July 22nd 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Alton has had a life-long fascination with maps of all kind. He loves to look at them, hang them in his room, and draw them. He draws maps not only of real places, but of things like his teacher Miss Wheeling's mind, the heights of kids in his class, and charts of the cafeteria food correlated with the number of bathroom trips students make! After Alton tries to impress "cool kid" Quint by showing him the map of Miss Wheeling, the whole folder goes missing. Thinking that Quint has probably taken it, Alton rides his bike to Quint's house, and the two start to investigate. Fearing that people will hate him for all of his funny but unflattering comments after someone sends him a ransom note of sorts concerning the maps, Alton apologizes to a teacher whose use of "um" he has charted-- and she finds the chart amusing. Buoyed by this, Alton proceeds to apologize to everyone, so he doesn't have to worry about the maps resurfacing. In the process, he makes friends with Quint and gets along better with his classmates.
Strengths: Fun tale of making friends and facing the consequences of our actions. There are always a number of younger readers, especially boys, who love maps. Clements is a tiny bit young for middle school, but a great choice for struggling readers at this level.
Weaknesses: Quint's vocal tics were odd enough without Alton pointing them out multiple times, and the illustrations have an odd, 1980s quality to them.
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.
Yearly Status Update/Rant:
We have been back at school for a week now. I love the start of the year! So much energy and enthusiasm, especially since I've convinced my principal to let me rename the library the Portal to Other Dimensions and to call myself the Portal
One reason that I need some stress relief is that at the beginning of June, both of my parents (who are 80) went from being in reasonably good health and living alone in a four bedroom house, to being in poor physical and mental health and living in a senior community, with my mother, who has had Parkinson's for a number of years, in assisted living. The downsizing and transfer took some considerable time.
Most years, this would not bother me, but this year, it's hard. Reading books like The Map Trap can be difficult, since I once had a student who not only adored Andrew Clements' books but who also was very fond of maps, competing in the Geography Bee and translating this love into global traveling. Like so many other students, he is no longer at my school or in my life, but the books that he checked out still are on the shelves and I come across them daily.
Long time readers may be reassured that I and my family are fine, as we are embracing this philosophy every single day: “Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!