Children are natural explorers, traversing their world with wide eyes and delving into their own imaginations with curiosity and gusto. Two new picture books put adventures on the map for eager preschool and elementary-age readers.
Before we even get to the title page of author and illustrator Deborah Marcero’s My Heart Is a Compass, readers are treated to a spread showing a group of children in an elementary school classroom, reading silently on their own. And we see that our blue-haired, brown-skinned protagonist has chosen to read an atlas with a map at the ready. Her name is Rose, and she longs to be “an explorer, a pioneer, a trailblazer.” Show-and-tell is tomorrow, and Rose is determined to discover something new to share with her class. Since she doesn’t know precisely where that thing might be, she draws her own maps before setting out: “Her imagination became a blueprint, with her heart a compass.”
Rose’s journey includes the intricate, imaginative maps she so carefully draws—a road map, a sky map, an ocean map and a map of the mountains—but she returns home with no exciting or unusual discovery. However, she realizes that the four lovingly rendered and hand-drawn maps clutched to her chest are treasures themselves, and she shares them with her inquisitive classmates.
Rose’s maps are visual delights, filled with both geographical information (the sky map includes “thermosphere,” “exosphere,” etc.), map vocabulary and plenty of her imaginative musings. (The mountain map includes a secret lair and “Blue Dragon Smoky Mountains.”) Marcero’s textured mixed-media illustrations are filled with inviting patterns that make up features like sandy beaches, bumpy mountains and waves in the water. My Heart Is a Compass is a tribute to the exciting adventures a child’s imagination can launch.
Joyce Hesselberth’s Mapping Sam shares Marcero’s sense of adventure, but it features a furry, four-legged and whiskered protagonist. Sam is a cat, and once she puts her family to bed, she slips out of the house to explore at night, and readers are privy to the adventures that unfold in Hesselberth’s sleek illustrations with rich, nighttime colors and crisp, clean lines.
Hesselberth illustrates Sam’s journey for readers with a simple map of the cat’s neighborhood that includes a compass and scale. But things take a surprising turn when Hesselberth lays out an altogether different type of map—a diagram of Sam’s inner workings as she strolls through the grass. This is followed by a transportation map; the diagram of a flower and its parts; a cutaway map showing the depth of a pond; a diagram of a water molecule; a world map; a diagram of our solar system; a constellation chart and a blueprint. All of these different maps and diagrams are seamlessly woven into Sam’s journey as she explores nature and ponders the starlit sky. Information about each type of map is appended. “Can you map a dream?” the author asks, as Sam arrives home to see one of her humans snuggled comfortably in bed. “You might try.” Readers may be eager to do so, as well as explore a variety of other types of maps, after reading both of these informative stories. Bon voyage!