The Mapmakers' Race by Eirlys Hunter
|The Mapmakers' Race by Eirlys Hunter|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: A breakneck race, competitors who will stop at nothing to prevent our young heroes from winning, and missing parents – an adventure story with plenty to commend it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: July 2018|
|Publisher: Gecko Press|
It's easily done. You nip off to fill everyone's water bottles, and your mum starts to fret in case you don't make it back before the train leaves. Mum gets off to find you, you make it back in good time but she doesn't, and hey presto, four children and a parrot disappearing into the unknown with no money, no home and not a parent in sight.
Worse still, this is a bit of a desperate journey: the family has entered a competition to map a rail route through uncharted mountains, and unless they win the big money prize they face utter poverty and starvation. So, with little choice in the matter the young people decide to get on with the mapmaking as planned, and hope their mother catches up at some point. Before their father disappeared he trained them all in various aspects of checking, measuring and charting terrain, so they're not completely helpless.
This is an excellent premise, with a logical and original reason for our heroes to be travelling without parents and a clear explanation for why they have as much chance of succeeding as their adult rivals in the race. Their immediate reactions are perfectly understandable, too: utter panic both for themselves and their missing parents is easy to relate to, and there's a certain amount of gentle humour as they try to organise themselves and work out what to do. Hunger is the first crisis (and is a recurring theme throughout the book) and their dismay at finding they will have to either learn to prepare meals or go hungry is lightened by the realisation that the only foodstuffs they have which won't need cooking are raisins and salt. In the face of such absurdity they can only laugh helplessly, and the fact that the race is due to begin with a splendid feast becomes a major factor in their decision to keep going.
There's a wonderfully down-to-earth feel about these sorts of details, and the reader quickly identifies with the four children and their new friend Beckett, who joins them because he wants the new railway to run through his tiny village and make everyone there rich. The different terrains during the race are vividly described, and despite their previous experience the children really struggle with steep climbs, fast-running streams, bees, bats and even the occasional bear – not to mention the criminal activities of one or two of the other teams. Taken at this level, it's a glorious adventure story which readers will happily lose themselves in. It is, then, perhaps a shame that the author felt the need to give Francie, the silent, artistic twin, a bizarre ability to leave her body to float above the tree-tops to see what is ahead and to produce the required maps (which we too get to see, thanks to Kirsten Slade's delightful illustrations). These courageous, determined young folk could surely have found a way to manage without that!
Another young person who has an unusual gift, and who somehow manages to survive and thrive in the wild and woolly west is PK. Bookbag really enjoyed the two adventures contained in The Case of the Deadly Desperados and The Case of the Good-looking Corpse. And if you prefer stories with a more contemporary feel to them, try the thoroughly enjoyable Jack and the Geniuses 1: At the Bottom of the World by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone and the sequel Jack and the Geniuses 2: In the Deep Blue Sea by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone. Challenges, thrills and villains abound!
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mapmakers' Race by Eirlys Hunter at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mapmakers' Race by Eirlys Hunter at Amazon.com.
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