How are you & your kids (your own or in your classroom) celebrating this year?
The theme is “Explore! The Power of Maps.”
And maps are indeed powerful: by showing an area larger than what we can see from the ground, they help us find our way, even helping us form mental maps of places we may never have visited. On a world-map scale, they are powerful politically, and as Mark Monmonier told us in his book, How to Lie With Maps, it’s important to think critically about maps and how they represent (or misrepresent) reality.
This year’s GeoWeek is a great opportunity to explore maps with kids, and there are some wonderful picture books that explore map themes for young readers. Books are a great way to set the stage before doing some fun mapping activities. Let me tell you about mapping books for 4-8 year-olds! There are also a TON of resources and activities through the National Geographic GeoWeek website.
Here are my Top Ten Books (for 4-8 year-olds) with Mapping Concepts and Themes:
(Each title below is linked to its page on Goodreads, and the list as a whole is also available on my Goodreads page)
1) LUCY IN THE CITY: A STORY ABOUT DEVELOPING SPATIAL THINKING SKILLS,
by Julie Dillemuth (Magination Press)
Ages 4-8. Lucy the raccoon gets separated from her family one night while out foraging, and must figure out how to get herself home. She tunes into her surroundings for the first time, and enlists the help of a friendly owl and his birds’-eye perspective to navigate herself home, using a retrace-your-steps strategy.
Introduces readers to fundamental mapping concepts — what a city looks like from above, following directions, awareness of one’s surroundings, and navigation strategy.
This is my book, and is the first picture book to explicitly address spatial thinking skills, with a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals at the back of the book that ties the story content to specific types of spatial thinking. FREE Teacher’s Guide and Activity Pages are available here at my website (incl Common Core-friendly activities!).
2) KAT’S MAPS (Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown), by Jon Scieszka (Simon Spotlight)
Ages 4-6. From the publisher: “Kat loves maps! She loves to make maps for everything. Her room, her block, her town, even her heart. When she gives Jack a map it leads to a surprise! After taking twists and turns through Trucktown and going over bridges and under tunnels, Jack finds out what it is. An art show of all of Kat's maps!”
Fun plot, quick read, and is also a Ready-to-Read Level 1. Likely to become a well-worn favorite of kids who love trucks and maps.
3) THERE’S A MAP ON MY LAP!: ALL ABOUT MAPS, by Tish Rabe (Random House)
Ages 4-8. From the publisher: “The Cat in the Hat introduces beginning readers to maps–the different kinds (city, state, world, topographic, temperature, terrain, etc.); their formats (flat, globe, atlas, puzzle); the tools we use to read them (symbols, scales, grids, compasses); and funny facts about the places they show us.”
The Cat in the Hat is up to his usual rhyming tricks and crazy antics, but manages to pack a whole lot of information about maps in this rollicking read. The rhyme is impressive, especially with so much information to cover.
4) MAPPING PENNY’S WORLD, by Loreen Leedy (Square Fish)
Ages 5-8. From the publisher: “Lisa's class is learning how to make maps. The teacher says they can make maps of anyplace, so Lisa starts with her bedroom. She includes all the things that people will need to read the map, such as a scale and a key to the symbols she has used. Her dog, Penny, helps with the map. This gives Lisa an idea: Why not map Penny's world? Making maps is so much fun that Lisa and Penny decide to visit some of the exotic places that they've drawn-but they won't forget to take a map along!”
This books makes mapmaking accessible for kids, with a series of maps from bedroom-scale to neighborhood scales, drawn by the narrator. Fun intro to map vocabulary, and large, clear illustrations.
5) ME ON THE MAP, by Joan Sweeney (Dragonfly Books)
Ages 3-7. From the publisher: “…a young girl shows readers herself on a map of her room, her room on the map of her house, her house on the map of her street--all the way to her country on a map of the world. Once the reader is familiar with the maps, she demonstrates how readers can find their own country, state, and town--all the way back to their room--on each colorful map.”
A series of maps from bedroom scale to country and world scale, with a nice focus on how you can find yourself in each map, and how “everybody has their own special place on the map.”
6) MY MAP BOOK, by Sara Fanelli (HarperFestival)
Ages 4-8. From the publisher, “In each spread of this bold and humorous picture book, children can examine their place in the world around them through detailed and engaging maps that are drawn from a child's perspective. Twelve beautifully illustrated maps such as Map of My Day and Map of My Family will fascinate children, teaching both about mapping and autobiography. When finished reading the book, children can unfold the jacket—it turns into a poster-size map!”
Super-creative, artistic exploration of maps that includes lots of non-traditional things that can be mapped. There is a lot happening in each map, for better and for worse, so this is one where you want to take time, up close, with each page, looking at all the details. I love that it’s from a child’s perspective, showing that anyone can make maps! Of virtually anything!
7) HENRY’S MAP, by David Elliot (Philomel)
Ages 4-8. From the publisher: “Henry is a very particular sort of pig. "A place for everything and everything in its place," he always says. But when he looks out his window he is troubled. The farm is a mess! Henry is worried that nobody will be able to find anything in this mess. So he draws a map showing all the animals exactly where they belong. After the map is complete, Henry uses it to bring himself back home, where he is relieved to know that he is exactly where he belongs. A place for everything and everything in its place, indeed.”
Lovely story that introduces the concept of drawing things in spatial relation to one another. Nothing formal in terms of cartography, but rather the concept of a map and a reason you might want to draw one.
8) AS THE CROW FLIES: A FIRST BOOK OF MAPS, by Gail Hartman (Aladdin)
Ages 3-8. From the publisher: “This perky concept book explores map skills as it follows the paths of several animals through a variety of locales. In a series of spreads a rabbit hops, a crow flies, a horse trots, a gull glides and an eagle soars. . . . Wry line and watercolor art portray physical features and animal landmarks.”
What’s neat about this book is that it shows the perspective of several different animals: where they go, and the things they notice. Not sure I’d call it “perky” as the publisher does, but it’s fun to consider the point of view of various animals on land and in the air.
9) FOLLOW THAT MAP! A FIRST BOOK OF MAPPING SKILLS by Scot Ritchie (Kids Can Press)
Ages 4-7 (publisher), or Grade 3-5 (SLJ) From the publisher: “With an appealing search-and-find technique, Follow That Map! is an interactive picture book that explains and demonstrates key mapping concepts. Kids will enjoy following Sally and her friends as they search for Max and Ollie, a mischievous dog and cat on the lam from the backyard. Sally and friends take an imaginative trip through the neighborhood, city and country, around the world and beyond.”
The premise of this book is great - show various kinds of maps by incorporating them into a hunt for two runaway pets. Each page invites the reader to interact with the map in a specific way. I do agree with School Library Journal that it’s for older kids, like grades 3-5, because at times it was hard even for me to follow. The maps are more like birds’-eye views than cartographic maps, and as such there is a lot going on in each of them.
10) WHERE DO I LIVE? By Neil Chesanow (Barron’s)
Ages 5-8. From the publisher: “This engaging picture book is like a mini virtual globe for kids! Starting in their bedrooms, children will travel outside for a look around the streets of their neighborhood. Then, they'll zoom out for a bird's eye view of their town, city, suburb, and countryside. They'll move out even further for a view of the states, the country, and the different continents. The next stop is space, for an exciting look at our solar system and universe! From there, they'll trace their way home again.”
Not a book about maps per se, but it does explore place at various scales, starting at the reader’s bedroom and zooming out, step by step, all the way to the solar system.