How I Learned Geography
by Uri Shulevitz
read March 2009
This book was totally different than what I expected. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I suppose you would classify this as historical fiction. It is the author’s retelling of his childhood experiences. As a four-year-old boy, his family was displaced from their home in Warsaw, Poland, during the Warsaw blitz.
His family is starving and poor and in a Jack in the Beanstalk-like move, his father takes the money meant to buy their dinner and instead buys a map. His family is of course furious with him, but he tacks the map up onto the wall anyways. The young boy begins to take interest in the map and spends time staring at it, drawing it, singing songs about it and then daydreaming.
The boy spent his time walking through sandy beaches and then hiking frosty hills. The map, in a way, helped him survive his hunger and fear of his boyhood. Daydreaming of the map, is quite literally, hoe he learned geography. This book is one of this years, 2009, Caldecott Honor recipients. Shulevitz also recieved Caldecott Honors for his books, Snow and The Treasure and a Caldecott Award for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship.
Themes: war, hunger, homelessness, peril
Characters: Father, Mother, narrator of the story as a young boy
Setting: 1939 Turkestan during World War II
Topic: A young boy and his family flee war-ridden Warsaw, Poland for Turkestan. The boy, having no toys, spends his time daydreaming about the places on the map on his wall.