Last month I reviewed a book produced by Spanish publisher Cuento de Luz, which exclusively uses stone paper, a paper made without bleach or wood pulp. Today we return to Cuento de Luz’s innovative books in The Map of Good Memories. Written by Spanish author Fran Nuño and illustrated by Poland born artist Zuzanna Celej, this book particularly stands out because of its sensitive and age appropriate portrayal of forced displacement. According to the International Rescue Committee, there are nearly 80 million forcibly displaced people around the world, a number that has almost doubled in the last decade. The Map of Good Memories is both a window and a mirror that all children should experience.
Zoe has lived in the city all her life, but because of the war, she and her family are leaving the country to go to another. The night before she leaves, she spreads out a map of her city and marks all the places that have been important to her in her ten years of life. She marks where her house is, followed by her school. These are followed by the library and the bookstore, whose employees “introduced her to books that filled her with all different kinds of emotions.”
Zoe keeps marking her map of the city, and then decides to connect the dots with a red pencil, curious to see what shape all her good memories would make. She steps back, and cannot believe her eyes: there is her name, Zoe, in looping red letters. It seems she had made her own mark on the city, one to which she is certain she’ll return.
The Map of Good Memories has a timeless quality; it is not set in a specific place, nor is there mention of which war precipitates Zoe and her family’s move. It is appropriate for even younger children in preschool, as the highly approachable text is broken up by the book’s two-page illustrated spreads. My favorite spread is the city map on which Zoe traces her good moments. I enjoyed finding the places explicitly named by Zoe in the text, as well as others, such as Grandma’s House, Daddy’s Office, and even the Supermarket.
Because of its sensitive portrayal of the reality of war and how it displaces people from their homes, and in particular its focus on Zoe’s happy memories, I would not hesitate to recommend this book for a library or classroom story time. In the classroom, it can be used for units on immigration, refugees, or even mapmaking. Students can draw their own maps of good memories, drawing the places they love.
Available in English (translated by Jon Brokenbrow), the original Spanish, and Arabic, The Map of Good Memories deserves a place in both public and school libraries.
Written by Fran Nuño
Illustrated by Zuzanna Celej
Translated from Spanish by Jon Brokenbrow
Cuento de Luz, 2016
Reviews: School Library Journal
Klem-Marí Cajigas has been with Nashville Public Library since 2012, after more than a decade of academic training in Religious Studies and Ministry. As the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life!, Nashville Public Library’s award-winning early literacy outreach program, she delivers family literacy workshops to a diverse range of local communities. Born in Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí is bilingual, bicultural, and proudly Boricua.