Great Books
We believe in the power of story.
In our Great Books column, you’ll find suggested titles for preschool, elementary, and secondary students—along with a book synopsis, why you’ll want to read it, discussion questions, and related books.
“When you read a book, you are in a mind-to-mind encounter with its author, whether he lived 1000 years ago or lives today. This is the wonder of real books—all kinds of books, not only the serious and factual. Your mind grows through these encounters.”
—Dr. Ruth Beechick
Middle/High School
Finding Our Way
The Island of Lost Maps book cover
Book Description:
This book is a delightful, intriguing, informative story about maps. I understand the importance of GPS units, but I love maps and seeing the whole route, not just the next turn. This book’s great surprise is that the author describes how the history of maps is the history of all that is important. From maps of spice routes to gold mines to beaver havens, maps gave their owners power. The first libraries were carefully guarded map repositories. The Portuguese ruled the seas because they had maps. A Portuguese ship captain forfeited his life if he lost, sold, or allowed someone to see the maps by which he navigated. Columbus, historians agree, navigated to the New World with at least one stolen map.
Open book of the island of lost maps
Why You Will Want To Read This Book:
The book operates on three levels. First is the author’s quest to understand one of our decade’s greatest (or worst) thieves, a man who stole ancient maps from research libraries. The second is the author’s history of mapmaking, books, and collecting. The third level is the author’s own thoughts on what he was learning about his own quests and searches.

Readers will learn about character qualities such as diligence, hard work, perseverance, clarity of thought, appreciation, and insight as the characters face challenges throughout the book. Great books like this one give you the perfect opportunity to talk about these traits with your pre-teens and teens.

Discussion Questions:
When are maps important? Do you still use maps or a GPS? How hard is it to navigate without a map? How frequently do you hear “map words” in discussions? What are some of these words? What character traits did you notice in this book? What is one characteristic you would want to develop more in your own life?
More Books Like This:
If this book sparked an interest in maps and cartography, check out Great Maps: The World’s Masterpieces Explored and Explained by Jerry Brotton. The companion book to it, Great City Maps: A Historical Journey Through Maps, Plans, and Paintings, focuses on cities around the world, making it a perfect companion to world geography studies. Both books are published by DK Smithsonian.
hands holding phone with Autumn Activity Guide displayed
Activity Guide typography
For fun, hands-on activities for each of the Great Books, check out our Autumn Activity Guide! …>
hands holding phone with Autumn Activity Guide displayed