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Book Review: Follow That Map!: A First Book of Mapping Skills by Scott Ritchie

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Elaborate compass roses, legends, latitudes, longitudes, scale indicators, and landmark icons; the world of maps is a mysterious, and often-complex one. In Follow That Map!: A First Book of Mapping Skills, book creator Scott Ritchie brings mapping down to a fun, colourful, and manageable level for young children.

Ritchie begins by introducing young readers to the characters, and a diagram that explains the common features found on a map, When Pedro notices that Sally’s dog Max, and her cat Ollie are “missing”, the children are off on an imaginary voyage that will take them around the world and back in search of the missing pets.

At each stop along the way, new mapping skills are taught by placing the characters directly on landscapes that appear as detailed maps from the overhead, offset perspective the bold illustrations are drawn from. This perspective is consistent throughout, even when no mapping skills are being taught, adding to a consistent feel throughout the book.

As the children scour the neighborhood for Max and Ollie, legend skills are introduced, with an interactive question to engage children. At each progressive stop additional skills are folded in, sometimes in combination with each other. When the children strike out through the city in search of the zoo, using a compass rose is the main focus, with legend skills also included.

When I sat down to work through Follow That Map! with my daughter it seemed almost too easy – the learning that came from reading the simple story and asking her the included questions was effortless and fun for both of us. The introductory level skills explored are: legends, trails, compass rose, scale bar, weather map, following directions with the help of a map, topographical maps, landmarks, and world maps. A simple map of the planets in our solar system is also included, as well as instructions on how to create a simple, yet accurate map of a room in your home with a sheet of graph paper.

Incredibly appealing to young children visually, the cartoon-like illustrations fill most of each two-page spread, with a small amount of text, plenty of white space, and a large font for early readers. Written for four to seven-year-olds, Follow That Map! serves as a geography primer of sorts – an easily accessible sample to pique the interest of young learners, and to familiarize them with tools that they will use for the rest of their lives. The bright drawings, game-like activities, and subtle humor encourage repeat readings, browsing, and informal map-play times guided by improvised questions.

A free four-page teaching guide from publisher Kids Can Press provides additional hands-on activities for reinforce early mapping skills and the development of direction skills

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