The Map of Me

( 1 )


The note Momma left on the fridge says only: "I HAVE TO GO." But go where? Twelve-year-old Margie is convinced that Momma's gone to the Rooster Romp at the International Poultry Hall of Fame, in search of additions to her precious flock of chicken memorabilia. And it's up to Margie to bring her home. So she commandeers her daddy's Faithful Ford, kidnaps her nine-year-old sister, Peep, and takes to the open road.

As she navigates the back roads of Kentucky with smarty-pants Peep ...

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The Map of Me

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The note Momma left on the fridge says only: "I HAVE TO GO." But go where? Twelve-year-old Margie is convinced that Momma's gone to the Rooster Romp at the International Poultry Hall of Fame, in search of additions to her precious flock of chicken memorabilia. And it's up to Margie to bring her home. So she commandeers her daddy's Faithful Ford, kidnaps her nine-year-old sister, Peep, and takes to the open road.

As she navigates the back roads of Kentucky with smarty-pants Peep criticizing her every move, Margie also travels along the highways and byways of her heart, mapping a course to help understand Momma--and herself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brown's first novel, following her picture book debut, Soar, Elinor! (2010), combines pathos and humor for an emotionally resonant story. Twelve-year-old Margie Jenkins, as sympathetic a criminal as any in children's literature, relates events that follows the discovery of a note from her mother which reads in its entirety, "I have to go." Margie and her sister, Peep, know this is serious: Momma's collection of chicken-themed canisters has vanished, too. Aching to be the hero in a family where she is outshined by her "super salesman" father and by Peep who, "spilling smart right and left," has been promoted from third to sixth grade, Margie steals her father's Ford and drives to the International Poultry Hall of Fame, where she's sure they'll find their mother. Momma's character feels incomplete, but Margie's relationships with Peep and her father, bruised by Peep's ascendance in her father's favor, are authentically sad. The lack of resolution may frustrate some readers, but Margie winds up in a better place, having figured out that, like Momma, she needs to map her own course, instead of measuring herself against someone else. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"Brown's first novel, following her picture book debut, Soar, Elinor! (2010), combines pathos and humor for an emotionally resonant story." —Publishers Weekly


"Character development is the strongest element in this short novel. Clever, annoying Peep, who is so smart she was 'shoved' to Margie's grade, works well as a foil to her stalwart, determined sister. The dialogue rings true and carries the story along." —School Library Journal


"Slim gem of a novel...Brown's straightforward prose, short chapters, and engaging narrator are perfect for reluctant readers ages 9 to 12." —Ingram


Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Momma loves chicken ceramics and magnets so when she disappears, Margie, 12, is sure that she is merely off hunting another collectible. Her self-important daddy is too busy to notice what is going on so Margie and her know-it-all sister Peep, 9, set out to find Momma. Margie steers the adventure—literally as well as figuratively since she "borrows" Daddy's yellow Ford for the trip. The ending, poignant and satisfying, leaves confused family members with a better understanding of one another. In her debut novel, Washington author Tami Lewis Brown crafts a memorable first-person narrator whose voice and observations will linger long with readers. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374356552
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Tami Lewis Brown

Tami Lewis Brown is the author of the picture book Soar, Elinor!, illustrated by François Roca. She holds an M.F.A. in writing for children from Vermont College and lives in Washington, D.C. The Map of Me is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

THE MAP OF ME (Chapter 1)

My pencil scraped a skinny gray line across the newsprint, then a square, then a triangle on top. A house. A teeny-tiny house for teeny-tiny little—

“That’s ugly,” Peep said. But her voice was the ugly thing, as high-pitched as a kindergartner’s, even though she’d had her ninth birthday last October.

Still, I threw my pencil down. I was no good at drawing, especially drawing a Map of Me.

“Homework!” Momma said, like one word was threat enough. Okay, it was. I picked up my pencil and started again. And Momma flipped through a catalog of teeny-tiny-house plans, keeping watch, one eye on me, the other out the kitchen window. She’d have a two-minute warning before Daddy walked through the door. Plenty of time for a smear of Coral Sunset lipstick and a splash of eau de cologne, which was the mannerly way to say toilet water. And the good and proper way to say “Welcome home!” to Daddy.

Momma was not the only one watching me. The biggest chicken collection in the state of Kentucky winked and grinned from every surface. Poultry potholders and pitchers, hen’s-nest holders and rooster racks, all staring down at me.

Plus there was Peep. “My map is finished,” she said. “I turned it in yesterday.”

Peep did everything before it was due. She’d kept quiet through kindergarten, first grade, and second, too, pretending to be normal. Then last fall she blabbed, spilling smart right and left, learning stuff before any teacher mentioned it, before she saw it in a book, probably before scientists, and professors, and mathematicians invented it. She sat in third grade for three weeks, until her teacher begged for mercy. They tried her in fourth (week and a half), then fifth (less than an hour). Finally they shoved her up to Miss Primrose’s sixth grade.

My grade.

My class.

No fair.

Momma was oh-so-proud. Daddy said they’d have put her in high school but she was too short for the desks.

I hoped she’d grow soon.

Or something worse.

My tennis shoe thumped against the rail of the hard kitchen chair as I scribbled some more. A bird on top of that triangle roof, a little rooster weather vane, like the one Momma had just ordered.

I hated homework.

I double-hated the Map of Me.

During quiet time after lunch, Miss Primrose read to us from a book called The Hobbit. Lots of kids were happy because teachers didn’t read out loud to sixth graders, not usually. It meant we wouldn’t have silent-at-your-desk work. But I didn’t listen to Miss Primrose’s boring words. I just heard the rumble rumble of her voice, the buzz of the fluorescent lights, and Jimmy McDonald’s steady breathing in the row behind me. And a million different thoughts chitchattering inside my head.

Then Miss Primrose turned the whole story time against us, using that book to justify her Map of Me assignment. Because J. R. R. Tolkien, that author, he imagined Hobbitland and wrote the book about it. Then he let his son draw a map for the front. Not just a map of Hobbitland, it was a map of Mr. Tolkien’s insides, his brain, and his heart, too. He let his kid stick his nose into every private place. And print it down on paper.

That was not going to happen to me.

Not for everyone to see.

I shoved my pencil into the page and added another bird. And when I pushed my pencil to draw his triangle beak, the paper ripped in a row of mini-pleats.

“That’s really ugly now,” Peep said.

Shut up! I wanted to say back, but “shut up” was a cussword in our house, and I was on probation. Instead, I wound my arm around my page, to make it private.

“Hush, girls,” Momma said. “Your daddy’s home.”

The front door jangled. Daddy-size footsteps clomped through the living room, and quick! Momma rolled her catalog into a little bat and slapped it behind her hen-and-chicks cookie jar.

Peep grabbed the placemats.

I rubbed my eraser across my messed-up chicken and made a bigger mess.

Then Daddy was in the doorframe, right in front of us. His white work shirt was still starchy-crisp and his tie was still knotted tight. The very picture of Mr. Super Salesman. Daddy had a talent for tires, that’s what they said. There wasn’t a rim or a hubcap he couldn’t tick off, manufacturer’s suggested retail price and everything. Daddy knew his tires all right. And he knew me. At least he thought he did.

“Hi, Daddy,” I said, sitting up good and straight.

“Get back to work, Margie,” he said.

He pecked Momma on the cheek as she wiped invisible spots from the counter with a sponge. “Sell a lot of tires today?” she asked.

He grunted and leaned toward the cookie jar, and Momma practically threw her body between him and those chickens. “You’ll ruin your dinner,” she said.

“Just a little snack.” Then Daddy took a step, his eyebrows twitching like a pair of fighting caterpillars. “What is this?” he asked, pulling the booklet from behind that cookie jar. “‘Backyard Chicken Coops for Fun and Profit’?”

Peep gripped a placemat. Momma put down her sponge. I stopped erasing. All of a sudden the kitchen smelled like singed feathers.

“Live chickens?” A vein strutted up and down Daddy’s neck, and Momma’s shiny black eyes darted left, then right.

“Live poultry is where I draw the line,” Daddy said.

He’d drawn the line lots of times. No more roosters in the dining room, because their staring put him off his feed. No more chickens on the refrigerator door, because you couldn’t pull out a bottle of pop without the whole flock dropping all over your feet. “My collections make our house a home,” Momma had said. “More like a barn,” said Daddy. But Momma’d waited and Daddy’s lines had faded, until they evaporated out of sight. Now our dining room had a brand-new Randy Rooster wallpaper border to show for it. Daddy didn’t look up when he ate.

But this was different.

“No live poultry in the backyard, Helen,” he said, so loud the chickens rattled on their racks.


“I’m just talking reasonable,” he said.


Then Daddy stomped out of the kitchen and out the front door.


THE MAP OF ME Text copyright © 2011 by Tami Lewis Brown

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Reading Group Guide


¦ Describe Margie and then describe Peep. What would it be like to have Peep in your class?

¦ What's it like when Daddy comes home from work? Why does his presence create tension in the family?

¦ Margie thinks "M

¦ When Margie and Peep come home from school and find their mother gone, what do they do? In what ways does Margie try to act "responsibly" given the situation?

¦ How does Daddy react when Margie and Peep arrive at the store to tell him Momma has left?

¦ Why does Margie believe that Momma has traveled to the International Poultry Hall of Fame? Do you think that's where she's gone?

¦ Why does Margie decide to drive Daddy's car? Why does she bring Peep with her? Does Margie feel in control behind the wheel? Why does she throw the map out the window?

¦ Describe Margie's visit to the rest stop. How does she feel about the family she encounters there?

¦ When the car skids to a stop, Margie wishes she could have one "do-over" in her life. If she got it, she vows: "I WOULD NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE BUT MYSELF." How would this change her life and her character? Later Margie says, "But there was no such thing as a do-over. Not in real life. There were just mistakes. And my mistakes came back around again and again, no matter how hard I tried to move on." What does this tell you about how Margie sees herself?

¦ What happens when Margie and Peep finally arrive in Flench and the International Poultry Hall of Fame? Does it match their expectations?

¦ How does Aunt Blanche try to help Margie see the positive aspects of her journey to find Momma? What does Margie come to realize about why Momma may have left?

¦ What happens when Daddy comes to get Margie and Peep? Did you expect the novel to end differently?

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012


    Amazing book!!! Written finely,amazing plot, and SUSPENCE!!!!!!!!!!!

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