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.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Reading Group Guide
Author/illustrator Uri Shulevitz spent the early years of his life, from the age of four, wandering with his family, in search of a home. From war-torn Warsaw, Poland to the Central Asian city of
Turkestan in the Soviet Union to Paris, France to Tel Aviv, Israel, and finally to his permanent home in New York City.
Likewise, many of the characters in his books travel too. The Fool of the World sets off in search of a flying ship. The young boy in How I Learned Geography uses a map and his imagination to travel the world. Benjamin of Tudela journeys for fourteen years to the far reaches of the known world and back again to Spain. In The Treasure, Isaac travels great distances to the Royal Palace in search of a treasure that he finally finds under his own stove. And the young hero of When I Wore My
Sailor Suit sets off on an imaginary journey to distant lands as the captain of a sailing ship on both calm and storm tossed seas.
Opportunities abound for social studies curriculum connections as well as language arts (reading,
writing, and research) and visual art connections. Invite your students to join you on a journey of fun, learning, and imagination!
SOCIAL STUDIES: Mapping
Mapping a Course
Two of Uri Shulevitz's books include maps that are essential to the understanding of the story. Begin by sharing classroom maps, including those found in atlases. After students have studied several maps, brainstorm the definition of a map (a "picture" or graphic representation of some or all of the earth's surface, including bodies of water, using lines, symbols, color, and labels, and drawn to scale as one might see them from above) and its purpose, guiding students in their understanding.
Read How I Learned Geography and The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela aloud to your students. Discuss the similarities and differences in the map Shulevitz paints in each book, recording responses on a Venn diagram. Be sure to notice the geographic area pictured in each book as well as the labels, colors, and symbols each map employs.
Ask students to notice the ways in which the maps are similar. Then ask students to discuss why the maps are different. What purpose do the maps serve in each story?
Extension Activity: Using a document camera, project the image of one of the maps from How I Learned Geography onto a white board. Then, challenge students, using atlases or flat maps as references, to label each country pictured on the map.
A Map Makes the Adventure
As the narrator of How I Learned Geography studies the map his father hangs on the wall, he becomes fascinated by the places represented there and is transported to many imagined places. Challenge students to attach each of these imagined places to at least one place on the map pictured in the book. Note that the final illustration spread will help students to locate some of these places on a map of Asia:
- Burning deserts Sandy beaches Snowy mountains with icy winds Wondrous temples with colorful birds on the roof Fruit groves with tropical fruits Fresh water streams flowing near palm trees Large city with tall buildings
LANGUAGE ARTS: Writing Literacy
What's in a Name?
The young narrator in How I Learned Geography falls in love with the exotic sounding names on the map his father brings home, and he makes a little rhyme out of them. Supply your students with a map or atlas of the area of the world, country, or state you are studying, and ask them to choose their favorite sounding place names from the list. Record these on the board or chart paper. Next,
challenge them to return to the map and find at least two pairs of names that rhyme, as Uri Shulevitz did. Then help them to create a four line place name rhyme in an aa-bb rhyming pattern. [Note: Introduce or revisit the concept of stressed and unstressed syllables that create the rhythm in poetry; revise your poem to ensure that it that scans properly.]
Sailing on the Wings of Imagination
In both How I Learned Geography and When I Wore My Sailor Suit Uri Shulevitz uses imagination as the vehicle of travel. Begin by reading both stories and asking students to discuss what the two books have in common. Once they have discovered that the main character/narrator in each book travels far away in his imagination, one by flying and one by sailing, invite students to answer these three questions:
- Where would you like to travel? How would you like to get there (walk, drive, fly, sail, etc.)? What would you see when you got there?
When each student has determined the answers to the three questions, invite them to write about and illustrate their imagined journey using either the listing technique Shulevitz uses in How I Learned Geography or the narrative format he uses in When I Wore My Sailor Suit. [Note: For the youngest students, ask them to draw the pictures and then help them to scribe their text at the bottom of the page.]