Journeys without Maps - the greatest story maps of all time. Kind of.
On #EduTwitter there are lots of great articles, links to courses, events and cutting-edge CPD. You get access to professional development and can share responses in timely ways. Overall, #Twitter has been a positive professional development tool for me and the positives generally outweigh the negatives. I try to avoid the food fights.
Around week two of lockdown I was feeling not too great and was struggling to sleep. Without thinking too much about it I posted, "What is the best map from a children's book?" You know, those maps when you open the front cover and can see them drawn inside – a visual map of the fictional setting. To illustrate the point, I chose a map from The Wind in the Willows and said, “What do you think is the best?”
To my surprise, 32,000 impressions later, there was a sea of suggestions. Some I'd heard of, some I had no idea about. So this post is my way of saying thank you to all those who took the time and trouble to respond. It's also about saying, okay then - let's try and come up with some kind of list…(I know, like we need another list, right?) It's also a handy collection if anyone is trying to put together something for their classroom based on the magic of storytelling and the worlds we can create with our imaginations.
I sat down with a good friend and colleague @FurzlandMark to debate a ‘top 10’ based on the suggestions. It was tough. You know - these types of thing are personal, aren't they? The maps that you explored as a child in the front of those books might have generated some nostalgic connection to them. Perhaps it isn’t worthwhile to pick out a ‘best’ or top ten? But we just thought it would be interesting to go through the process all the same.
So in this blog post you'll find a top 10 of maps, all of which have got some kind of significance or personal reason why we think they should be there. These aren't recommendations, the list isn't designed with anything in mind. Just a collection.
#10 Lone Pine by Malcolm Saville. Illustrated by Bertram Prance
This was one that I didn't know about before the tweet. The Lone Pine series by Malcolm Saville, Written over 35 years from 1943 to 1978 the characters only age a few years across the series and it's got a kind of 1940s/50s childhood feel. Kind of Enid Blyton/Famous Five-like. The children in the stories basically have adventures with no adults around at all and it all seems like great fun. Illustrated by Bertram Prance. This made it to number 10 above some of the others because of the fact that one of the stories was set in Whitby. (Which happens to be one of my most favourite places in the world) A children's book, set in Whitby, a map and the outdoors...enough to make it into a top 10...
#9 The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Illustrated by J.R.R Tolkien
Yeah. The hobbits are a favourite for me and the map there, as I guess with all maps, kind of takes the reader on that journey before you've got past the first page of text. You can already formulate that idea in your head of where it might go - that inference through pictures rather than words. The Hobbit
was one of the first which I think I spent time looking at and feeling lost in, enjoying that imaginative journey. Certainly it was one of the first that I remember that way. It was a children's fantasy novel written in 1937. It won awards, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal for being best juvenile fiction and remains popular to this day (seriously, unbelievably popular with the movie grossing $1.15billion US.) It was illustrated and written by the author, which I think elevates its place on the list - for some reason I find that fact, I don't know, just a bit magical with this story.
Although it wouldn't always work hand in hand, when you've had something like this made into a successful film you have that parallel as well. Perhaps you come back to the map again and again - maybe as an adult when you've seen the movie and obviously it's been set and located in various places around the world and you think, yeah...that works. Or maybe it doesn't. It's just all about connections, isn't it? To reevaluate things through time and reflect, perhaps revisit...
You might disagree. Some might put The Hobbit higher on the list or maybe even not at all.
#8 The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes and published in London 1950 - it spans, well everywhere, doesn't it? Radio, film, television. It's something special and a great story map.
Perhaps the thing that stood out a little bit more were the ones I saw, perhaps not the original, I don't know, but in some there was no coloration to the map - that kind of classic sort of beige, slightly curled brown feel. You could almost sniff it and think, my goodness, yeah, I could unravel this and go on a journey wherever, whenever, however, with whomever - just that. That magical sort of feel. The feeling of opening a book and being transported.
#7 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Illustrated by Arthur Ransome
When we get further up the charts, maybe controversially, this might be higher or not included for some...Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Swallows and Amazons is the first book in the Swallows and Amazons series by English author Arthur Ransome; it was first published on 1 December 1930, with the action taking place in the summer of 1929 in the Lake District. The book introduces the main protagonists John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker (Swallows), their mother Mary, their baby sister (Bridget - nicknamed Vicky), as well as Nancy and Peggy Blackett (Amazons), their uncle Jim (James Turner), commonly referred to as Captain Flint and their widowed mother Molly Blackett.
At the time, Ransome had been working as a journalist with the Manchester Guardian, but decided to become a full-time author rather than go abroad as a foreign correspondent. He did continue to write part-time for the press, however.
The book was inspired by a summer spent by Ransome teaching the children of his friends, the Altounyans, to sail. Three of the Altounyan children's names are adopted directly for the Walker family. Ransome and Ernest Altounyan bought two small dinghies called Swallow and Mavis. Ransome kept Swallow until he sold it a number of years later, while Mavis remained in the Altounyan family and is now on permanent display in the Ruskin Museum. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 57 on the BBC's survey The Big Read. Mark felt a particular connection to the book -
"I have to say it would have been in my top three just because as a teenager in the early eighties, as I think I may have mentioned to you before, I'm not sure my parents were that obliging that we went to the Lake District for a summer holiday specifically for me, but we did and it was typically wet. I got hold of this book: Captain Flint's Trunk by Susanna Hardyment, which basically went into the details of everywhere in the stories that Arthur had ever written about. And obviously he'd named places in his own fictitious way, but it went through everywhere around the Lake District that he'd used. And we retraced the steps as adults via maps and places. It was a bit of a personal odyssey for me being lost in those stories and using those maps to find the places in reality, in real time. We hired a canoe. My dad and I canoed across Coniston water to Wildcat Island and actually got off at the Island and put my foot down. I stepped on the Island, which still for me is like a, wow, it's one of those moments..."
Because what is it about these maps that makes one more significant or poignant than another?
It's all about connections, right?
There's got to be a link between generations or a link that passes on a story from one person to another. It wasn't just Mark - a few people who responded to the tweet said that they have found the Swallows and Amazons places in real life, some other real locations too that were contained within some of the maps. I just think that's such a magical concept and idea. Stories are about personal journeys and this one was poignant for how it represented that link and that connection.
However, like books before and after it, there is perhaps a time and place to deconstruct, analyse and share the criticism that is so clearly important as well.
#6 The Village with Three Corners by Sheila K. McCullagh. Illustrated by Ferelith Eccles Williams
I didn't know about this one and came to it purely from Twitter. The response was really surprising. A series of books called One, Two, Three and Away and new to me - but not to #EduTwitter. Written by Sheila McCullough and sometimes known as the Roger Red Hat books. When you look at the maps, they've got this really, I suppose, 70s style colour scheme and labels and texts that you look at and you have that feeling of curtains and carpets from an era of vinyl seats and Morris Marinas.
I'm sure there are many aesthetically wonderful things about the 70s, but for me that map seems to curdle slightly in a slightly painful way, But what do I know? It was hugely popular. You might say - hang on a minute..how is that above Swallows and Amazons or Chronicles of Narnia? Really?
Well, at the bottom of the page, for whatever reason, there's a connection to Frogmore (the name of one of my schools). So I thought, you know what, that's going higher up the list because it's got a bit of 70s style about it. It's a little bit different. It stands out in the crowd and it's got Frogmore on it as well. Plus, the series (below) opens with the lines:
'Not very far from where you are is a place you can go to without a car'.
Which is ironic, as you couldn't get very far in a Morris Marina, either but I like the idea of empty roads...
#5 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham, Ernest H Shepard
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. My goodness, with those kinds of illustrators adding magic to the stories then - wow. The Wind in the Willows is a children's novel by Scottish novelist Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. Alternating slow moving and fast paced events, it focuses on four anthropomorphised animals: Mole, Rat (a European water vole), Toad, and Badger. They live in a pastoral version of Edwardian England. The novel is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie, and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the Thames Valley.
In 1908, Grahame retired from his position as secretary of the Bank of England. He moved back to Berkshire, where he had lived as a child, and spent his time by the River Thames, doing much as the animal characters in his book do – to quote, "simply messing about in boats" – and expanding the bedtime stories he had earlier told his son Alastair into a manuscript for the book.
The novel was in its 31st printing when playwright A. A. Milne adapted part of it for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall in 1929. In 1949, the first film adaptation was produced by Walt Disney as one of two segments in the package film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
For my personal top 10 it comes right in the middle. There's a bit of magic there.
#4 Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. Illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Okay. Number four. This one was popular! Winnie-the-Pooh, the hundred acre wood. Gosh. Lots of connections to the map and I spent plenty of time pouring over it. But I have a confession...the story, the text...I've just never really 'got it'. The story of Winnie-the-Pooh has never really connected with me. Is that bad?
It was often a Christmas present from an aunt or an uncle. The special book of Winnie the Pooh very quickly, again, has brought it back for me in the last two or three years- the book 'Finding Winnie', which contextualized is the whole story. And with the Canadian soldier that saw the bear and then the bear went with him- It went on a training exercise to Salisbury plain. And then when he was called up it was taken to the zoo where, of course Christopher Robin, the son of A. A. Milne, saw him and had the opportunity to befriend the bear, which obviously in itself is amazing. And from there the stories came. So I think for me, as with all good stories, time is irrelevant really. Perhaps at the time I kind of liked the honey thing. I liked the Piglet and the Tigger thing. I wasn't the biggest fan, but, but coming back to it now with that extra story, it's like, wow, that's amazing.
I don't know. I didn't get it.
I did have a close encounter with a bear once. Perhaps it was that? I was in Yosemite park just travelling around from place to place in America. The rangers gave advice to make lots of noise if a bear came anywhere near me. Sure enough, the moment that some rain began to pour I found myself in the woods on the side of a mountain - my friend had gone off to the toilet and in the minutes that he was gone I become aware of this great big nodding furry head. (Which wasn't my friend's, by the way.) It was a bear just sniffing away. And you know, rather pathetically I ran away, probably the worst thing to do. So maybe, maybe that's where the deep rooted anti- Winnie-the-Pooh sentiment comes from. But seriously, it's the exposure to the book isn't it? It's the circumstances around it. It's the whole personal story that brings you to a particular book over another one. And just to share, if you are ever having a close encounter with a bear, please make lots of noise. Don't run away like I did.
As for this map. I loved the map (hated the story) but shhhhh. Context is everything.
The first collection of stories about the character was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about the bear in the children's verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.
The Pooh stories have been translated into many languages, including Alexander Lenard's Latin translation, Winnie ille Pu, which was first published in 1958, and, in 1960, became the only Latin book ever to have been featured on The New York Times Best Seller list.
In 1961, Walt Disney Productions licensed certain film and other rights of Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories from the estate of A. A. Milne and the licensing agent Stephen Slesinger.Inc. and adapted the Pooh stories, using the unhyphenated name "Winnie the Pooh", into a series of features that would eventually become one of its most successful franchises.
#3 Amelia Fang by Laura Ellen Anderson
Number three then...and this was one that I didn't know about, but it was highly recommended. And when I looked at it thought, yes! This has all the things inside a story map that as a young child I would have been completely absorbed by. Nocturnia - Laura Ellen Anderson. You could create a story from the map on its own really. Which I think perhaps is one of the main reasons why this collection is here, isn't it?
Welcome to the world of Nocturnia, where darkness reigns supreme, glitter is terrifying, and unicorns are the stuff of nightmares! Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin Squashy and her friends Florence the yeti (DON'T CALL HER BEAST!) and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents' annual Barbaric Ball.
And when the King’s spoiled son Tangine captures Squashy, Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue! In their race against time, they begin to realise things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem . . .
Join Amelia on her very first adventure. She won't bite!
Find out more about Laura Ellen Anderson here.
Nice to feature something more up to date. Something relatively new, but old. Pen and Ink though...my total favourite...
#2 Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley
Partly because of the popularity, partly because of the simplicity. The ink drawings, the black and whites, the simple maps, they're the ones that I feel drawn to. Number two, Milly, Molly, Mandy. Yes. Children's books written and illustrated by Joyce Lancaster. Again, not something I had read.
Each book has a number of short stories about the little girl in the pink-and-white striped dress. The length of each chapter is well matched to the needs of a bedtime story for children aged roughly five to eight.
Milly-Molly-Mandy's real name is Millicent Margaret Amanda, but she was given the nickname because her full name was considered too long. Her adventures are the everyday events of village life, running errands, going to school, making presents, fishing, picnicking, and so on. She lives in "the nice white cottage with the thatched roof" on the edge of a small village. Her parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle also live in the cottage. Her friends are Billy Blunt, a slightly older boy whose parents run the corner shop in town, and Little-Friend-Susan, who lives in the cottage down the road. Occasionally, the stories include other friends such as Miss Muggin’s niece Jilly, Bunchy, a slightly younger girl who First appears in Milly-Molly-Mandy gets a New Dress and Jessamine, a wealthy girl whose family often vacations at The House with the Iron Railings. The stories take place in south east England, and because of the proximity to the sea and downs, and the chalk roads in the village, they would appear to take place near to the south coast. There are map illustrations inside the front covers of each book, each differs slightly to signify the different events in the stories. When they take a trip to the seaside by train another illustration has white cliffs which would suggest Kent or Sussex, and is visually rather akin to Eastbourne.
The author was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, which is the next town east of Eastbourne. Both Bexhill and Eastbourne have railway stations. Milly-Molly-Mandy's village (possibly based on picturesque Alfriston or similar in East Sussex) does not have a railway station but she goes to a nearby town via pony and trap to take the train, these could be akin to Polegate, Berwick or Glynde which are close to Alfriston (if the author did base the stories on her own nearby area). The year is the late 1920s, given the state of inventions; cars are just spreading into general use but there are no telephones, household electricity or aeroplanes as a rule.
While acknowledging that the stories have been sometimes represented as twee and sentimental, Lucy Mangan, writing in The Guardian, describes them as delightful and comforting: "each story is a miniature masterpiece, as clear, warm and precise as the illustrations by the author that accompanied them"
#1 The Moomins by Tove Jansson
The Moomins, by Tove Jansson, a Finnish writer and illustrator who also did a translation of The Hobbit too. For me, when I looked at that map there's the simplicity, there's the characters that you can see inside the map, which is a bit of a bonus. You've got the pen and ink and just a lyrical, and beautiful creation. Something captured my imagination and transported me to where I was as, as a young child, exploring the map in detail. I saw these and thought, yeah, I'd be lost in that. It's personal to you. It's what takes you from where you were or are to that magical place.
The Moomins (Swedish: Mumin) are the central characters in a series of books and a comic strip by Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, originally published in Swedish by Schildts in Finland. They are a family of white, round fairy tale characters with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses. The family lives in their house in Moominvalley, though in the past, their temporary residences have included a lighthouse and a theatre. They have had many adventures along with their various friends.
There. Is. A. Moomin. Theme. Park.
Interestingly, out of those 32,000 interactions I found that #Edutwitter didnt agree with me.
By a long way, Hundred Acre Wood and Winnie-the-Pooh came out on top. It's the bear! That bear that neither Mark or I had as a favourite. I'm metaphorically making lots of noise. I'm running away quickly. But I have to admit, it's a classic, isn't it?
Do you know...it was great fun to explore these maps. BUT...
Are there any maps or books that we are missing?
How can we get past the unintended bias that comes with nostalgia?
What would an international exhibition of story maps look like?
Should some of these titles be removed, or banned?
How do our choices of books now, as educators, impact on our pupils?
There is a sense of magic in literary maps... you can just, you know, put your finger on them and perhaps go from point A to B and think, ah, okay. And then once you've read the story, you can go back and reevaluate it. Think of the magical compass, the North, South, East and West. It usually features in some sort of extravagantly styled frame or background, which again symbolises that kind of magic of travel: journeying and exploration. But we also tread carefully, as the imagination shifts, contexts can change. Maps can tell us a lot about how things were and don't always predict the future. After all, the best sort of life is a journey without maps. Isn't it?
Obviously most books don't have maps per se, but we did argue and discuss whether maybe any piece of fiction could have a map to go with it, just to build on that overriding story really. Maps are special and any journey of note used to be done with the map in the glove box. Thinking back to the Lake District - you'd have the old Mitchelin map out with all the marks on it and the grid references. They were just fascinating things.
“It’s funny about paths and rivers,” he mused. “You see them go by, and suddenly you feel upset and want to be somewhere else – wherever the path or the river is going, perhaps.”
– Sniff (Comet In Moominland)