Although this book looks like a fun fantasy story, it is actually about how a boy uses his imagination to escape his life as a refugee. It is child-friendly and could begin a gentle discussion about how children might have to live during or after a war. The author of the book, Uri Shulevitz, was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1935. When he was four his family fled and spent much time in what is now Kazakhstan. Eventually he moved to Paris, Israel, and then New York. Adults can well imagine what was going on historically at this time. This story is stark at the beginning, but simple and short so that the family is already relocated on page two. They are living without furniture, toys, books, and have very little food. The boy is bored and unhappy. Then one night the father brings home a map but no food for dinner, making things seem even worse. The map ends up being helpful in allowing the boy to use his imagination and learn geography to escape the harsh reality of his life. The author is also the illustrator and the pictures are beautiful, especially at the end of the story. Even without much paper for drawing, the author became an artist as a young boy.
On the last page, Uri Shulevitz has some historical information and photos of his amazing drawings that survived the many moves from when he was ten and thirteen. He was a true child artist and map maker, and has a remarkable memory for details he included in drawings. This is an impressive book in many ways. Here is his extensive, detailed cartooning lesson, “How to Make a Storyboard” for children and adults.
Here is my FREE PDF: How I Learned Geography questions, key, and coloring pages PDF (6 pages)