I just spent a beautiful weekend on Michigan’s Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-awe) Island celebrating my fifteenth anniversary. It’s located in the little-known Straits of Mackinaw, right where the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas meet, and in my opinion, there aren’t many places more beautiful in all of America. The whole area is sparsely populated, with lots of quiet forests and miles of secluded beaches. In fact, most people don’t even know much about Big Mac, the huge suspension bridge that connects the peninsulas. According to the Mackinac Bridge website, at five miles in length, it’s the third longest suspension bridge in the world. It held the record for nearly 50 years!
Michigan played a huge part in the fur trade and the resulting conflicts between the French and English nations. Mackinac Island, with its central location, served as a meeting area for the trade, exchanging millions of dollars worth of furs each spring. The British Fort Mackinac was built to guard the trading town. Three times it swapped hands, first after the Revolution and twice during the War of 1812. The restored fort still overlooks the harbor and is now a popular tourist attraction.
After the decline of the fur trade in the 1800’s, Mackinac Island became a resort town for the well-to-do. Today, Mackinac Island still attracts millions. It preserves the Victorian feel of the original resort era. No cars are allowed on the island. Horses and carriages pull tourists as well as haul items for the island’s 500 permanent residents, pick up trash and recycling, and provide the only means of transportation other than bicycle. Victorian cottages line the island’s narrow streets, and the town looks almost exactly as it did a hundred years ago. And while fudge wasn’t developed there, the town of Mackinac Island has become famous for the yummy confection. (I left with three thick slabs!)
I write this post for three reasons: First to share my super-fun weekend and second to introduce my readers to this well-kept Michigan secret. But my third and main reason is to pique your interest in a fabulous Michigan author. (You should have guessed, huh?) Gloria Whelan is in her 80’s now, and she’s a master of the craft, with a lifetime of wonderful books on her resume. Today, because of my recent visit, I especially want to highlight her Mackinac Island trilogy. She brings the history of the area to life with this series that features a young girl who lived on the island during the War of 1812. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend you pick it up. The series is YA, but appropriate for a younger audience.
Once on This Island
Farewell to the Island
Return to the Island
I also want to feature a few of Mrs. Whelan’s other most notorious works. Today, ironically, I bumped back a scheduled review of her new book See What I See to make room for this post. The review will post next Tuesday. Also check out: Listening for Lions, an ALA notable book; Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Mackinac Bridge: The Story of the Five-Mile Poem, a picture book about the making of the Mackinac Bridge and Michigan Notable Book award winner; and her trilogy of easy reader historical fiction about pioneering in Michigan: Next Spring An Oriole (review), Night Of The Full Moon, and Shadow of the Wolf.
And just for fun, I’ll close with a recipe I found this weekend. Don’t eat it all at once.
Basic Fudge Recipe from Mackinac Island, 1890
Fill your copper kettle with the following ingredients to create your 35-pound loaf of fudge.
- 23 pounds sugar
- 2-1/2 pounds unsweetened chocolate
- 5 quarts 1/2 and 1/2 cream
- 3-1/2 pounds corn syrup
- 18 ounces shortening
- 2 Tablespoons salt
Cook to 230 degrees, pour on to marble slab. Let it cool to approximately 96 degrees. Work by paddle or hand approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Voila – 35 pounds of fudge!