Nonfiction Monday: How I learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

How I Learned Geography
written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-374-33499-4
Grades 2-5
Reviewed from library copy.

BLURB: 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.

Being fascinated with geography I found this book very enjoyable.  The author includes enough detail to give the reader a glimpse into his childhood experiences with war and hunger without being graphic or inappropriate in any way.  I found the illustrations very expressive.  The red and black for war, the sand for homes, and the bright colored clothing for the people.  The way Shulevitz used neutral colors to represent the he his family was living before they got the map makes a nice contrast to the brightly colored imaginary journeys he took based on the map.  I also liked the note at the end which explained how the story came from his memories and are likely not completely accurate.  I also liked the inclusion of a map he drew at age ten and the market scene he drew at age thirteen.   This book makes a great introduction to geography and the power it plays in our lives.  I highly recommend this book for older elementary students.

Note: I used this book with first graders, but I don't think they understood a lot of it and they didn't fully appreciate the challenging circumstances depicted in the book.  Next time I'll use this with older students.

Head on over to Wrapped in Foil for this week's Nonfiction Monday recommendations and reviews.


  1. This is a terrific story which I recommend to undergraduate student teachers when ever I can. It ties into the social studies curriculum quite nicely (geographical thinking). I, also think that older children (not 1st graders) would get more out of this powerful story.
    Thanks for highlighting it.
    Apples with Many Seeds


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