Sunday, December 14, 2008

Schoolside Press...The Little Man In The Map

“A blank map of the U.S.A.
Plus your imagination
Are all you need to learn the states---
All fifty in our nation.” E. Andrew Martonyi

The Little Man In the Map written by E. Andrew Martonyi, illustrated by Ed Olsen and published by Schoolside Press is a picture book designed to aid school age children in learning the geography of the United States through clever rhymes and picture aids. The book is acclaimed with a Silver Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Independent Publisher Book Award for Most Original Concept, and a finalist in Foreward Magazine’s Book of the Year and Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Martonyi is described in the book jacket as “using his affinity for travel, his constant search for new things to see and his granddaughter’s fascination with his trips” as the catalyst for this unique book.

The Little Man In the Map is available at Schoolside Press’s website for $19.95. An accompanying laminated wall map measuring 38 x 22 for $21.95 adds to the MIM experience for your homeschool classroom. Currently, a free holiday shipping offer is available on the website along with a special combo price of book and wall map for only $35.00. Schoolside Press has plans to release a State Capital book which will make learning the Capitals as much fun as learning US Geography with MIM. The author keeps a blog at for kids and parents to share in his journey as an author and to keep track of future creative endeavors.

Because The Little Man In the Map comes to you in a beautiful 64 page hardcover picture book format, I first read the book to my 1st grade daughter to check out its kid appeal. I was already thrilled with the book and loved the concept as I am always searching for unique ways to share education with my kids. I soon discovered that The Little Man In the Map may be disguised as a little kid’s book, but its rich content is definitely a greater value for the older set. Sierra enjoyed the cute and colorful illustrations, chatted about the images revealed in the map of the States, but really had no idea or understanding that she was studying a map of the United States. I had to remind her several times that the United States was the country we live in, but when you are seven the concept of State, Country, etc. is a bit abstract.

The real test for The Little Man In the Map came when I read the book to my 9th grade son Jonah and his 6th grade sister Micah. These were students who understood the concept of their country, who should know or at least study U.S. Geography. My son was extremely pessimistic when I told him I would be sharing the book with him as from the cover it appeared to be a “children’s book”. When I assured him it would only take a few minutes of his time he slumped into a chair and appeased me.

We soon discovered that The Little Man In the Map is actually a character designed by the author made up of the States of Minnesota, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. His full name is MinIow MisArkLou, but his nickname is MIM (Man in Map).
The strangeness of Mim’s full name set my older kids into giggles and satirical comments like, “Well, that’s not too confusing”, but I patiently continued to see if MIM could work his magic.

At the conclusion of the book I asked 14 year old Jonah for his opinion and he shared the following:I already knew most of the States so; it didn’t help me too much. It was kind of strange because some of the rhythms didn’t actually rhyme. Some of the things they chose for the States didn’t really make sense like Ohio being a drinking cup”.
But……Jonah did keep reciting MinIow MisArkLou several times throughout the afternoon to make his sisters laugh. Perhaps MIM had made sense to Jonah in a non-traditional way.

Micah, age 11, found greater value in her reading experience. She said, “I think it was pretty cute, but some of the things were a little hard to remember at first. It was really hard to memorize all those States at once. It was a good idea to make a man out of the States”.

When I asked Micah if the book helped her to see the map of the USA in a new way so she could memorize where the States are located she replied, “Yeah, kind of because, when you see all these pictures in your mind you think, oh yeah, that’s the mitten that is Michigan or that’s MIM’s face”.

I admit after several readings of the book I agree with Jonah and Micah’s analysis that some of the pictures and rhymes are a bit hard to relate to at first. However, the ingenuity of this book is its use of the creativity and beauty of art and poetry to connect students to the rather dry, dull topic of geography. It engages your mind in a way no regular map ever could. I love that it is in picture book format, taking just minutes to read and enabling older kids to use it as a tool for memorization. It is a book which when read over and over can only enrich your education of US geography in a delight filled way.

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