Uri Shulevitz's recent picture book, "How I Learned Geography," is a complex book.  Shulevitz tells, in picture book form, about his own life story.  In the actual book, he keeps the narrative on a level that even the youngest readers or listeners could understand.  His illustrations of his family leaving their war-torn home, arriving in a dusty new village, and living in relative poverty clearly show how large a disruption this move has been for young Uri.  Wonderful too are the images of Uri staring at the large map that his father buys one day, a day that the family had to go hungry as a result.  In the process, Uri develops his imagination and, as the title suggests, his love of geography.

For adults and older children, the most powerful part of the story is both the ending and the author's note.  Here we learn that Shulevitz's family fled Poland ahead of the Nazis, escaping to Turkestan, deep in the Soviet Union.  The photograph of the author in his youth, his copy of part of that map, and his drawing from his teen years (which he adapts for this picture book) are in some ways a stronger story. 

While in some ways I find the author's note most compelling, I am not the primary audience.  Children would love how the story and pictures show how someone can use imaginative play to achieve adult goals.  I would choose also read the author's note for older children at my school, given that our students are well aware of the Holocaust and would understand what Shulevitz was escaping.  (I am a librarian at a Jewish Day School.)  But one could easily omit this part for the youngest children, without losing the lovely, gentle story of how adversity can be buffered with dreams and hopes.