Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: Mapping the World, a Geography Resource

This week, I added another geography book to our reading schedule: Sylvia A. Johnson's Mapping the World. Both a history of cartography and a a look at modern cartography, this book offers an excellent opportunity to delve deeper into your geography studies.

Typically, mapwork is relegated as an add-on to history or literary studies, and there's nothing inherently wrong with this approach. However, children's understanding of maps -- their historical significance, the way they've changed over the centuries, different types of maps, and emerging mapping techniques -- adds a rich element to their understanding of the world, past and present.

More than a mere history of cartography, Mapping the World is also a history resource. Did you know, for example, that German mapmaker Martin Waldseemuller, whose 1507 map of the New World featured the word America to honor Amerigo Vespucci, later regretted that he didn't select Columbus's name? Neither did I.

I also enjoyed learning about modern cartography, such as Landsat, ocean floor mapping, and maps of other planets, such as Venus. A short chapter on cartographical technology gives a glimpse of how today's mapmakers study climate and population. And if you find this books has awakened interest in a budding cartographer in your family, Johnson suggests other books for further study.

Mapping the World is in picture-book format, which is appropriate, since it offers a wealth of illustrations and photography. But this is not a book for the very young. Johnson's informative and engaging text presents the material in a style suitable for older children, from middle-grade children through high schoolers, even adults. Amazon suggests age 8 and up, but this book would be challenging for most eight-year-olds to read independently.

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