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Friday, September 27, 2013

Henry's Map, written and illustrated by David Elliot. Philomel, Penguin. 2013. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"All the animals looked at the farm. Then they looked at the map. And then they looked at the farm again. "But we're not there, " bleated the sheep. "We're gone," whinnied Mr. Brown. "Oh, no!" mooed Abigail. "Where did we go?" squawked the chickens. Henry looked out at the empty farm. There was no sign of the animals from his map."

Henry is such an inviting presence on the front cover...smiling, confident, industrious. He seems sure to make a good impression. And, he does!

Henry loves order (I have friends just like him), and he likes to have every little thing in its place. He loves his perpetually perfect pigsty, but is not delighted with the state of clutter he notices in the farmyard itself.

So, Henry decides that a map might be the answer. He sets out to take stock of the places and the animals found there. As he journeys past the woolshed, the tree, the stable and the chicken coop, the rest of the animals accompany him and watch his draw a child-like map of everything he sees. When the map is complete, they find a place where they can get a birds'-eye view of what Henry has just created. At the top of a nearby hill, they see everything that Henry has mapped. Horrors...the most important elements are missing!

Off they go to set things straight...with the help of Henry's map!

David Elliot has created an illustrated book that will delight readers and give them a sense of what happens when text and visual content are a just right match. He has a real sense of timing, and of conversation for little ones. He tells his tale without a single word more that is needed. He creates animal characters who have appeal and personality. He gives his young readers the opportunity to be one step ahead of the animals as they are baffled by what the map is missing. While Henry remains serious throughout, the lambs are a perfect foil for that. Enjoy!

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