I am looking for a real place (not fantasy) so that students can "fly" to it using Google Earth.
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Well, considering the grade level you are looking for (3-5), I would suggest an excerpt from Dick King-Smith's, Babe: The Gallant Pig. I am also assuming you mean the setting of place (as opposed to the setting of time) in your question. The reason why I chose Babe is that I thought the idea that the characters are almost all animals in this book might appeal to that age level. I also chose Babe because I thought that you could attract even more interest by showing the appropriate part of the movie. The excerpt is on page 12 of the novel in the chapter called "There. Is that nice?" and vividly describes the stable setting:
The floor of the stables had not rung to a horse's hoof for many years, but it was a useful place for storing things. The hens foraged about there, and sometimes laid their eggs in the old wooden mangers; the swallows built their nests against its roof beams with mud from the duck pond; and rats and mice lived happy lives in its shelter until the farm cats cut them short. At one end of the stables were two loose boxes with boarded sides topped by iron rails. One served as a kennel for Fly and her puppies. The other sometimes housed sick sheep. In there Farmer Hogget had put the piglet. A convenient stack of straw bales allowed the dogs to look down into the box through the bars. (King-Smith 12)
This description of setting is so exact that it leaves little up to the imagination. The reader can decipher exactly what King-Smith's vision was for the stable and Babe's first "home" on the farm.
While the novel Frankenstein is not for children (though some probably have heard of the move), some of the descriptions of the Alps, especially Mt. Blanc and the valley of Chamounix in France, the waterfalls and ruined castles on the precipices of piny mountains, Montanver and the "ever-moving" glacier that fill Victor Frankenstein with "a sublime ecstasy" possess a unique beauty. The beauty of this area is described in one of the author Mary Shelley's letters. Here is a link:
Some great setting descriptions occur in the Percey Jackson and the Olympians series of books. They are written for 8- to 12-year-olds. One setting describes Camp Half-Blood in New Jersey. Another setting is the description of Mount Olympus hanging just above the Empire State Building in--of course--New York City.
How about the Salinas River Valley? In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, the opening scene lasts about a page and the reading grade level is certainly about 4th grade. It references the Gabilan Mountains and the city of Soledad. In this particular story, the setting of the opening is integral to what happens in the entire story. If you look at the peace and tranquility that the nature scene creates in the beginning it gives clues about what will happen in the end. In teaching this book, I have used Google Earth. In fact, Google has a web site dedicated to exerpts from literature which I have attached below.
Dominique Lappiere's novel The City of Joy is rich in such descriptions.His description of the village of Bankuli is a good example of his eye for details. As we read it the colourful picture of a village of West Bengal is unfolded in front of our mind's eyes.Here is the exerpt " All around the hut , the golden rice plantations stretched as far as the eye could see., sprinkled with the dark green of mango orchards, the light green of palm tree clusters and the soft green of bamboo groves,set at far distances from each other. Like sparklig lacework reflecting the blue sky, irrigation canals stitched the landscape tightly into squares.Footbridges formed delicate arabesques over pools covered with lotuses, hyacinths and ducks"
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