Maps of My Emotions by Bimba Landmann

Maps of My Emotions by Bimba Landmann. SchifferKids, c2019, 2021. 9780764362217

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5

Format: Hardcover, oversized graphic novel

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book?  Utilizing the graphic novel format, this unusual book wordlessly charts the journey of a young boy who cues as White through a fantasy world of both lovely and terrifying scenes. Starting in the Lands of Hope (a pleasant place of greens and blues, flowers and a castle) the boy finds a gray forest, with slightly creepy vines. When one vine unfurls, he’s gained a companion, a cute tiny fox. As the trip progresses, the landscape grows ominous and reds and browns dominate as the pair visits the Region of Fear and the Grounds of Disgust. Each new world is shown first in a large, labeled map, followed by a page or two of small panels which advance the adventure. Things start to look up when the pair reaches the Realm of Wonder (where they meet a beautiful, golden-haired princess who turns out to be the fox’s long-lost owner) but then rapidly deteriorate as the boy travels through the Territories of Jealousy, fretting over the fox’s loss. A happy ending awaits all three creatures on the Island of Love. The fanciful and detailed illustrations are certainly unusual and worth lingering over. I did like that the illustrations (done in watercolor) had a naive look that gave the whole work a handmade feel, almost like I was leafing through a highly accomplished friend’s sketchpad.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I’m not sure who the target audience for this book is. Although the characters can be “read” as strictly archetypal, they are curiously flat and devoid of personality. The simplicity of the wordless format contrasts oddly with the very high level vocabulary used in creating the map labels (“The Invisible Island of Restraint”, “Tact, the Submerged City”, or “Forest of Inconsolable Eyes”). 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Emo teens and art students may find this book of interest. I can also see it being helpful in a bibliotherapy setting, so perhaps those in the mental health field could use it as a conversation starter. Maps of fanciful places are a niche area with devoted accolades; students who enjoy pouring over imaginary atlases may enjoy browsing in this psychological kingdom.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Graphic novels? Seems like this is where potential readers would be most likely to find it.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: January 25, 2022

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