The Once Upon a Time Map Book, by B.G. Hennessey and Peter Joyce, has quickly become a favorite in our home. My four-year-old, being a big fan of maps, from United States puzzles to the Rand McNally road atlas, loves this book and stubbornly guards it from being returned to the library. But The Once Upon a Time Map Book book will appeal to children who aren't necessarily map enthusiasts; The characters spring from familiar tales, and their home lands bloom with magic, humor, and even a few interesting things to hunt for during the guided tour--something that will delight kids who have an eye for detail and enjoy series like I Spy and Where's Waldo.
The book takes the reader on a tour of six magical storybook lands: Neverland, The Land of Oz, Wonderland, the Giant's Kingdom (Jack and the bean stalk), Aladdin's Kingdom, and the Enchanted Forest (Snow White). Following the instructions and tracing paths with your finger across the pages, you will trek North, South, Southeast, West, and all around these imaginary places; Over footbridges, beneath tree-canopied tunnels, across dangerous rivers, through an Indian camp, and up towering hills and peaks. To aid your journey, each land has a grid, a key (where distance is measured in "one giant step" or "50 white rabbit hops"), and a compass.
Joyce's illustrations are (to my best guess) rendered in ink and watercolor, given detail and rich color that bring them to life as magical, enchanted kingdoms--even on this very small scale. The illustrations pull you in, as each is like looking down on a miniature replica of the classic fairy tales from which they were drawn. The Once Upon a Time Map Book is similar to the Where's Waldo series, where two-page spreads are populated by miniature people--and in this case fairies, munchkins, dwarves).
Like Scrambled States of America, this is another book that stands on its own as a fun read, but sneaks in a little bit of teaching on the sly. The book is more interactive than most, and a good introduction to following instructions, learning directions (N, W, S, E), and, well--reading a map!