As you read this M, J and I are actually somewhere on route to my parents for a few days (the schools are on holiday this week). Given that we shall be travelling quite a lot this week, it seems appropriate that my offering today for Nonfiction Monday is As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman, illustrated by Harvey Stevenson.
As the Crow Flies is a simple, elegant introduction to perspective and understanding how maps represent the landscape around us. It consists of 5 short journeys each taken by a different animal; first the journey is illustrated as if we were in the landscape being described, and then at the end of each section a map is drawn showing the animal’s journey in its entirety. The book concludes with a double page spread of a map joining up all the journeys taken by the different animals.
The text is minimal, but rather beautiful for all that, with only one line of text on most pages:
From the mountains, a stream flows /
through a meadow /
where a tall tree stands.
The illustrations remind me of Stephen Cartwright (familiar from many Usborne books) and are in a style that I think will appeal to lots of children – clean lines, a good amount of detail and colourful – nothing wacky or “out there”. (BTW, there is another Stephen Cartwright out there who happens to be quite an appropriate find for this post…)
M and J have both enjoyed listening to the text and following the eagle, rabbit and other animals on their journeys. As a very first introduction to maps I think this is a great book. It reads and feels more like a fiction book (for example there are no technical details about maps, and the maps that are included do not include any of the standard symbols that you would find on a map but which might be meaningless for a very young child). I would certainly recommend this for a first foray into cartography!
Inspired by As the Crow Flies and this shower curtain play mat from Filth Wizardry I made the girls a large map of our neighbourhood out of a shower curtain and a set of permanent markers. Using a road map of the area I copied the streets around where we lived as accurately as I could, and marked several key landmarks i.e. houses where friends live, local shops and other geographical features such as the stream, football (soccer) pitch and railway line that are all nearby.
I was very curious to see if M would recognise her neighbourhood in the map and then be able to “read” her way round it. We “walked” several routes together – to her school, to the stream and to the toy shop before she told me in no uncertain terms that some things were missing (for example, I hadn’t drawn on the houses of certain friends – this was quickly rectified).
We populated our street and the surrounding area with pedestrians (duplo and playmobil people), cars, ducks (on the stream), horses (in the park) and a train on the tracks. M even added a helicopter flying over for extra authenticity (yes, honestly! For some reason we get quite a lot of helicopter fly-byes here).
I don’t think M is quite ready to pick up an OS map and go hiking on her own, but I do think she’s beginning to understand how a map is a representation of the landscape around us. It will be fun looking at maps of where we’re travelling this week (in atlases, train maps and bus routes), and (if we make it to the beach as we hope to) making maps of buried treasure!
As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps: ** (2 stars)
There’s quite a lot of fun kids’ music on the theme of maps. Here are some songs to get you going:
More great info on map related music can be found via Making Maps: DIY Cartography. I’d urge you to check out Jeff Poskanzer’s Singing Science web page (which I discovered via Making Maps) – one catchy song about longitude and latitude and then many more fantastic science-theme songs from the 50s and 60s to listen to, sing and dance to with your kids. An amazing resource.
As to further map-related activities and reading here are some great starting points:
As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps is in some ways an ideal book to prepare us for this Wednesday’s Fantastic Fiction for Kids – I do hope you’ll be back to read about the selection of books Nancy from Bees Knees Reads has chosen on the theme of “Shifting Perspectives”.
A roundup of all today’s Nonfiction Monday posts can be found at The Art of Irreverence. Next week’s Nonfiction Monday is hosted by 5 Great Books (definitely worth checking out if you like the Fantastic Fiction for Kids series here at Playing by the book, as every week 5 picture books are selected on a common theme). If you’d like to see the full schedule for Nonfiction Monday, please visit Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book of the Day.