Friday Five: Maps from Literary Worlds

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At the Boston Book Festival last weekend, I finally had time to stop in to see the Literary Landscapes exhibit at the Boston Public Library. I absolutely loved the concept of the exhibit: displaying the illustrated worlds of some of our favorite fiction books. Unsurprisingly, many of the maps on display were from children’s books. One of my favorite things about children’s literature is the magical and imaginative places that authors create through words and pictures. For this week’s Friday Five, I’m sharing five of my favorite maps from the Literary Landscapes exhibit. I’d love to hear which literary maps have helped create your favorite literary worlds!


An Ancient Mappe of Fairyland Newly Discovered and Set Forth
Bernard Sleigh

This map is absolutely worth zooming in on with the tools on the Boston Public Library website. Sleigh’s amazing map includes “places from nursery rhymes, fairy tales, Arthurian legends and the folktales of many cultures.” The illustrator who made the map was a big fan of fairytales and mythology. According to the BPL website, the author first made this map to entertain his kids, using their favorite stories to create the landscape. Zooming in, I spotted Peter Piper, Rapunzel, the Seven Dwarfs, Lancelot, and Hercules. It’s fun to search for your own childhood favorites in this map!


Map of the Hundred Acre Wood
E.H. Shepard

Winnie the Pooh‘s illustrations are memorable for a number of reasons, but I absolutely love this map of the Hundred Acre Wood because of its adorable signature at the bottom: “DRAWN BY ME AND MR SHEPARD HELPED.” E.H. Shepard was the legendary illustrator of the A.A. Milne classics. I also love the labeling on the map, which includes such places as “Where the Woozle Wasn’t” and “Sandy Pit Where Roo Plays.” Children connect places with memories, and I love how this child-centered map does the same.


Jacqueline McNally

The novel Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was published in 1911, and Jacqueline McNally’s reimagining 100 years later manages to convey the wonder of the classic story. From the phrase “second star to the right and straight on toward morning” to the pirate ship of Captain Hook, McNally included some of the most memorable parts of this children’s literature favorite. I can just see this beautiful map hanging in a children’s library or classroom!


Map of the Countries Near to the Land of Oz
John R. Neill

When I saw the musical Wicked on stage last year, one of the coolest parts of the set was the curtain. Displaying a map of the land of Oz, the curtain itself created an atmosphere of wonder as soon as we walked into the theater. I love how John Neill’s 1914 map of Oz is extremely simple in comparison to some of the other maps. Void of illustrations and pastel colors, it seems more grown up than some of the other maps, but it still manages to capture a sense of being “far, far away.”


Map of the Island of Tangerina and Wild Island
Ruth Chrisman Gannett

I’m far overdue for a reread of My Father’s Dragon, especially since so many of my third grade students consider it a favorite of theirs. Seeing this map at the exhibit brought me back to the 2nd grade, when our teacher shared the worlds of Tangerina and Wild Island with us through a read aloud. Much like the Winnie the Pooh map, I love how this map is memory based, including such places as “my father fell asleep under this tangerine tree” and “my father walked right between two wild boars.” My absolute favorite note on this map is “my father doesn’t know what’s on this side of the island.” As the best literary maps do, it leaves so much to the imagination.

Do any of your favorite books include maps of their imaginary worlds? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Note: Map reproductions courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.


Teaser Tuesday: Fuzzy Mud

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly post challenge hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Each week, I’ll be posting a teaser from my current read!


On Saturday, I met the amazing Louis Sachar at the Boston Book Festival. To say I was freaking out would be a complete understatement!

I just finished reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School as a read aloud for my 3rd graders. Back when I was in 3rd grade, my teacher read Holes to us. Louis Sachar’s books stretch across so many children’s literature styles, and his books have remained popular across generations of readers.

His latest book, Fuzzy Mud, is supposed to be a “scary eco-bioterror-mystery-thriller-comedy,” according to Sachar’s recent interview with NPR. I can’t wait to read it and share it with the young Sachar fans I know!


Teaser from p. 21 of Fuzzy Mud:

“Her knee banged against one of the boulders as she scrambled over the mound. He was waiting for her on the other side, hands on hips, and annoyed look on his face. ‘What’s the point in taking a shortcut if I have to keep stopping and waiting for you to come pokeying along?’ ‘I’m not pokeying,’ Tamaya insisted.”

Do you have a Teaser Tuesday to share? Comment below and I’ll be sure to take a look!

Teaser Tuesday: The Martian

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly post challenge hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Each week, I’ll be posting a teaser from my current read!

A week and a half ago, I saw The Martian film adaptation in theaters. I absolutely loved it. Not being a science fiction person, I was so amazed at how this story was more about the human spirit than it was about space travel. Plus, Matt Damon was incredible.

I started recommending the film to everyone I knew, and when my mother (a librarian) said the book was popular at our local library, I flipped out.  I had no idea there was a book.

Now, I always read the book before seeing the movie. This was a notable exception. I was nervous about seeing if the book lived up to the movie instead of the other way around. My mom checked out the book for me and I read it in just a few days. Even knowing exactly what was going to happen, this book is an absolute page turner. The character of Mark Watney is so well developed that you feel like his log entries are written directly to you. The science behind everything is explained in a completely reasonable way, with honesty about its absurdity. The plot is thrilling and you won’t want to put the book down. Get your hands on a copy of The Martian as soon as you can, then go see the movie!

Teaser from p. 81 of The Martian:

“The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the ‘L’ in ‘LCD’ stands for ‘Liquid.’ I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. ‘Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.'”

Do you have a Teaser Tuesday to share? Comment below and I’ll be sure to take a look!

Review: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius

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A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius
by Stacey Matson

My Rating:

Note: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius will be released in the U.S. on Sunday, November 1st by Sourcebooks.

I’m always looking for engaging and interesting books that are told from a boy’s perspective, because I find that the boys in my classroom love connecting to the main character in that way. A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius was previously released in Canada, and reviews from readers on Goodreads convinced me it might be a good fit for middle grade readers here in the U.S.

Told through letters, journal entries, emails, progress reports, notes from teachers, newspaper articles, and other written mementos of 7th grade, A Year in the Life tells the story of Arthur Bean: a witty, quirky, hilarious and sensitive 7th grade boy. The story begins in October, when Arthur returns to school after a tragic family loss. Arthur immediately sets his sights on a writing prize that will be awarded to someone at his school at the end of the year, and decides to become famous through his writing. The one problem is that he doesn’t have any ideas for what to write about. While he waits for inspiration to strike, we learn about Arthur’s distain for Robby Zack (a classmate) and his crush on Kennedy (the cool girl in school). When Arthur is matched with Kennedy as a writing partner and is forced to tutor Robby, he has to confront his fears and learn how to navigate working with others. Meanwhile, he is also learning how to grieve as he and his father work through their first year without Arthur’s mother.

One thing I loved about this book was the style in which the story was told. Reflecting what may be a trend in YA and middle grade literature, the use of “artifacts” like letters, emails and notes to tell the story was engaging and effective. It gave each character a really unique voice, and it allowed us to see how Arthur’s personality is reflected in his school assignments as compared to his personal journal or his email interactions with others. Humor was very effectively used in this book, and it had me laughing out loud more than once! One particularly funny aspect was Arthur’s tendency to talk about other books and plot lines in an attempt to pass them off as his own – many of the books that are used will be known by middle grade readers, so they will be able to pick up on this humor.

One aspect of the book that I didn’t love quite as much was the voice given to Kennedy, Arthur’s crush and the “cool girl” of the 7th grade. Her part of the story was told through her emails to Arthur about their creative writing project. Her emails were written with an exclamation point at the end of every sentence, capital words written throughout, and LOLOLOL written throughout. While Kennedy’s character is known to be smart and clever, her written voice was very stereotypical for a middle school girl, and it would be nice to see her bubbly personality reflected in a different way. However, Arthur himself fights gender roles through his love of knitting and other interests, which may help some readers feel more included.

Overall, this was a very strong book for middle grade readers that asks big questions about life and loss. I can definitely see this book becoming a favorite of some 6th-8th graders. Fortunately, Arthur’s adventures aren’t over quite yet, as a sequel is coming soon from author Stacey Matson!

Classroom Connections

  • Much of the story is told through Arthur’s responses to classroom assignments given to him by his teacher. Many of these align strongly with what students will be doing in school. In particular, assignments like the interviewing of other people will help students in their own writing. Assignments from the book can be given to the class to strengthen their own creative writing. Students will also be able to compare their experiences with the assignment to the experiences of Arthur, Robby, and Kennedy.

Book Information
Title: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius
Author: Stacey Matson
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: November 1st, 2015
Price: US $15.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

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Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own!