Fictional Seattle: Local Books for Kids

Hanna WestMy kids and I are on a kick lately of reading books set in Seattle. Families new to Seattle or moving to a new neighborhood might want to pick up one or two of these titles to help introduce their children to the area. Local kids enjoy recognizing events and landmarks in these books and looking for mistakes in some of the descriptions (I guess it's called “creative license”). Newcomers might not recognize any errors but they can enjoy learning about the city through first-person accounts, even if the person is fictional.

Our favorite series for Seattle-themed books is Hanna West by Linda Johns. Twelve year-old Hanna lives in a different Seattle neighborhood in each book and the neighborhood descriptions are an integral part of each story. There are four titles so far: Hanna West on Millionaires Row (Capitol Hill); HW in the Center of the Universe (Fremont); HW in Deep Water (Portage Bay/Eastlake); HW in Belltown Towers (Belltown/Downtown). Hanna knows this city so well that I expect she'll be trading in her pet walking business for a job in real estate very soon!

Ruby Lu books by Lenore Look are also fun. Ruby lives on Beacon Hill and spends a lot of time in Seattle's International District/Chinatown with her grandmother. Two titles so far: Ruby Lu Brave and True and Ruby Lu Empress of Everything.

Two local books are set exactly in my little “SoZoo” neighborhood, just outside of Woodland Park Zoo's main gate in north Fremont. The Nature of Jade is written for young teen audience by Deb Caletti, author of many hit “chick books”. Peg Kehret's Terror at the Zoo is set in the same neighborhood but is written for a younger audience. Don't worry; her dozens of adventure books are not nearly as scary as the titles indicate (think Hardy Boys in Seattle).

For the youngest set, there are tons of picture books about orcas and otters, tugboats and ferries, and every other Northwest landmark you can think of. Pick up a book like Salt and Pepper at the Pike's Place Market by my friend Carol Losi or Stephen Cosgrove's classic Wheedle on the Needle to get your little ones excited about a little Seattle area site-seeing.

I have yet to find a truely comprehensive list of all the set-in-Seattle books. My best resource has been our grade-school librarian. The Seattle Times published a local reading list a few years ago and a search on the Seattle Public Library website or on Amazon will also give quite a few suggestions. Although Amazon is technically a local bookseller here in Seattle, I'd feel bad if I didn't also recommend some of my favorite local “brick and mortar” booksellers. The employees at the following indy bookstores are always happy to recommend great local books: The Secret Garden Bookstore; Elliott Bay Book Company; University Book Store; Third Place Books; and Alphabet Soup.

Newcomers, old-timers, and tourists alike can enjoy touring Seattle through literature. You might not buy your next home based on Hanna West's neighborhood recommendations, but sometimes when you're researching a new town it is nice to put away the guide books and census information and just observe a bit of day-to-day life. Perhaps one of these stories will even inspire you to write a local book of your own!