MAPPING SAM: Creating a New Generation of Map Enthusiasts

Lynn: Don’t get me wrong, I love having maps on my phone and a GPS in my car. Using these tools, we’ve managed to easily locate rental apartments in the twisting, narrow streets of many a small village instead of wandering around lost! There is a downside to electronic dependence, however. I clearly remember our panic when we started back to our rental after visiting a nearby medieval city—only to realize that, not only had our GPS unit conked out, we didn’t even know the address of our rental! There are bigger issues, though. Today there seems to be a loss of general understanding of geography and the hugely important role it plays in so many issues. I have been dismayed to discover that many of our middle-schoolers can’t locate the state we live in on a map of the U.S.! And, as a lover of maps, I also deeply regret that so many people will never enjoy the joyous serendipities and unexpected pleasures that exploring maps can provide.

Mapping Sam by Joyce HesselberthAll that is a long way of saying why I was so excited to discover Mapping Sam (2018) by Joyce Hesselberth. Not only does this delightful picture book tell an appealing story, it also introduces young readers to many types of maps and the delights of using them. With her family asleep, Sam the cat slips out and begins her nightly rounds. Readers follow along as Sam’s journey is mapped and different kinds of maps are explained, along with map terminology. Standard maps, transportation-route maps, and even aerial maps are cleverly and clearly incorporated. Hesselberth extends the definition of maps to include charts, diagrams, and blueprints with Sam’s adventures as the connecting thread.

The charming illustrations in watercolor, gouache, and digital collage are a delight, portraying Sam as a quintessential cat while doing an outstanding job of providing easily understandable information on this important subject. It is rare to find a picture book that incorporates an engaging story into the teaching of concepts so well. Included in the back matter is a page with thumbnail sketches that further define the various cartography included. This will be a treat to use in a primary classroom, and the curricular connections and possible extension activities are numerous. And perhaps a new generation of map enthusiasts will unfold.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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