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.


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