Have you ever made a book come to life? We did! And it happens to be on this year’s Sunshine State Young Readers book list, so parents of 3rd – 5th graders in particular might find inspiration in the idea. Sadly, I just discovered your window of opportunity to live this particular adventure closes on September 30, so read fast!
The book Floors by Patrick Carman is about a whimsical hotel – The Whippet Hotel – full of fun adventures and outrageous characters. The eccentric owner of the hotel loves ducks, and there are some residing in the hotel. They even have their own duck elevator! The maintenance man’s son – our protagonist – obtains various key cards that allow him access into secret and fantastical areas of the hotel.
Lucky for us, we have a Peabody Hotel here in Orlando, complete with the world famous Peabody Ducks. I took my kids to investigate. We found the ducks in the fountain, and it only took a second for the kids to make the connection that we were at “the Whippet”!
The duck march occurs every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., with the hours between spent in their fountain. We got to watch the ducks march single-file down the red carpet with a lot of pomp to their own real duck elevator! Then we left the crowd in our dust as we executed my boy’s genius plan of running up the stairs to beat the elevator to the roof, where we caught them exiting the elevator and taking their place in the duck palace for the night.
The poor Duckmaster (yes, it’s a real job) had to suffer through questions from my kids that probably made no sense whatsoever to him, as he has not had the pleasure of reading Floors. But he was obliging, as his post no doubt demands twice daily. Dressed to the nines, he was. A dapper old gentleman, looking very official in his fine livery.
This hotel has orchids just like the book, a pool on the roof just like the book, and a very nice associate even gave us a key card just like the book! The kids think it is the elusive black key card that would get us into the most secret places in the hotel…if only we could find them! I did catch them trying it on a service door or two on our way out.
We also snuck into an empty banquet hall called “The Orchid Room”; and when we found an orchid standing alone in a window, we just knew it had to be the ghost orchid, the most rare and delicate of all orchids. Before they could really inspect it, I claimed to hear voices coming, so we ran like lightning before getting caught! Whew. Close one.
While my kids are old enough to know it’s called The Peabody Orlando, I’m pretty sure they are convinced it’s the Whippet and that magical things are really afoot there. Whenever we drive close enough on I-4 or I-Drive to see the hotel looming in the distance with the Peabody duck logo on the side, we shout, “There’s Betty!” I will carry the memory of this day close to my heart for many years and hope they too will always remember the day we lived a great book out loud.
As mentioned earlier, the hotel has recently been purchased and our beloved Peabody ducks will march for the final time on Sept. 30, 2013. I urge you to go now, even if you aren’t done with the book. Heck, go even if you haven’t started it! It will all make sense later, and the pictures will be priceless. There is a cost to park in the garage, since you can’t live in this moment properly within the 30 minute complimentary grace period; but it’s well worth the price of admission for Floors fans. Of note, the Orlando Sentinel recently published a story on the upcoming early retirement of the ducks, which states that the Peabody Hotel in Memphis will continue the tradition of the duck march. Little consolation for little Orlando readers, but better than a complete loss of the 80 year tradition!
Even if the Peabody Orlando’s days are numbered, the Floors fun continues when you read the sequel, 3 Below by Patrick Carman, about the mysterious floors they later discover below ground level.