Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Got Geography!

Got Geography!

Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrator:  Philip Stanton 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
HarperCollins, 2006   ISBN: 978-0060556013

These days, thanks to the internet, email, text messaging, telephones, cars, fast ships, airplanes and other technology, the world seems to be smaller than it was, say, in Magellan’s time. We often forget to think about the fact that the geography of our planet is such that places on opposite sides of the Earth vary greatly and often have little in common, and that great forces beneath the Earth’s crust, powers we cannot control, shape the surface of our planet. We forget that the forces that build mountains and move continents are more powerful than all the technology that we have created. Our geographical location is something that affects our lives every day, and the study of geography is not only important, but it is also fascinating.

   In this splendid selection of poems, poets J. Patrick Lewis, Marilyn Singer, Jane Yolen and others take us to far off places and into the minds of those who created maps and explored foreign lands. The collection begins with a poem about “Mapping the World.” As an artist creates a map of the world, he almost feels as if he is journeying to the lands he is laying out on his canvas. For example, as Africa’s outline takes shape he thinks about the fact that it is the place where the River Nile flows “past ancient folk.” It is where the Serengeti lies and where people can see Victoria Falls. For the artist, “Geography is like our own / Room with a view we can’t forget.”

   In another poem Kathryn Madeline Allen imagines what she would do if she were the equator. One thing she is sure of, and that is that she “would have an attitude,” and why not? After all, the equator is the only line that runs from east to west for nearly 25,000 miles. It is the line that “splits the globe in half” and it is the “only one” to do so.

   Marilyn Singer tells us about explorers that we often forget to think about. In Antarctica, “where whole mountains are hidden / under ice” humans were not the first ones to arrive in that freezing place. Long before explorers set foot there, penguins “laid shambling tracks” in the snow. Similarly, hot and steamy jungles were explored by creatures with wings or feet long before humans got there.

   In this splendid collection, the poems chosen truly capture how intriguing and fascinating geography is.