The last clue of my Wind in the Willows knit-a-long shawl was released today. And this afternoon I read the last words of the beautiful story. I didn’t plan to finish the book on the same day that the knit-a-long was also completed, but it was a happy coincidence. I’m still on the third clue of the shawl, so I’ll be able to enjoy the Wild Wood and the River for quite some time. Speaking of the Wild Wood, would you like to know one of the quickest ways to determine if a book is worth reading? I look for this as a litmus test.
All of the most excellent books I have read come complete with a map on inside cover. If there’s a map, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands and in for a good read. I say this lightly, but I think it’s fairly true – at least it has been in my experience – and you may feel free to tell me about yours. This map comes from the cover of Wind in the Willows. It is most beautiful and I appreciate how the river is central to the landscape on the map, in much the same way as it is a key character in the book. This got me thinking about the importance of having a map included with a story and why so many books I love have this feature.
Firstly, it reveals something about the author. A person who goes to the trouble of creating a map is into details – the story is likely to be well-developed, the narrative rich and revealing, and the author most likely has a point. Another reason I think the inclusion of a map is characteristic of great works of literature is that it establishes an immediate sense of place. The story is rooted in geography and as the story and characters move through a landscape, it carries the weight of reality regardless of whether the story is fact or fantasy. The presence of a map signals that you are not just reading a story, you are to be intimately engaged with the story. You understand that the map is there to guide your experience in the story and to establish your place in the world of your reading. And that I think, is the reason I love having maps in my books so much. I view it as an invitation from the author to enter the world between the pages and to find a home in the story. Consequently, when the tale is told and done I find that it has found a home in me.
Blessings to you,