Peter Pan, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—before you start protesting impatiently that the children have read the books listed, pause a while. Barbara Gulbrandsen Hennessy has not rewritten the famous classics. This is an entirely different viewpoint and The Once Upon a Time Map Book is just what it says. A map.
The Once Upon a Time Map Book: By Barbara Gulbrandsen Hennessy, illustrated by Peter Joyce, Walker Books and subsidiaries, 20 pages, Rs350 (hardcover).
Six all-time favourite stories and enchanted lands, and I can give you half-a-dozen good reasons why this is a tour your child should not miss. Hennessy starts off directly assuming that those who have opened The Once Upon a Time Map Book know their fairy tales. The book begins with a tour of Neverland with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. The author helpfully identifies points of interest such as the Jolly Roger, the pirates’ ship, Wendy’s House and Peter’s Hideout (where Captain Hook can’t touch him). From an activity-based viewpoint, Treasure Island has nothing on The Once Upon a Time Map Book.
Sample this. Moor your boat at Mermaid Cove, go the directions. At Crocodile Swamp follow the path east. Go around the swamp and use the stepping stones to cross the bog at Pirate River. Giving you company are Peter and Tinkerbell.
If it is Arabian tales that you prefer, there is the Genie’s tour of Aladdin’s Kingdom. Accompany the Genie as he informs you about important “classified info” such as the difference between a Wishing Well and a Water Well. Just tie your camel at the outside gates and follow the directions given. You could be asked to find the flying carpet or even Ali Baba and his 40 thieves.
The book is visually stunning too. It is a treasure trove of six beautifully executed double-spreads. Poring over maps was never so much fun. Boys and girls alike will love ferreting out the secrets that these plans hold—complete with coordinates that are plotted very simply. Sliding down to the Field of Bones in Jack and the Beanstalk, following the Yellow Brick Road to Munchkin in the Land of Oz, or picking your way through the miner’s trail in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are some of the challenges that beckon.
Each map has grids with letters and numbers to help zero in on the location. A compass on each page makes it easy to identify north, south, east and west. There is a key that identifies local routes and local distances (2 dwarf miles, 20 genie steps—you get the idea). Each story has a treasure hunt built into the exploration.
Hennessy has always maintained that she has never been very good at reading maps, but has always liked maps with little pictures on them. “I thought that putting together a book of maps of really interesting places would be fun. That is the idea behind The Once Upon a Time Map Book,” she writes on her website.
As it turns out, that was a brilliant idea that lingers long after the book is over.
The writer is the editor of Heek, a children’s magazine.
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