Theresa Reifon's Reviews > How I Learned Geography

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz
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's review
Oct 29, 11

bookshelves: age-level-p, age-level-pre, age-level-i, picture-book, use-read-aloud, awards-distinctions, ci-546-wide-reading, theme-family-struggles, theme-misery-of-war, theme-use-of-imagination
Recommended for: Teachers of various subjects and Parents
Read on August 31, 2011, read count: 2

Format/Length: Picture book; 28 pages

Award(s)/Distinction(s): 2009 Caldecott Honor Book

Theme(s): Family struggles, Misery of war, Uses of imagination

Read Aloud: the whole book


I chose this book to read because it was a Caldecott Award Winner in 2009 and had such an interesting image on the cover. Before I read this picture, I read the inside jacket and found out that this story was influenced by author, Uri Shulevitz's, childhood memories of World War II and how a map took him far away from the ugliness of war and poverty. The character in the story represents Uri Shulevitz when he was around 4 or 5 years old. Learning that this story was influenced by the author's experiences with war as a child drew my attention in even before reading the book. On the first two pages, the reader is greeted with war right away- in the over sized, red-colored war in print and in the dark colored illustration with reds and blacks- which emphasizes how the family depicted in the image was suffering by their loss of everything. The family with the young boy are forced to move. As a reader, I was wondering when things would look up for the family. I recalled the cover of the book and looked at it at after a I read a few more pages about the family not having any food or belongings and living in a dreadful, tiny space. But one day, like I expected, things turned around and I found out exactly how the little boy in the story learned geography, and it wasn't how I expected him to. I figured he would learn geography through traveling around a lot with his family to find work, food, and shelter. The story proved my prediction wrong. He learned geography through the use of his imagination and a beautiful, colored map his father bought one day (instead of the bread he was sent to buy at the bazaar). When the father first brought this item home, his son and wife weren't as excited by his purchase. They were starving. His son was mad and didn't think he would ever forgive him. However, his feelings changed when the map provided him a way to escape the misery he was living in. I love the way this boy in the story uses his imagination to travel the world and take him away from reality. Even though I never experience war in the way this boy did, I feel I am able to connect with this character through my own use of imagination as a child and how I read books to travel and escape reality for awhile. After I read this book the first time, I looked through the book, paying attention to all the details in the images, and I found that the story could also be told just as well simply by the illustrations. However, I connections between the prose and the illustrations.

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