisy Goes to the Museum. 2008.
With her friends by her side, Maisy takes the lead in their exciting tour of the local museum where they get to see exhibits of everything from super-sized dinosaurs and rocket ships to vintage vehicles and even a giant dollhouse!
[Education S Collection Q. SE. C836mm]

Hartland, Jesse. How the Sphinx Got to the Museum. 2010.
Acclaimed author and illustrator, Jessie Hartland, beautifully presents this informative and fascinating history of the Hatshepsut sphinx: from its carving in ancient Egypt to its arrival in the hallowed halls of New York City”s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
[Center for Children’s Books SB. H365h]

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums. 2007.
This collection’s lively verse captures the wonder and amazement of the exhibition experience, from mummies to medieval relics, and from fine art to fossils. Includes contributions from poets Jane Yolen, Myra Cohn Livingston, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich.
[Education S Collection S. 811 B395]

Judge, Lita. The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum. 2011.
The story of how a painfully shy boy followed his passion and became the brilliant scientist who created the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, forever changing our understanding of the world’s diversity of creatures.
[Center for Children’s Books SB. R847j]

Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. 1967.
Having run away with her younger brother to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, twelve-year-old Claudia strives to keep things in order in their new home and to become a changed person and a heroine to herself.
[Education S Collection S. K8368f1998]

Malone, Marianne. The Sixty-eight Rooms. 2010.
Ruthie thinks nothing exciting will ever happen to her until her sixth-grade class visits the Art Institute of Chicago, where she and her best friend Jack discover a magic key that shrinks them to the size of gerbils and allows them to explore the Thorne Rooms — the collection of sixty-eight miniature rooms from various time periods and places — and discover their secrets. Written by local author Marianne Malone.
[Education S Collection S. M2979s]

Mark, Jan. The Museum Book: A Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections. 2007.
What is a museum? Why would anyone amass shells, words, clocks, teeth, trains, dinosaurs, mummies . . . or two-headed sheep? Find out where the word “museum” comes from and what unusual items (unicorn horns? mermaids?) some early museums placed on view.
[Center for Children’s Books S. 069 M3412m]

Scieszka, Jon and Lane Smith. Seen Art? 2005.
While looking for his friend, Art, the narrator accidentally ends up at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Confusion and hilarity ensue as he continues his search inside MoMA and is introduced to well-known pieces of art such as Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Matisse’s The Red Studio, as well as works by Picasso, Klee, Lichtenstein and others.
[Education S Collection Q. SE. Sci27se]

Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck. 2011.
Having lost his mother and his hearing in a short time, twelve-year-old Ben leaves his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he never knew in New York City. At the Museum of Natural History, he meets Rose, who is also longing for something missing from her life. Ben’s story is told in words; Rose’s in pictures.
[Center for Children’s Books S. Se492w]