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How I Learned Geography Hardcover – April 1, 2008
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From School Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
When young Uri Shulevitz fled Moscow with his family to the relative safety and security of then Turkestan (now Kazakhstan) they had little money and littler food. One day the boy's father goes out to buy bread, but when he comes home it is not with anything edible but with a map. Uri is furious at this dad and has to put up with his neighbors noisily smacking their lips as they devour their own miniscule dinner. Yet when Uri's father hangs the map on their wall, it offers the boy unexpected joys. Through its presence he goes round the world, exploring everything from cold mountain peaks to the thrill of beautiful temples. The map offers the boy escape from his hard life and perhaps helps to set him on his way as an artist and illustrator.Read more ›
Shulevitz continues, "Everything we had was lost, and we fled empty-handed".
The picture on this first page evokes an almost unimaginable pain and loss. Three figures, faces contorted into masks of suffering, are fleeing from a conflagration. As the father leads the way, the mother turns to hold the hand of a child, who is running to keep up. There is nothing else; the ground is grey and the sky is red.
Should your kids be reading this?
Well, yes. It's a story of loss, of survival, but ultimately of redemption and freedom.
And it's a true story, an autobiography of events that took place when the author was four or five year's old. (This is explained in a helpful author's note that provides the historical context.)
"We traveled far, far east to another country, where summers were hot, and winters were cold, to a city of houses made of clay, straw, and camel dung, surrounded by dusty steppes, burned by the sun".
This is the city of Turkestan, where the subsequent action unfolds.
The Shulevitz family has nothing, is hungry, and truly subsists as strangers in a strange land.
And then - freedom.
The vehicle is a map of the world, and fuel is provided by the imagination of a young boy. And so the circumstances are overcome, and in the end we sense that all is well.
While the content of this book might be seen as weighty, there can be no doubt that it is very worthy.
In this unique book, Caldecott winner Uri Shulevitz draws on his memories of escaping from Poland to Turkestan during World War II and starting over in an entirely different social and economic setting. The simple text, rich illustrations, and author's note in the back yield a powerful set of lessons in economics about how a child faces and deals with scarcity, hunger, and poverty. Teachers and parents seeking books with social studies content that younger readers can understand will value How I Learned Geography for their collections.
Young Uri had a rough child hood. His family lost everything. While living in Turkestan, a geographical and social area the family was ill equipped to survive in, they came, at times, to near starvation. They lived in a small dirt floored hut with another family.
Uri's father went out to find food. Instead of food he bought a world map to hang on the wall. He had spend most of their food money on that map and that night the family went hungry. Bad move? No, not really because that map became Uri's entire world and allowed him to travel, in his mind, to wonderful places and see wonderful sights; escapism at its best for a young child and goodness knows he needed it.
After reading some of the more negative reviews here it would seem that we need to give this book some thought. First, this is a Caldecott Honors book. The Caldecott is awarded for art and nothing more. I personally feel that the book well deserved this award. Study the pictures carefully. The artist's use of color and shapes is brilliant. Some have complained the some of the pictures are rather "cartoonish." Hey, learn the background and training of this artist and you will see why.
There seems to be concern over the targeted age on this book. I personally can see both sides to this argument.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
First let me say that I can completely understand why some people have given this book low ratings. Several have complained that the title is misleading because the story doesn't... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Diane Stranz
Great book and beautiful pictures. Very touching story. My sons really liked it and gave us an opportunity to get our Atlas :)Published 23 months ago by A.W.
This is a wonderful book. Based on the author's own childhood, it tells the story of his discovery of the world from the limited perspective of a refugee camp. Read morePublished on July 20, 2014 by Peggy Chambers
This book has grown on me.
I bought it expecting something much different, even after reading the reviews prior to purchase. Read more
Not at all what I expected. Story is too simple and not what I thought. I guess it'll be okay.Published on January 23, 2014 by Courtney Brock
What a clever way for a boy in a new land to focus on a colorful map and learn where places are.Published on November 8, 2013 by Miss Jeanne