“ Brand: Maps International / Misc House Type: Wall Map „
~ My life of maps ~
Most people claim to remember lots about their very early childhood. I feel a bit deficient in that respect because I remember very little from before the age of four and a half. The memory I identify as my earliest is perhaps intrinsically tied up in what I've become as an adult. That first memory is of Christmas when I must have been three and three quarters and I got a globe. I don't have kids and I'm not sure at what age a globe might normally be considered as a suitable gift, but it does strike me that my parents (or whoever gave it to me) were pretty ambitious in quite literally giving me 'the world' at such a young age. I remember no other presents - just the globe - and it was a proper one, not a toddler cut-down version. All the proper countries were on there and I was fascinated.
Today I'm more inclined to flat expressions of geography. Our staircase is decorated with antique maps dating back to the early 17th century - some would stand up to 21st century scrutiny, others such as the map of the Isle of Wight where there's a river right through the island from top to bottom, just show that cartographers didn't always get it right. I bought the massive wall maps that decorated the offices of my last but one employer. Give me an atlas and I'm happy for hours at a time. I have a degree in Geology and a PhD in geochemistry - so the world is my friend and I know it well. I'm pretty hot at geography - I could always get that piece of pie in Trivial Pursuit, and thanks to spending too much time playing geography quizzes on the wonderful site www.sporcle.com, I can confidently identify all the countries of Africa and South America, most of Europe and all bar a few little island-y bits in Asia Pacific. In short, there's probably not another woman alive who's less in need of a map of the world than me.
~ Points mean Prizes!~
It was no great surprise that my prize from Maps International who sponsored a travel-themed competition on dooyoo back in January should turn out to be a map. Not just a map - it's a World Wall Map for Children. And of course I have no children and if I did, I'd give them a proper no holds barred, no artificially simplification grown up map. They were going to have to really go some to impress me. Perhaps it wasn't quite so tough a challenge as that faced by the publishing company who sent a prize book about allotment gardening to an inner-city flat dweller or a book of photos of animals having sex to another 'winner' but still I would consider myself a tough person to impress with a map.
Do I sound ungrateful? I guess I do but my reactions on receiving a long tube in the post were along the lines of 'Oh boy, another map of the world, I wonder which cupboard this will fit in'. I have several in the cupboard that never made it onto the wall but strangely enough I think this one might just get out of its tube and onto the large expanse of dreary magnolia behind my computer monitor. It's actually rather more fun than I expected. When I first figured out how to get the thing out of the tube and unrolled it on the bed I was struck by how 'basic' it looked because I didn't realise it was supposed to be for children. I like topographical maps where I can follow the mountain chains and deep ocean trenches. I like highly political maps, stuffed with as many place names as possibles. I long to be stopped on the street and be quizzed about the capital of Uruguay or the population of Buenos Aires. I'm a geography anorak! But this is 'world light'. Strangely though, that might not be such a bad thing.
~ Unroll and dive in ~
The projection is one of those 'curvy edged' ones - not so extreme as the orange peel projections but more realistic than the 'sphere as an oblong' that's most common. Kids should get the sense from this that the world might actually be round. The map is labelled as a 'political' map of the world but it's not entirely so. There is some lightly shaded topographic marking and the tallest mountains and major rivers and a few other notable features are picked out. In each country we get the name of the country, the name of the capital city and - where appropriate and where there's space - other bits and bobs. Country boundaries and continental boundaries are also picked out.
I was worried that it might sacrifice too much detail in the interests of simplicity but it's not too bad. By keeping focused on country names and (where space is available) only their capitals, the map doesn't get too cluttered. Obviously there are parts where the names have to be abbreviated to fit them in - the Balkan countries suffer some spectacular shortenings with Bosnia-Herzegovina reduced to B-H and Macedonia to Mace and titchy little Kosovo just gets marked with 'K'. But let's not give them too hard a time - a few years ago many of them weren't even countries. Talking of the 'new' countries, they've done well - Kosovo is there, Timor L'Este is on too. I was impressed.
Countries are named in capital letters and overseas territories are in lower case - clever stuff indeed. It made me stop and think about why French Guiana never comes up on Sporcle quizes - simple, it's not a country, it's a dependency. Perhaps to avoid conflict and debate - or more likely to keep things 'tidy' the Falklands are missing. That puts this map ahead of the National Geographic ones which controversially assign them as the Malvinas with (Arg) written next to them - not on our watch, they're not.
The colours are bright and vibrant without being too ridiculously childish. I actively dislike some of the fonts that have been used and which remind me of when people first discover they can change the fonts on a powerpoint presentation and try to use all the wildest and wackiest ones that the can find. Fonts are one area where I celebrate clarity and simplicity and the mix on the map jars with me badly.
Hidden behind the superficial simplicity is a lot more detail than you first notice. I always learn something from a map and this one's been no exception. I have a strong suspicion that it's going to help me crack my geographic blind-spot in the Pacific and I'll soon be listing those countries with the confidence I have for Africa and Europe. If I didn't already KNOW the Balkan countries, I wouldn't learn them from this map but I can't imagine too many kids will lie awake in tears because they don't know their Macedonia from their Montenegro.
~ I need to flag this ~
A colourful addition to the map which I'm not sure I'd have bothered with if I was designing it comes in the panel of flags of the world which decorates the bottom section of the map. I'm a bit 'all or nothing' with such things - I'm not sure that the flags of 'some' of the world's countries is all that valuable but where I'm planning to hang it, they won't distract me too much and I'll probably find them handy next time I'm on Sporcle.
The map is 1360 mm wide and a metre tall and Maps International recommend it for bedrooms, playrooms or classrooms. I guess my study is closest to the 'play room' status. The paper is not as thick or strong as I would perhaps have expected - certainly if I'd used this as a kid I'm not sure it would have stood up to the wear and tear. I can't face messing my walls with Blu-tack so I'll be off to see if I can track down a slide on 'hanger' for it tomorrow so I can suspend it from a hook and avoid destroying the paintwork. I'm already feeling stupidly excited about having it on my wall - I am just a big kid at heart and when you love maps, you can overlook the annoyances in favour of celebrating the good things.
~ Costing the Earth ~
If you fancy one of these it will set you back a rather steep £31. I'm sorry if it upsets the lovely company who sponsored our travel competition but I really would struggle to consider it to be worth that amount. I think I paid 100 rupees for my last world map (that's about £1.40) and I've bought plastic laminated National Geographic world maps of similar size for less money. Maps International offer the option to customise the maps they sell which I think is very interesting - I could imagine for work that such a service might come in handy. I'm shocked that a board mounted version would set me back £175 though - that's a shocking price even if someone else were paying. If my hand were going into my pocket to get out the credit card to buy one for myself, I'd struggle to go for a paper map at such a high price. It's good and if it were laminated it might be heading towards great but I fear it will get damaged quite quickly.
I cannot review this from the point of view of a child or a parent since I am neither and I'm actually astonished that I found quite so much to say about a big rolled up sheet of paper. I'm also baffled by quite how excited I got in the process - perhaps not so excited as I was to get my first globe, but my prize has made me happier than I expected.
To Maps International - I hope you will forgive me for saying your map is too expensive but I love it anyway. Thank you very much.
Size: 1360mm (w) x 1000mm (h)