From Here to There
Why are there maps in storybooks?
I wanted a map of Farther Along Farm to be in Miss Missy’s School so you’d have a sense of where places are in relation to one another. When you read that Bebe was lost, and found splashing in the Creek, you can see how far away she was from the little Cottage where she lives with Caroline, Jordan, and Gilbert.
When you read about waking the owl when you go for a walk in the Pine Forest on a cold winter’s day, you can see how far off the forest is from the houses and roads where the people usually are. And you can imagine how quiet it must be in the forest.
And you can see what a long way it is that Bebe and Little Tommy have to run to go swimming in the Lake!
Probably one of the most famous maps in children’s literature is the map of Middle-Earth in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The only maps of Middle-Earth, besides his own and his son, Christopher’s, that Tolkien approved of were the ones drawn by Pauline Bayes. She used the Tolkien’s maps as her model, and added her own embellishments. You can get her maps as posters to hang on your wall!
Tolkien drew maps of Middle-Earth, and detailed maps of the numerous locales within Middle-Earth, before he started writing the books. He’s not alone in beginning a story this way. Why might writers begin working on their stories by drawing maps?
One reason may be to bring the pictures in their minds’ eyes out of their heads and onto paper. That lets them “see” how scenes unfold– how the characters get from here to there. It also helps writers see where things go wrong.
To think of an example of how maps help writers see something wrong in the plot, look back at the map of Farther Along Farm. Suppose in the scene where baby Bebe runs away, I had written, “Bebe was frightened by a loud noice and ran off into the Pine Forest.” But then later, I wrote that Caroline found Bebe splashing in the Creek. That confusing for the reader. The Creek and the Pine Forest are in opposite directions!
This would be a fun thing for you to try. In your head, begin thinking about a pretend world. Imagine what your pretend world looks like from a bird’s eye view. Your world can have places where dragons or mice or polar bears live, or it can just be a pretend bedroom or house. Now draw a picture– a map– of your imaginary world.
I bet by the time you are done drawing your map, you will already be starting to think of a story that takes place in your imaginary world. Write your story! As you are writing, you can change things on the map if they don’t fit your story, and you can change your story if it doesn’t fit the map.
I can’t tell you too much about it yet, but in the third Miss Missy’s School book there’s going to be a very important map! Stay tuned!