Whirligig on MyMaps

I’m working on do something similar to the awesome work over at Google Lit Trips using Google’s myMaps. The novel is Whirligig by Paul Fleischman- very powerful book that’s a quick read. It’s a great novel for this type of project (fiction but almost all real locations). The main character travels to the four corners of the U.S. (on a Greyhound Bus) as an act of atonement for killing a young girl in a DUI accident.

I’ve got the main locations mapped (some real specific information in Chicago) as well as most of the route. It will continue to expand as the students progress through the novel. Check it out if you’re interested. I’ll take requests as well, so let me know if you feel something is missing.

Now, what makes this useful? I figure you’ve got two options.

  1. You use it as a ancillary material to help get the students more involved in the novel. Let them explore the map and get them involved in explaining things and interacting with the information- otherwise it’s just a fancy map.
  2. You have the students add the information for the placemarks in Google Earth. Let them decide what is important at each location and

Comments on this post

  1. jerome said on May 10, 2007 at 6:10 am

    I’d be interested in seeing how this works out. Is there a reason you’re using Google Maps instead of Google Earth? As it turns out, I’m just finishing up a Lit Trip on “By the Great Horn Spoon” by Sid Fleishman, Paul’s father.

    Any chance you’d be interested in being a contributor to Google Lit Trips?


  2. Tom said on May 10, 2007 at 7:53 am


    I opted to use Google Maps because I figured most teachers would never go through the whole process to get the pro version of Google Earth. I started to get the pro version myself and then things stalled out. I plan on re-attempting with your directions rather than the ones I used before from another source.

    I figured I’d offer this to you once it was done. Sadly, our county now blocks all .mac account accounts (and thus your site). I’m working to get your site unblocked.

    I’m now an ADE (’07) so it was exciting to hear you were an ADE as well. I’m excited about the chance to work with such a great group of people, if a little intimidated.



  3. Ben said on May 10, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Jerome: I would imagine that Google Maps was decided for this project because it’s also easily accesible via the web in a public manner, whereas if it had been done using Google Earth, the user would have to have the program installed (if their computer could even run it), and then download a file. This way, all anyone needs is a decent computer and a web browser.

    Tom: Terrific use of the Google maps: My maps feature. I have to admit, the Vacations I’ll be posting for Google Earth aren’t nearly as cool, so it’s nice to have a high bar to try and shoot for when I retool the project for next year 🙂

  4. Tom said on May 10, 2007 at 9:28 pm


    Good point, I’m going to pretend I was that smart! I had an older version of Google Earth that didn’t let me plot lines etc. so I just went with the easy online version and figured I’d export the KML file if I needed to.

    I’m doing too much work though. That’s not really my goal anymore but it seems to help to create really good examples to get buy in from teachers and then hopefully we’ll end up with students creating these before too long. We’ll see.


  5. Kelly said on March 4, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Thank you!! My students will love this. What dedication!! I hope your kids helped.

  6. allie said on November 1, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Google maps sucks! or it could be just the computers at school. im a grade 12 and we just got done reading the book whirligig so we’re trying to look at the map to see where brent went. i think the map would be really cool if it would work!

    • Tom said on November 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      I’m blaming the computers. The map has always worked well for me. Most school computers suck because they’re bought for the cheapest prices and then a really, really restrictive image is put on them.

      Try it with a real computer somewhere, I think you’ll be happier. If not, let me know.

  7. gig said on January 10, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    wow, how long did it take you to make this. It’s pethetic that you have that mush time to devote to making something like this. Espesially because the book sucks!!

    • Tom said on January 11, 2011 at 10:16 am


      It took quite a while to make. I wish I had kept track of exactly how long. I am sure I would fall in your estimation from merely “pathetic” to “terrifying loser.”

      I found the book to be mediocre. Not great, not terrible. Although, I imagine you’re being forced to read this book in some class. That’s never a great way to read something.

      Give me a book you do like, maybe I’ll have time to make a map for it at some point.

      • gig said on January 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm

        Tom, I was forced to read this book. Usually I don’t actually read the books for english class and still get an A on the essay but there is a really big project for this one so I had to read it. A book I like is Stewart Little, a map of that would be awsome.

        • jojo said on January 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

          Well gig. I agree, I agree….
          Stuart Little is a boss. He does whatever he wants when he wants….
          What is wirligig…
          It has your name in it so that’s cool but other than that the book sucks raw eggs (my chorus teacher likes to say that)

          • Tom said on January 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm

            Jojo- Raw eggs, eh? You’re both making me want to read it again through different eyes to see if it does indeed suck that much.

        • Tom said on January 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm

          I could see doing a map of Stewart Little focused on the house but it’s harder, from what I remember, to see how it would work on the google maps side of things. I think he only leaves the house twice? To do this right, you need a book that is set in a real place and where the setting both changes and matters. Google Lit Trips has a bunch of them.

          • Gig said on February 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm

            Tom, do not disrespect Stewart little like that, it is not fair he is a mouse and you are a person. You should be ashamed of yourself. In addition, I wanted to reiterate that whirligig is an incredibly horrible book.

  8. Tom said on February 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Gig- What good is it being a human if you can’t disrespect rodents? Don’t opposable thumbs come with benefits?

  9. Renee said on April 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I read this book as an adult, and actually liked it very much. Love the map. If you are still doing additions, you could link to one of the many videos of contra dancing for when Brent is in Maine and feels welcomed back to the greater community.

  10. Alain said on February 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I taught Whirligig a few years ago and was excited by this idea I had…

    I could map the novel and…

    I only worked a little while before I discovered my ‘brainwave” was thought of some time ago, and done extremely well. My students liked the visual and the photographs. It made it abundantly clear why this novel could be considered a hero’s “journey.” Thanks for sharing your work.

    • Tom said on February 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Awesome. I’m glad it’s still useful and that “great idea … been done” thing happens to other people and not just me.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks on this post

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