The Little Man in the Map

When I received The Little Man in the Map to review I spend several minutes just gazing at the cover, as this large, award winning hardcover book is so robust and inviting! It has on its cover a colorful map of the United States and a little mini man sprinkling a bit of magic dust over the states. It has 4 award symbols decorating it as well, which include the Independent publisher book award, and Next Generation Indie award finalist. The book’s purpose is to teach kids the name and position of all the states. Seems like a big task, but not really when you see the way the “little man” gives clues to the identification of the states.

I brought the book with me on a recent road trip, and I was amazed at how quickly I had memorized the mid-western states (in less than 15 minutes). I tried it out on my 13 year old and he had the same states as me down in 10 minutes! The author approaches the US map like a puzzle, and the key to learning the states is looking at them from a different angle – using clues inside the map. Instead of just a shape the map comes alive. The man in the map is made up of 5 states – Minnesota is his hat, Iowa’s is his face, Missouri is his shirt, Arkansas is the pants and Louisiana forms his boots. If you look at a map it’s cool how the little man really does pop out. The book combines the images with verse, such as,

My hat’s so tall, it takes two states to prop it from behind. So North Dakota stand on South to keep the back aligned. Nebraska whispers in my ear, and Kansas is a pack of schoolbooks I can carry when I strap it on my back. My eyes look on Wisconsin’s cheese (it makes the very best), While Illinois leans on my shirt and honks my nose in jest.

Kids love games and puzzles, and what a smart thing to use this approach to actually get the geography of the United States under their belt. Isn’t it better to use an easy, fun method to teach any subject, especially geography, which can be challenging? The illustrations by Ed Olson are really bold and engaging, and complement the verses nicely. I think this book is a winner, and your kids will have a great time learning with it.

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