'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 16 December 2018

Review: The Mapmakers' Race

This is a brilliant adventure, full of optimism and self belief, undertaken by five clever and talented children who prove that not only adults can change the world.

The child characters are brave, resourceful, adaptable, united and clever. They are leaders in a novel with a fantastic storyline written in superb prose.

The Santander family minus father have set out by train for Grand Prospect to enter the Mapmakers’ Race. 

Mother is a gifted Mapmaker who intends to chart a route from Grand Prospect through the mountains to New Coalhaven, for a horse track, then a railway. Winning the prize will save her family from abject poverty. 

Joe goes for water and takes too long, so mother goes to find him. Joe returns but mother gets left behind when the train takes off. The children continue on alone.

Joe and Francie are eleven year old twins. Joe is the explorer. Francie doesn’t speak, but draws continuously. Joe speaks for Francie as he can tell what she wants to say. She also travels out of her body when necessary. This makes her the designer and illustrator of the maps.

Sal at fourteen is a maths genius. She is allocated surveyor. Then there is the youngest Humphrey, called Humph. He is as wise as an elder, and is lots of fun. There is also Carrot the parrot, who is the protector of the children.

They team up with the dray driver, slow-talking but fast-thinking Beckett who joins them, having nothing better to do. He proves to be their greatest asset.

Having shared their parents’ work, the four children have learnt all the skills of Mapmaking. The entry fee has been paid. They know the rules of the Race. When the applications are studied, there is no mention of children not being allowed to participate. They are determined to fulfil the family’s plans, and win the money regardless of competition from conniving adults, teams that will stop at nothing to create setbacks for them, and mechanical horses that never feed or get tired.

This is an epic adventure of endurance, focus and sheer perseverance taken over 28 days. The travellers are sustained during the long, lonely nights, and fear, by the stories they tell each other; stories that they’d been told by their parents. They are threatened by swollen rivers, lack of utensils and protection from the elements. But they are courageous and always believe they will win.

But with all the odds against them and sabotage always a threat, will they?

Title: The Mapmakers’ Race
Author: Eirlys Hunter
Illustrator: Kirsten Slade
Publisher: Gecko Press, $19.99
Publication Date: July 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781776572038
For ages: 8 - 12
Type: Middle Fiction