Saturday, March 2, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

Title:  How I Learned Geography

Author: Uri Shulevitz

Genre: Geography / World War II / Biography
Year Published: 2008
Year Read:  2011

Publisher:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Themes of War)

When I have heard of Uri Shulevitz’s most recent children’s book, I was excited at reading this book!  “How I Learned Geography” is a Caldecott Honor book by Uri Shulevitz that details author Uri Shulevitz’s experiences as a young Polish refugee during World War II and how he lived in Kazakhstan and how a map made him realize the beauty of the world.  “How I Learned Geography” is a truly brilliant book for children who want to learn about author Uri Shulevitz’s life during World War II and want to look at the beauty of the world through a map.

When World War II started, a young Polish boy had escaped the land with his mother and father and they headed to a country called Kazakhstan where they lived their lives as refugees.  One day, the boy’s father went to the bazaar to buy bread and he ended up buying a map instead.  This ended up making both the boy and his mother furious at the father for letting them starve that night, however the next morning; the boy’s father put the map on the wall of their little room, which covered the entire wall.  When the boy started looking at the map, he discovered that the map can open up a world that he has never known existed right before his eyes!

Oh my goodness!  This book was truly a wonderful experience for me!  I never would have realized that a map could help a person see the true wonders of the world through their own eyes and help them get through tough times during their lives!  Uri Shulevitz has done a brilliant job at writing about his childhood during World War II and it was truly written in such a dramatic and heartwarming way that I often find myself sympathizing with the boy in the story many times.  It was interesting seeing how the family had to run away from their home to find safety from the war and Uri Shulevitz has certainly done a brilliant job at detailing the hardships and pain that he and his family had to go through during the war, such as not having enough food to eat.  I loved how Uri Shulevitz pointed out in the book that he found happiness in the dreary life he was thrown into by witnessing the wonders of a map through his mind.  Uri Shulevitz’s illustrations are extremely colorful as there are detailed images of the country Kazakhstan  with images of small houses that are made of clay, straw and camel dung, in the background.  I also enjoyed Uri Shulevitz’s colorful images of the different countries that the boy visits through the map such as running across the beach and jumping about in the dessert sand.  My favorite image in this book was of the boy flying all around the world and you can see various buildings from Europe to North America standing beneath him.

Overall, “How I Learned Geography” is a truly amazing and imaginative book that detailed the magic of viewing a map in an exciting and inventive way and children might be interested in witnessing the lives of many refugees during World War II in this book.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since some of the countries that the boy mentions might be difficult for smaller children to understand and the themes of war and hunger might upset smaller children.

 * 2009 Caldecott Honor

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