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Take a Literary Vacation With Rail Europe

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Go ahead and plan your next vacation around your favorite book. The site VisitBritain has named 2017 the Year of Literary Heroes, celebrating the anniversaries of literary events like the death of Lord Tennyson, the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the debut of the first collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. Rail Europe, in turn, has come up with some UK itineraries to help you celebrate, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

With the help of the rail company, you can see Jane Austen’s home, visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street, or hang out at the Edinburgh cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote her first books.

From March to December, the town of Chawton will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the death of its most famous resident, Jane Austen. About an hour and a half outside of London by train, Chawton is home to Jane Austen’s House Museum, where she spent the last years of her life. The annual Jane Austen Regency Week in Chawton and nearby Alton takes place from June 17 to June 25, featuring events and exhibitions dedicated to the author.

In May, you can head to Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, London to see a screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone accompanied by a live orchestra. The show runs from May 11 to May 14. You can also take the long journey to Scotland, journeying to Edinburgh to have a cup of tea at the Spoon and the Elephant House, the cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We won’t judge if you pretend you’re on the Hogwarts Express.

In October 2017, Rail Europe suggests you take a trip to London for the 125th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. You can head to Baker Street, go to the Sherlock Holmes Pub, or take a tour of the BBC show’s filming locations.

Previously, the railway came up with a literary itinerary for Paris and a Game of Thrones-themed trip guide, so you can go ahead and add those to your biblio-themed travel list, too.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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