By Mike Fuhrmann, The Canadian Press
Here's a bit of information that kids visiting London, England, might like to know: the skull-and-crossbones sculptures at St. Nicholas' Church in the city's southeastern Deptford district have inspired pirates around the world.
Also, the world's first Valentine's Day card was sent in 1415 by a prisoner languishing in the Tower of London. And the sandwich got its name after the eponymous Lord Sandwich supposedly ate one in Covent Garden in 1762.
The "fun facts" are included in "Wannabee in London ... With Me," a new kids' guidebook to the city by Laura Konkel, 21, of Toronto.
Konkel wrote the book in her spare time while studying for her master's degree in international relations at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, from which she made numerous trips south to the British capital.
"I think London is a fabulous city for kids to visit," she says. "I think it can also be a bit of an overwhelming city if you don't know where to take your kids."
Sometimes it's a matter of knowing about attractions geared for all ages, like the London Eye ferris wheel on the River Thames. But Konkel says it can also mean discovering the kid-friendly parts of an otherwise adult-oriented attraction, such as Damien Hirst's butterfly-themed art displayed this summer at the Tate Modern gallery.
Konkel is donating all the profits from the book (published by Whoof Publishing in both e-book and paper formats) to children's charities, including a school in Lusaka, Zambia, which she visited as a teen to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.
The British High Commission in Ottawa is making the book available for free to children across Canada working on school projects about London, and Air Canada has put it up for sale ($5.99) on its e-boutique.
Konkel, meanwhile, is in discussions with a hotel chain interested in seeing "Wannabee" spinoffs centred on cities around the world. She's also getting ready to start work at King's College London on her second master's degree, focusing on intelligence and international security, and is aiming for a career in international law. "As of right now I'm not planning on becoming an author."
Her other recent writing project is about as distant from kid-lit as can be imagined: an MA dissertation on whether Canadian counter-terrorism measures infringe on human rights.
Here are some of the London sights Konkel highlights in her book:
Museums: Cutty Sark Museum, a clipper ship docked at King William Walk, Greenwich; Natural History Museum, with some of the rarest animals that ever roamed the planet; the Cartoon Museum, with cartoons from the 18th century onward.
Tours: A boat cruise through historic Regent's Canal; a bus tour pointing out locations used in the Harry Potter films.
Shopping: Hamleys toy emporium.
Entertainment: Puppet Theatre Barge, with marionette shows on the water; Jurassic Encounter Adventure Golf, offering mini-golf with a dinosaur theme.
Play: Diana Memorial Playground at Kensington Gardens.
Creepy: The London Dungeon, emphasizing "the evil side" of London.
Odd: The smallest house in London, 10 Hyde Park Place, measuring about a metre wide.
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