Archipelago: An Atlas of Imagined Islands by Huw Lewis-Jones

In my last blog post, I wrote about how much I love maps and books with maps. Cleaning the bookshelves at home a few weeks later I found my copy of Lyra’s Oxford by Phillip Pullman with its wonderful fold out map of Oxford.  How could I have forgotten it?! It is not just the story that fascinates but the tactile experience of the paper and the folding of the map.

This year is the 300th anniversary of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and to celebrate this wonderful story, Huw Lewis-Jones invited 70 international illustrators to draw an imaginary island and to provide some information about it.  And what a range of wonderful, fantastical, intriguing and sometimes internal maps we have.

If it is familiar illustrators that you are looking for there is Nick Sharratt’s Zungeland based on a mouth


with the wonderful introduction

Here is a map to whet your appetite.

There is also William Grill’s Anima and Kate Hindley’s Aves. But of equal interest are all the illustrators I don’t know. I love the island of Xlibris by Kevin Cannon with its Rare Signed First Edition Mountain, the archipelago of obscure graphic novel subgenres and the “I’m only going to buy one book” Bay. It is an island that I know very well!  Sam Usher’s island Cordaxia is his desk where he works and it has everything he needs including a picnic spot.

Several maps have an eco theme. A very timely set of islands are the  Sagan Islands by Lorna Scobie.  This is the last Ark-ipelago or outpost for wildlife on our planet named after Carl Sagan. There is also the island of Honey by Lucy Dalzell providing everything that a bee could need.

To see more maps and text,Thames and Hudson have an extract from the book including maps here and by using  #Imagined Islands you can see more of the illustrators and the maps. This is a beautiful book, not just to look at but also to handle.

So how could this book be used in school?

  • Children can draw and write about their own imaginary island.  The writing in the book is strong and provides many models for children.  Mattias Adolfson’s writing has a promotional element. Diego Becas has written in diary form, Edward Carey has included notes from Captain Jeremiah Percival Cosgrave’s notebooks followed by a couple of information paragraphs. Lorna Scobie’s text about the Sagan Islands is persuasive and reads just like the writing in a tourist leaflet.
  • Individual maps provide other avenues of exploration.  Alna Bestard’s island Danseuse is created out of works of art which would make a great art project.
  • Several of the maps draw on ideas from Robinson Crusoe and it would make an interesting project to read the story of Crusoe and then make links with the related islands.  Children could then work from a book being used by the whole class and base their maps on ideas, concrete or abstract.  This might be more of an idea for KS3.
  • Coralie Bicford-Smith’s island of Mihi is drawn from the unchartered territory and wild lands of her mind where she seeks inspiration and the energy to create. It would be very interesting to explore this map to discuss how do the seasons inspire us, what about books and to eventually draw a map of their own inspirations for writing. Burin by John Lawrence could also be used in a similar way.
  • Honey by Lucy Dalzell provides a wonderful model for exploring endangered animals by creating the ideal island for them and then writing a report about the animal/insect etc.
  • Another art project might focus on the different styles of the illustrators.  Children could be challenged to draw their map in the style of …
  • Kardia – a map of the heart by Elisa Paganelli. What is in your heart?

This is a fantastic book and is most definitely a text that teaches for Yrs5 and 6.

Because I do live on the island of Xlibris, I was sidetracked by another book by Lewis-Jones –  The Sea Journal: Seafarers’ Sketchbook. I’ll let you know what it is like. If you like books like An Atlas of Imagined Islands you might also like A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popover. Here Popova asked authors to write a postcard to a younger reader about reading and what it means to them.

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