How I Learned Geography
By Uri Shulevitz
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374334994, 32pp.)
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
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Having fled from war in their troubled homeland, a boy and his family are living in poverty in a strange country. Food is scarce, so when the boy’s father brings home a map instead of bread for supper, at first the boy is furious. But when the map is hung on the wall, it floods their cheerless room with color. As the boy studies its every detail, he is transported to exotic places without ever leaving the room, and he eventually comes to realize that the map feeds him in a way that bread never could.
The award-winning artist’s most personal work to date is based on his childhood memories of World War II and features stunning illustrations that celebrate the power of imagination. An author’s note includes a brief description of his family’s experience, two of his early drawings, and the only surviving photograph of himself from that time.How I Learned Geography is a 2009 Caldecott Honor Book and a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
Uri Shulevitz is a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator and author. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, on February 27, 1935. He began drawing at the age of three and, unlike many children, never stopped. The Warsaw blitz occurred when he was four years old, and the Shulevitz family fled. For eight years they were wanderers, arriving, eventually, in Paris in 1947. There Shulevitz developed an enthusiasm for French comic books, and soon he and a friend started making their own. At thirteen, Shulevitz won first prize in an all-elementary-school drawing competition in Paris's 20th district. In 1949, the family moved to Israel, where Shulevitz worked a variety of jobs: an apprentice at a rubber-stamp shop, a carpenter, and a dog-license clerk at Tel Aviv City Hall. He studied at the Teachers' Institute in Tel Aviv, where he took courses in literature, anatomy, and biology, and also studied at the Art Institute of Tel Aviv. At fifteen, he was the youngest to exhibit in a group drawing show at the Tel Aviv Museum. At 24 he moved to New York City, where he studied painting at Brooklyn Museum Art School and drew illustrations for a publisher of Hebrew books. One day while talking on the telephone, he noticed that his doodles had a fresh and spontaneous look—different from his previous illustrations. This discovery was the beginning of Uri's new approach to his illustrations for The Moon in My Room, his first book, published in 1963. Since then he was written and illustrated many celebrated children’s books. He won the Caldecott Medal for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, written by Arthur Ransome. He has also earned three Caldecott Honors, for The Treasure, Snow and How I Learned Geography. His other books include One Monday Morning, Dawn, So Sleepy Story,and many others. He also wrote the instructional guide Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books. He lives in New York City.
“Fascinating.” — The Wall Street Journal "It is a masterpiece." — New York Times Book Review "Shulevitz's simply worded text can be read to preschoolers, but it packs an emotional punch that will resonate with older children and even adults. The watercolor and ink illustrations add further depth as Shulevitz switches from a monochrome palette to a chorus of colors spotlighting how the map stirred his imagination." —Washington Post Book World “Caldecott Medal winner Uri Shulevitz's newest picture book, How I Learned Geography, is really a love story for the world. It belongs to the newly popular genre of memoir as picture book. Shulevitz handles his autobiographical material with grace and humor. . . . Shulevitz always puts character at the forefront of his work. The expressions and gestures of his characters are believable, human-scale, and tender, full of dreaming." —The Boston Globe
“Lyrical watercolors depict . . . the power of imagination.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
"The essence of his tale lies in the power of imagination." —The Sacramento Bee “The story and its triumphant afterword demonstrate that Uri masters much more than geography; he realizes the importance of nurturing the soul.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly
“This poignant story can spark discussion about the power of the imagination to provide comfort in times of dire need.” —Starred, School Library Journal“Whether enjoyed as a reflection of readers’ own imaginative travels, or used as a creative entree to classroom geography units, this simple, poignant offering will transport children as surely as the map it celebrates.” —Starred, Booklist “Signature watercolor illustrations contrast the stark misery of refugee life with the boundless joys of the imagination.” —Kirkus Reviews “This is a wonderful tale and a timely message of hope.” —Ellen Scott, The Bookworm, Omaha, NE “A tribute to the power of wide imaginative horizons, this gains impact from its basis in Shulevitz's own experiences, which give it reality beyond mere wishful thinking.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books “This is a natural pair with Peter Sis's The Wall for its depiction of a gifted young artist finding inspiration and expressing himself despite profoundly daunting circumstances.” —The Horn Book “This simple, poignant offering will transport children as surely as the map it celebrates.” —Book Links
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