The Washington Post
How I Learned Geographyby Uri Shulevitz
Having fled from war in their troubled homeland, a boy and his family are living in poverty in a strange country. Food is scarce, so when the boy's father brings home a map instead of bread for supper, at first the boy is furious. But when the map is hung on the wall, it floods their cheerless room with color. As the boy studies its every detail, he is transported… See more details below
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Having fled from war in their troubled homeland, a boy and his family are living in poverty in a strange country. Food is scarce, so when the boy's father brings home a map instead of bread for supper, at first the boy is furious. But when the map is hung on the wall, it floods their cheerless room with color. As the boy studies its every detail, he is transported to exotic places without ever leaving the room, and he eventually comes to realize that the map feeds him in a way that bread never could.
The award-winning artist's most personal work to date is based on his childhood memories of World War II and features stunning illustrations that celebrate the power of imagination. An author's note includes a brief description of his family's experience, two of his early drawings, and the only surviving photograph of himself from that time.
How I Learned Geography is a 2009 Caldecott Honor Book and a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
In a work more personal than Caldecott Medalist Shulevitz (The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship ) has ever before offered, he summons boyhood memories of WWII and shows how he learned to defeat despair. Fleeing Warsaw shortly after the Germans invaded in 1939, the child Uri and his parents eke out a miserable existence in Kazakhstan. One day, Father comes home from the bazaar with a huge map of the world instead of food. Uri, only four or five, is "furious," and as the couple sharing the one-room hut eats that night, the husband noisily chewing a crust "as if it were the most delicious morsel in the world," Uri hides under his blanket to cover his envy and rage. But shortly after his father unrolls the map, the boy is swept away by exotic place-names ("Okazaki Miyazaki Pinsk,/ Pennsylvania Transylvania Minsk!"), picturing them remote from his hunger and suffering. As Uri taps into his artistic imagination and draws maps of his own, Shulevitz's illustrations shed their bleak, neorealist feel, and his beaten-down younger self becomes a Sendakian figure-sturdily compact, balletic, capable of ecstatic, audacious adventures. The story and its triumphant afterword demonstrate that Uri masters much more than geography; he realizes the importance of nurturing the soul. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr 2-5- Shulevitz provides a note and early drawings to source this story based on his own childhood experience. A small boy and his parents flee Poland in 1939. They travel to Turkestan (modern-day Kazakhstan) where they live in one room in a house made of "clay, straw, and camel dung" with strangers. When the narrator's father returns from the bazaar with a huge map instead of bread to feed his starving family, his wife and son are furious. But the map turns out to provide food for his spirit as the youngster becomes fascinated by its every detail. Using his imagination, he can transport himself to all of the exotic-sounding places on it without ever leaving the dreary room in which it hangs. The folk-style illustrations, rendered in collage, watercolor, and ink, combined with the brief text, create a perfectly paced story. A page turn to discover where Father is going "one day" brings readers into a Russian bazaar with its crowds of colorful sellers and buyers, the scene closely resembling a drawing the illustrator made at age 10. Scenes framed in white depict the family boxed in by their desperate circumstances, first fleeing their war-torn country with its angry red-black sky, and then cramped in their small room in a distant land. The frames disappear as the boy imagines himself released from his confinement to travel his newly discovered world. This poignant story can spark discussion about the power of the imagination to provide comfort in times of dire need.-Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
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