From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 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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*Starred Review* Recasting a childhood memory as a fictional tale, Caldecott Medalist Shulevitz revisits the journeying theme from his recent The Travels of Benjamin Tudela (2005), while harking back to the fanciful simplicity of Snow (1998) and So Sleepy Story (2006). Driven from home by a “war that devastated the land,“ a family flees to a remote city in the steppes. One day, the father returns from the market not with bread for supper but with a wall-filling map of the world. “‘No supper tonight,’ Mother said bitterly. ‘We’ll have the map instead.’” Although hungry, the boy finds sustenance of a different sort in the multicolored map, which provides a literal spot of brightness in the otherwise spare, earth-toned illustrations, as well as a catalyst for soaring, pretend visits to exotic lands. Shulevitz’s rhythmic, first-person narrative reads like a fable for young children. Its autobiographical dimension, however, will open up the audience to older grade-schoolers, who will be fascinated by the endnote describing Shulevitz’s life as a refugee in Turkestan after the Warsaw blitz, including his childhood sketch of the real map. Whether enjoyed as a reflection of readers’ own imaginative travels or used as a creative entrée to classroom geography units, this simple, poignant offering will transport children as surely as the map it celebrates. Grades K-3. --Jennifer Mattson