My family and I travel a lot, and one of my favorite ways to pass the time on a plane ride is with a book. When I’m traveling to a place of historical significance, I’ve found that choosing books that relate to my destination can really enhance my trip.
One excellent example of this occurred during a vacation to New Mexico. A few days before I left, I’d discovered Ann Rinaldi’s YA novel The Staircase, which tells the story of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. The spiral staircase there, constructed in 1878, makes two full turns on its way from the floor to the choir loft, which was innovative enough for the time. But even more impressively, the structure does so without nails—it’s held together by wooden pegs. Some people call this the Miraculous Staircase, and believe the young carpenter who built it was St. Joseph himself.
I had known, even before I found The Staircase, that I was going to visit the Loretto Chapel, but reading it made my experience there even better. Of course I could read about the staircase’s construction in a guidebook, but Rinaldi’s novel helped me to see what the structure really meant to the people who worshipped in the chapel.
And really, I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of historical fiction. Any history books can give you facts. Fiction, though, gets into the heart of what those facts actually meant to the people who lived through them.
Melissa L. is the YA Editorial Assistant for Wonders and Marvels. You can read more about her here: Editorial Staff.
IMAGE: The Spiral Staircase at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, NM from the writers personal collection.