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Famous Fictional Schools

Mar 23, 2011

In many children's and young adult books, the schools that serve as a setting can be as iconic and memorable as the characters. These institutions may be fictional, but they are often evocative of actual schools or portrayed with such keen attention to detail that they feel real.

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By Jeff Calareso

Harry Potter

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Hogwarts is the primary setting for most of the 7-book Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling. The boarding school is where aspiring witches and wizards go to learn their skills. Set in Scotland, the fictional institution is under a variety of spells that make it invisible to Muggles, or non-magical people. The sprawling campus features a massive castle, Quidditch pitch and mysterious forest. Students are divided into four houses, including Harry Potter's Gryffindor.

Walkerville Elementary School

The stories in Joanna Cole's Magic School Bus take place in a multitude of settings. Ms. Frizzle takes her students into outer space, inside the human body and back to the age of the dinosaurs. But in every story, the students start and finish their day at Walkerville Elementary School. This fictional school is home to the bus that miraculously transports students on their educational adventures.

Wayside School

Louis Sachar's offbeat series set at Wayside School includes three books, starting with Sideways Stories From Wayside School. The fictional school contains 30 floors, each with just one room, and each of the book's 30 stories focuses on one room in the school. A variety of themes and running jokes run throughout the series to match the school. For example, since the school has no 19th floor, the 19th story in each book is highly unusual; in the first book, there is no 19th story, while in the second book, there are three 19th chapters focusing on the non-existent Miss Zarves' classroom.

High School

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Sweet Valley High

Located in California, the fictional Sweet Valley High is the main setting for the vast Sweet Valley High book series, which was created by Francine Pascal. Its students include the twin Wakefield sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica. Like most high schools, Sweet Valley High is home to its fair share of drama. The stories often focus on the sensible Elizabeth and wilder Jessica, both of whom are among the school's most popular students.

Trinity High School

Robert Cormier's 1974 novel The Chocolate War is set at the fictional Trinity High School, a Catholic preparatory school. Trinity is run by headmaster Brother Leon, though much of the power at the school rests with the Vigils. The students in this secret society give their peers assignments that range in scale, but can be cruel and violent. Jerry Renault, a freshman at Trinity, acts as the novel's protagonist, trying to find his way at the school in spite of the actions of the Vigils.

Prufrock Preparatory School

The fifth novel in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series, The Austere Academy, is set at Prufrock Preparatory School. The school consists of an administrative building, cafeteria, theater and dormitory, which requires parental permission for residence. Because the story's central characters, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, are orphans, they're unable to stay at the dormitory and must instead reside at the Orphans' Shack. As befits the book series' style, the school has many bizarre rules and quirks. For example, a student who enters the administrative building is barred from using cutlery.

Books aren't the only sources for classic fictional schools. Read about Hudson University, one of television's most famous fictional institutions.

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