Wisconsin Literary Tour
Last Updated: 9/18/2015
Wisconsin has deep roots in literary history – there are many connections between books and Wisconsin authors to places to see, visit and experience in the state. Discover the lifestyle and vision of some famous Wisconsin authors, including Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sterling North, and explore the rich history of the Badger state, accompanied by suggested readings to enhance your visit. Read on!
Milton House – Milton
Explore the history of the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin at this unique and important historical landmark. The Milton House features the Goodrich Cabin, a home that served as a traveler’s inn and stop on the Underground Railroad with a unique tunnel that hid slaves.
Pair this site with Wisconsin author, Julia Pferdehirt’s Freedom Train North: Stories of the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin. This is a collection of true stories from people, places, and events on Wisconsin’s underground railroad.
Sterling North Home & Museum – Edgerton
Explore the boyhood home of Sterling North, author of the children's book Rascal, which was later turned into a Disney movie. Built by his grandfather in 1885, the historically significant home has been restored to its 1917 appearance and serves as a literary center and museum. The home is rich in history and to enhance the visit, read Rascal with your family before visiting.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center – Monona
Author and conservationist Aldo Leopold was influential in understanding and preserving nature. He wrote A Sand County Almanac, which has been compared to Thoreau’s Walden. The Aldo Leopold Nature Center offers both children and adults hands-on, guided experiences to discover and explore wonders of the natural world.
Aldo Leopold Foundation – Baraboo
Opened in 2007, the Leopold Center is the quintessential "green" building extolling the heritage of conservationist Aldo Leopold. Activities include guided tours of the Leopold "shack," where Leopold and his family stayed during weekend retreats and the site that inspired many of the essays in A Sand County Almanac. Discover the humble and rustic place that inspires many to reconnect with the natural world.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum – Pepin
Discover more about the beloved author who wrote about life in the pioneer era. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum features displays, memorabilia, antiques describing Laura Ingalls Wilder and the era in which she lived.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Wayside & Cabin – Pepin
This reconstructed log cabin is a replica of the now-famous Little House in the Big Woods and paints a charming and historically-accurate picture of where Wilder was born. Informative displays about Wilder, her family, and prairie life are featured in the cabin. Fresh water is available as well -- but you have to pump it yourself, just as Laura did! Don’t forget the camera!
Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum – Menomonie
Explore the history of Dunn County through a variety of engaging artifacts and exhibits, including the Caddie Woodlawn children's discovery room. Set in the 1860s in Dunnville, Wisconsin, Caddie Woodlawn is a popular children's novel by Carol Ryrie Brink, winner of the John Newbery Medal in 1936.
Madeline Island Museum – La Pointe
Discover the beauty and history of Madeline Island, one of the 12 Apostle Islands on Lake Superior, with a treasure hunt in the charming Madeline Island ABC Book written by Marcia Henry and Illustrated by Sally Parsons. Then explore Madeline Island in person by visiting the Madeline Island Museum, the oldest structure on the island. The museum has one of the richest collections of Wisconsin history including the only remaining building of the American Fur Company complex built at La Pointe in 1835.
Little sports fans will love the connection between the history of Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and actually touring Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. Brush up on your Green Bay Packer trivia with the book Curly Lambeau: Building the Green Bay Packers by Wisconsin author Stuart Stotts. Then take an exclusive look behind the scenes for a tour of legendary Lambeau Field, including a walk through the players tunnel entrance to the field. Don’t forget to grab a burger at Curly’s Pub!
Tree Farm – Wautoma
The Littlest Christmas Tree by Janie Jasin is an inspiring tale of growing up and using our gifts and talents to become the best we can be. The book tells the story of a small tree farm seedling that dreams of the future and all of its possibilities. Pair this charming book with a visit (and perhaps a hot coca) to a tree farm in Wautoma, the “Christmas Tree Capitol of the World,” and find the story come alive. Explore ANR Tree Farm, family owned since 1975 and dog friendly. Be sure to call ahead for seasonal hours.
Houndini – Appleton
Arguably one of the greatest magicians of all time, Harry Houdini was born and raised in Appleton. Harry Houdini for Kids: His Life and Adventures with 21 Magic Tricks and Illusions by Laurie Carlson is a great way to brush up on your Houndini knowledge before you take the walking tour. The tour includes his childhood home, places where he worked, lived and played, and other locations related to his lifelong interest in his hometown. Pick up a tour map at the History Museum at the Castle and the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.
A stop at The History Museum at the Castle is a must for aspiring magicians. Explore history through hands-on activities in the AKA Houdini exhibit, which gives visitors an inside look at world-renowned magician and performer Harry Houdini. Children will enjoy uncovering the secrets behind Houdini’s famous illusions and trying their hand at escaping the straight jacket, breaking out of jail and picking padlocks. Will you past the test?
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Wisconsin
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Wisconsin by Erin Eitter Kono is a fantastic exploration of what truly makes Wisconsin unique and is an excellent way to learn about Wisconsin no matter the season. Here are some of the places and ideas highlighted in the book for you and you’re your family to explore.
Henning’s Cheese – Kiel
Wisconsin is home to more than 600 varieties of artesian cheeses, more than any other state in the country! Explore Wisconsin’s deep connection to cheese by visiting a cheese factory. Henning’s Cheese is a fourth generation family-owned cheese factory based in rural Kiel that features an on-site cheese store and museum. Henning’s offers a wide variety of cheese, from a block of specialty cheese to a 12,000 pound wheel of the finest cheddar.
EAA Airventure Museum – Oshkosh
Let your imagination take flight at the EAA AirVenture Museum, one of the most extensive aviation attractions in the world and home of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The KidVenture Gallery offers interactive and hands-on fun like the “Chopper Challenge,” which tests your abilities to keep a helicopter airborne. Kids can also make rocket fuel and discover how chemistry and physics play a key role in flight.
Wa-Swa-Goning – Lac du Flambeau
Wisconsin has a strong connection to Native American culture, with 11 tribes statewide. Discover Wa-Swa-Goning and walk back in time to when the Ojibwe built wigwams, traveled with the seasons, and used natural elements found in Northern Wisconsin to survive. This walking tour traces Native American life and depicts a way of life that honored the earth.
Milwaukee Public Museum – Milwaukee
Uncover the history of the Badger state at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Founded in 1882 and home to more than 4.6 million objects and artifacts, the museum is dedicated to inspiring learning and discovery. Explore the human and natural history in over 10 different exhibits including dinosaurs, Milwaukee in the 1880s, live butterflies, and Wisconsin archeology.
Upcoming Wisconsin Book Festivals
- Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, Waukesha
- Fox Cities Book Festival, Fox Cities
- Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival, Sheboygan
- Lorine Niedecker Wisconsin Poetry Festival, Fort Atkinson
- Chippewa Valley Book Festival, Chippewa Valley
- Spring Green Literary Festival, Spring Green
- Wisconsin Book Festival, Madison
- Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival, Mineral Point
Here are the books mentioned, available at Wisconsin public libraries or bookseller.
Curly Lambeau: Building the Green Bay Packers by Stuart Stotts. Reading level: age 7 and up.
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Reading level: age 9 and up.
Freedom Train North: Stories of the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin by Julia Pferdehirt.
Reading level: age 7 and up.
Harry Houdini for Kids: His Life and Adventures with 21 Magic Tricks and Illusions by Laurie Carlson. Reading level: age 8 and up.
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Reading level: age 8 and up.
The Littlest Christmas Tree by Janie Jasin. Reading level: age 2 and up.
Madeline Island ABC Book by Marcia Henry. Reading level: age 4 and up.
Rascal by Sterling North. Reading level: age 8 and up.
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Wisconsin by Erin Eitter Kono. Reading level: age 5 and up.
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold