Review Blog

Aug 07 2018

The mapmakers' race by Eirlys Hunter

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Gecko Press, 2018. ISBN 9781776572038
(Age: 8-11) Themes: Perseverance. Adventure. Map drawing. Eirlys Hunter's The mapmakers' race is set in a harsh mountainous environment where a new railway line needs to be built. The alternate world has mechanical horses and luggage-carrying clouds and nefarious characters who will use any means to win the 28 day race and the prize money of five hundred gold guineas.
The Santander family are desperately poor; their father, an explorer and trail finder, has disappeared and mapmaker Ma and their children desperately need to win the prize-money. Unfortunately on their train trip to Grand Prospect where the race starts, Ma leaves the rail carriage to search for Joe who's filling the water flasks and she misses the train. Sal, Joe, Francie and little Humphrey decide to enter the race anyway. All their possessions are on board, and they believe Ma will catch up along the way. With Carrot the parrot along for comic relief, this arduous undertaking that will test their skills of survival and their support of each other. Sal is a skilled mathematician great at calculating, Francie's special skill is her ability to project into the upcoming environment and map the upcoming route. Fortunately, they meet a knowledgeable local lad, Beckett, who helps the family; he's skilled with animals, a great cook and has wilderness experience.
In this fast-paced adventure the children overcome many natural forces, fighting tough conditions, encounters with bear, bees, a bat-filled cave, dangerous river crossings and cliff falls. Ingenuity, inventiveness, dogged determination, bravery and support of each other are qualities that assist the family to push through. Francie's maps with places named by the children are key elements that illustrate their twenty-eight day journey.
Eirlys Fowler's descriptive and exciting narrative is suitable for middle primary students. Her world-building adds depth and interest, what can a mechanical horse do, what advantages are there to clouds carrying luggage? Complemented by Kirsten Slade's pen and ink sketches and maps, this story is a great adventure, with strong non-stereotypical characters.
Rhyllis Bignell

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