In my novel for middle-grade readers, My Life Afloat, twelve-year-old Maeve spends a summer in Chicago — trying NOT to spend money.
Well, she’d always lived a comfortable life in the suburbs, never thinking about materialism. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. She OFTEN thought about what everyone else had…and she hated feeling like she always had less than her friends. At home, Maeve constantly compared herself to others: How big their houses were; how often they got to go places like the movies and on vacations; how nice their clothes were; how fancy their houses were.
Everything changes when Maeve’s mom and dad lose their jobs. When Maeve and her father move onto her grandfather’s sailboat in Chicago for the summer to save money, Maeve can’t help but notice the cost of EVERYTHING. Temptation is all around…like the sparkly items for sale at Navy Pier’s colorful kiosks…or the mobile carts at Millenium Park selling ice cream bars for five dollars…or even simple items at the drug store checkout lane, like brightly wrapped candy and attention-grabbing magazine covers. Maeve never really noticed how much materialism there was — until she didn’t have the money to spend.
Only when she moves away from her regular life — and into her “life afloat” — does she realize how exhausting it was “keeping up” with everyone else. Maeve knows her family is trying to SAVE, so she vows to live a spend-free Chicago summer.
This page will include suggestions of things to do in the Chicago area for free or almost next to nothing. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section!
One thing you can do is check out an interactive tour of the city at Chicago For Kids. It shows you Chicago from a kid’s point of view, with virtual visits to cool places, as well as exploring neat sites n your own. There are even games on the site, too.