I thought I’d kick off Memorial Day weekend with a book from across the Pond, from Spain, to be exact. What does Spain have to do with Memorial Day, you ask? Probably not much, as there doesn’t seem to be a comparable holiday there. But Memorial Day is about remembering, and it’s also the “official” start of the summer vacation season, at least here in the United States. Both relate in certain ways to today’s Perfect Picture Book.
First, today’s Book is about remembering. It also reminded me of a special vacation journey I took one summer with my two older children when they were 4 and 6 (my husband met us mid-trip). We traveled among several German, Czech and Austrian cities by train. While I kept a written diary, the girls drew pictures of their favorite activities each day – a kind of Book of Good Memories.
May you make and remember many good memories this Memorial Day weekend and on your travels this summer. And now, today’s Perfect Picture Book:
Title: The Map of Good Memories
Written By: Fran Nuño
Illustrated By: Zuzanna Celej
Translated By: Jon Brokenbrow
Publisher/date: Cuento de Luz/2016 (Spanish edition also available)
Suitable for Ages: 7-10
Themes/Topics: refugees; war; home; maps; remembering; saying farewell
Zoe had lived in the city since she was born. But now, because of the war, she had to flee with her family and take refuge in another country.
Brief Synopsis: As her family prepares to flee the war-torn city of her birth, Zoe maps out the favorite places where she has spent the happiest times of her life.
Links to Resources:
- Map your classroom, home, city or favorite picture book;
- Learn mapping skills; a good resource to learn is a newly-published picture book, Mapping My Day, written by Julie Dillemuth, illustrated by Laura Wood, and published by Magination Press (2017);
- When you travel, keep a “favorite places” diary by drawing a picture each evening of someplace you enjoyed seeing or something you enjoyed doing;
- In the Author’s Note, Nuño states that The Map of Good Memories is “about saying farewell.” Think about what or to whom you would say “farewell” if you were traveling or moving house.
Why I Like this Book:
This is a poignant story about treasuring the little things you enjoy about the place where you live. On the eve of her family’s departure, ten year-old Zoe looks back at all of the happy times she has enjoyed in her hometown.
Unlike other refugee books that focus on the journey (The Journey and Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey come to mind) or a better life ahead, The Map of Good Memories focuses on the past, on the positive aspects of life in Zoe’s home city before the war. Most of these are small, everyday occurrences that kids will relate well to, like going to school, visiting the library and bookstore, playing in the park, and enjoying favorite films in the movie theatre. As Zoe maps out the special memories of her childhood, she finds a special surprise and comes to the realization that these memories will always be with her, wherever she lives, and that someday she will return.
I love this hopeful message for refugee children. I also think it’s a good reminder for all of us that places that currently are wracked by war or other disasters have a history, and potential future, that are peaceful and positive.
Celej’s soft, watercolor images impart a sense of peacefulness and reflection to the story, and will encourage multiple readings.
Images and text about the war are few, so this is a wonderful book to share with kids who are moving for other reasons as well.
Source: Cuenta de Luz
A Note about Craft:
Interestingly, neither Nuño’s text nor Celej’s illustrations clearly reveal the setting or era of The Map of Good Memories. While the city appears European and while most people depicted are fair-haired Caucasians who wear neither veils nor headscarves, the time period is not obvious. In a review reprinted by Barnes & Noble, one reviewer guesses World War II. I’d guess the Bosnian conflict instead, given that Zoe is portrayed in jeans in one scene and wearing a bike helmet in another. Regardless, by not naming the conflict or even the city, I think Nuño makes the action more immediate: this could happen anywhere, at any time, to any of us.
Even though they leave two key elements of the story vague, Nuño and Celej weave many small details into The Map of Good Memories. For instance, not only does Zoe remember many films she enjoyed at the movie theatre, but Nuño mentions “the candy counter, the big seats, the lady who showed you to your seat with a flashlight…” Despite this detailed description, he leaves room for the illustrations, with bookshelves “full of real treasures” that Celej then fills in with dreamy characters surrounding Zoe as she reads. Nuño also leaves the depiction of the theatre to Celej, who completes it with a marquee heralding The Wizard of Oz, a brilliant cultural reference, as, after all, “there’s no place like home.”
Cuento de Luz, “based in Madrid, Spain but with an international outlook,” is a publishing company specializing in children’s literature, primarily picture books. Its philosophy is to publish stories that are “full of light that bring out the inner child within all of us. Stories that take the imagination on a journey and help care for our planet, respect differences, eliminate borders and promote peace.” Cuento de Luz is a B Corporation that uses “stone paper” in the production of its books – no trees, no water, no bleach.
Fran Nuño is the author of over 30 children’s books and owner of a bookstore in Seville, Spain.
Zuzanna Celej is a children’s book illustrator of Polish descent, educated and working in Spain.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!