Blog Page

After many requests…

from Indiana educators about literature connections to the Social Studies, specifically, Geography, GENI begins a Geography Book Blog.  We hope that you will enjoy the monthly or bi-monthly options that are chosen from many hundreds of suggestions.  Through each month/bi-monthly selections, one book will focus on high school and adult readers, while another book will focus on primary/elementary/middle school readers.  Please, make resource connection suggestions or alternative book suggestions.  Remember, that young people may be reading your comments; so, please, make the language appropriate.  THANK YOU and ENJOY!!


Journeys for Freedom

Journeys for Freedom by Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock

“An African American couple travels north, risking death. A ten-year-old boy walks 2,000 miles to find a place to worship freely.  A Chinese man works thousands of miles away from his beloved family.  A Nez Perce woman flees her homeland, pursued by soldiers.  What led these people to make such dangerous journeys?  What is it about freedom that drives ordinary people to do such extraordinary things?”

Journeys for Freedom by Susan and Elspeth Leacock takes the reader on a look at time and place through twenty real life struggles of people and groups moving and traveling to change their lives for the better.  Both history and geography this book includes delightful maps of each journey along with facts, illustrations and the journey that is taken. Among the adventures are those of Roger Williams, the courage of America’s freedom walkers in the 1960’s, Jewish flight from Nazi occupied Europe and the relocation of Native American tribes.  Students will love following each of these twenty journeys on the maps while hearing the moving stories that accompany them.  There is something for all ages in the pages of this delightful book.

If you like this you might also enjoy:

Places In Tie: A New Atlas of American History by Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock

The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong

Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling


Activities for students

  • Have students make a map of their travels during a single day.
  • Research other historical people and record the journey of their life.  Then map this journey.
  • Study the immigration patterns of you town.
  • Interview a person in the family or community to find out where they have lived and why they chose to live where they do.


Things to consider:

  • For what reasons do people move?
  • How is movement and freedom part of geography?
  • What hardships do people make when moving to a new place?
  • What would you take and what would you leave behind in order to be free?
  • How does immigration and movements affect the images of a map?

Other Suggested Books

Recommended Reading for all ages

Book Review
My Town, by Rebecca Treays; Education Development Corporation, 1998. WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder



 This is a great read for younger students! Learn about reading a map: birds-eye view, map perspectives, small space to larger spaces, map symbols, legends and much more.  A fun book to keep around the house or classroom if primary, middle (or even middle) aged students are around.  

The Floating House

“Look,” Mary cried.  “The river’s yawning!” 

Scott Russell Sanders’ picture book The Floating House follows the McClure family as they move from Pittsburgh to Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1815.  The book’s delightful text and drawings gives young children an image of what life was like in rural America almost 200 years ago.  Readers are given insights into the importance of rivers and good old fashioned determination and hard work to make a life worth living in the early wilderness of the Midwest.

Things to discuss and do with students:

  • How is your life different than the life of the McClure family?
  • Why did the McClure family move?
  • What things in nature did the McClure family see on their trip?

If your students liked this they might also like:

  • Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
  • The Raft by Jim LaMarche
  • The Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall

Author’s Web Site:

Ohio River information:

Falls of the Ohio State Park:

Lesson Plans:

Where Am I Wearing

Where Am I Wearing
By Kelsey Timmerman

Muncie resident Kelsey Timmerman has written an entertaining and insightful book about global economics and geography entitled Where Am I Wearing.  The book chronicles his journey to learn more about his clothes… where they came from and who made them.  Kelsey’s journey took him to Honduras to visit the garment worker who inspired the book.  He visited Bangladesh in search of his underwear’s roots.  He traveled to Cambodia to learn about his blue jeans. He trekked to China to discover the story behind his flip-flops. He visits the birthplace of his American made t-shirt. Along the way he shares the stories of people and factories, explores child labor and its impact on local and global economies and tells the touching stories of those who made his clothing. Students reading this will gain a deeper insight to how they are connected to the world through decisions they make every day and will learn that they can impact the world in small ways.  The book is appropriate for well-read middle school students through adult readers/learners.


Discussion Questions:

  • How did Kelsey overcome the difficulties of visiting foreign factories?
  • Americans have often protested child labor overseas.  How do these protests impact the people working in these factories?  How do these protests impact the economies in these places?
  • Which workers made the biggest impression on you and why? 
  • How had the lives of the workers Kelsey visited change? 
  • What is globalization?  How does it affect your life? 
  • How can you be a more engaged citizen?



  • Have students look at their clothing and identify all the things needed to make that clothing.  Map where their clothing comes from. Gather similar data from students throughout the school.  Create a graph; map; explore why the countries producing the most items are doing so.
  • Have students create a product and determine how and where it should be made.  Chart the steps of production from the beginning to the time it is sold. 
  • Make a timeline showing the evolution of a garment produced over the past 100-200 years.
  • Visit a factory or business in your community to learn how a product is made.  Have students interview a worker to learn about their job and how it affects his or her lifestyle.


Additional Information:

National Geographic Society: (offers interactive and service learning suggestions)

Johnstown Flood

Johnstown prior to the flood.  Image courtesy of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association

“Most of the people in Johnstown never saw the water coming; they only heard it, and those that lived to tell about it would for years after try to describe the sound of the thing as it rushed on them”

                                                Johnstown after the flood.  What  landscape changes between the two photographs do you notice?  Image courtesy of the  Johnstown Area Heritage Association

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough is a riveting account of the 1889 Johnstown Flood.  McCullough takes the reader through the days and weeks leading up to the massive flood that killed over 2000 people and leveled the Pennsylvania City. This work of nonfiction culminates with the actual flood that was spurred by a dam break that resulted in a miles long tidal wave.  Who or what was to blame?  Students will enjoy debating this question as well as exploring the environmental factors that caused such a horrific disaster.

Things to consider:                                                                                         

  • Who was responsible for the flood?  Whose side are you on?
  • How could the disaster been averted?
  • Why did some people survive while others did not?
  • What role did the railroad play?
  • How was the physical geography of the region changed by the flood?
  • What impact did technology play in the geography of the region?
  • What lessons can be learned from the Johnstown flood of 1889?
  • How did communications affect the outcome of the flood?

Image courtesy of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association


  • 96 entire families died
  • 1600 homes were destroyed
  • Over 2200 people lost their lives
  • The flood debris covered 30 acres
  • The flood wave was over 35 feet high and traveled at about 40 miles per hour.
  • Flood lines were found as high as 80 plus feet above river level
  • The flood was the first peacetime disaster relief effort done by the Red Cross and was headed up by Clara Barton
  • The source of the flood contained 20 million tons of water


Johnstown Flood National Memorial:

Johnstown Flood Museum: 

New York Times accounts of the flood:


If you like The Johnstown Flood you might like:

  • Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson
  • The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

Related books:

  • Images of America:  Johnstown by Lyndee Jobe Henderson and R. Dean Jobe (photos, documents, and imagery collection with descriptions)
  • We the People, The Johnstown Flood by Marc Tyler Nobleman (for elementary readers)

How To Make Apple Pie and See The World

How To Make Apple Pie and See The World
By Marjorie Priceman


“French chickens lay elegant eggs”

Ever wanted to eat something really delicious? Have you ever wanted to make an apple pie? Most of us would get the ingredients at the grocery store, but what if the grocery store was closed? How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World explores interdependence through what is needed to make an apple pie. Students will travel to France, Italy, Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica, and the United States to find out how we depend on other people and places to make something very common, an apple pie. Young children will enjoy the colorful and busy illustrations as the world becomes a grocery store


Things to discuss

  •  At the end of the book what is missing? Make a list of places you would need to go to obtain the ingredients needed to make this missing item. 
  • Trace the places visited in the book and locate them on a map. Start with the map in the book. Although it is a basic map, it works well utilizing the vertical and horizontal lines to create grids (A-Z vertical lines; 1-15 horizontal lines). In this way, students gain a comfort level with finding intersecting points and places (like latitude and longitude). 
  • If you could only get the ingredients to make an apple pie locally where would you get them?
  • Have student identify and describe the different varieties of apples. Find out where they are grown and locate these places on a map.
  • Collect recipes from around the world that use apples


Additional Resources

A lesson plan using this book can be found at the GENI website under Lesson Plans. The address is The Geo-Literacy Coalition sponsors the annual Geographic Awareness Week. This past year’s theme was “Declare Your Interdependence”. More ideas and classroom materials visit the GAW website at


If your students liked this book they might also like:

How to Make A Cherry Pie and See the USA by Marjorie Priceman

The Tortilla Factory by Gary Paulson



By Ken Jennings


There must be something innate about maps, about this one specific way of picturing our world and our relation to it, that calls to us, won’t let us look anywhere else

in the room if there’s a map on the wall.”


In twelve entertaining chapter Ken Jennings (from Jeopardy fame) takes readers on a grand tour of the world of maps. Learn about the inner workings of the Library of Congress and the largest collection of maps housed there.  Explore the world of geocaching and the secrets of little canisters while Jennings seeks to be a first finder.  Follow the National Geographic Bee as tense students and parents compete to be the most geographically informed student in the country.  Learn about the chase of the road rally while sitting on your couch. Visit a map flea market and learn what makes for a valuable find. Learn how Google and technology have changed the world of maps. Take Jenning’s “Are you a maphead?” quiz. Included in the book is a reading group guide and discussion questions. There’s something for everyone in this book and If you love maps you will love the strange  world behind maps and globes that Jennings explores.


Ideas for the Classroom

  • Create a list of cities and have the students create the shortest route to take in order to visit each city.
  • Create a systematic travel list for your city, county or state.
  • Turn a map upside down and have students discuss how it changes their perspective.
  • Have students work together to create a fictional country and then create a map of that country.


Things to consider:

  • Why are maps important to the field of Geography?
  • What is spatial thinking?
  • How can we combat geographic illiteracy?
  • How is national identity connected to place names?
  • How is technology changing the way we think geographically?
    How do maps enhance our reading of books?
  • Why do you think we don’t honor the field of geography and mapmaking?
  • What are the tools of a geographer?


If you like Mapheads you might want to check out:

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities by Frank Jacobs

On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield


Listen to an interview with Ken Jennings at