Advice from Pa
No rush; take care
Carry the longest rope you can
An expedition should never go faster than the speed of its slowest member
Use your compass and your brain
Always leave markers
Don't forget to turn around often so you know what the journey back should look like
This story has so many elements that I enjoyed:
- It is has a page turning plot (I galloped through the last 150 pages in one sitting)
- It involves problem solving and team work
- The ingenuity of the survival strategies employed by these plucky kids makes a for a terrific daring adventure - you will be hanging by your fingernails, clambering over rocks and shivering in freezing rivers
- Even though their food supplies are short the food they create sounds delicious
- Every person in their team has an important skill and these kids are so caring and kind towards each other
- Maps are always fascinating
- There are lots of wonderful words in this book such as doolally, comtemptible clotmongers, holygamoley and busticated
- The illustrations of the maps are just perfect - I almost feel I need to copy all of them to create the full map the children triumphantly present to the race judges
The story opens with the Santander kids on a train. Their mother has jumped off the train in search of Joe. He makes it back to the train in time but she does not. The group are on their way to the start of a huge race which will be held over twenty-eight days. Teams have to find a way from Grand Prospect to New Coalhaven. The winners will receive five hundred guineas but there is also an additional prize for the team that produces the best map which will then be used for a proposed railway line.
The Santander group are only young children but they have a splendid team. Francie can draw maps and she has a extra skill which allows her to fly, out of her body, to survey the landscape. Her twin Joe is an excellent scout he is also the optimist of the group. Sal, their older sister, is a maths genius so she can work on the surveying aspects of their map and Humphrey is an amazing four year old. He has the best observation skills of the whole group plus a terrific sense of humour. They also have a parrot called carrot. What they lack is transport but luckily early on they meet Beckett. He knows how to get the group some donkeys, and he is very keen to find this route because it will mean great prosperity for his home town of Grand Prospect. Luckily for the children Beckett is also a terrific cook!
This is no easy journey and they face some stiff competition. Roger Rumpledown and his Ruffians; Mr Cody S Cole and his team of Cowboys; the Solemn Team - Society of Logical Explorers, Mappers and Navigators; Montague Bassingstoke-Black leader of Monty's Mountaineers; and The Association of Women's Explorers. The teams have all sorts of splendid equipment including mechanical horses and giant pillows lifted by birds. Our team have only their tent, some food supplies, and their precious altimeter. They have to face a difficult landscape and worse survive the dastardly tactics of some of the other teams. You will certainly want to cheer them on right to the end.
I follow Gecko Press on social media. When I saw The Mapmakers Race mentioned I was curious but what really sealed the deal for me was the realisation that the author was known to me. Years and years ago I read a slim early chapter book called The Astonishing Madame Majolica. It is such a favourite of mine even though it has long been out of print.
Watch this little film where you can see illustrator Kirsten Slade at work and hear Eirlys Hunter reading part of the story. Here is a detailed review by The Book Bag. Read an interview between Eirlys and Julia Eccleshare. In this post Eirlys talks about the ideas behind her story.
Adult readers might team this book with Fitzcaraldo the 1982 movie about pulling a whole ship across the mountains of Peru.
Younger readers could follow The Mapmakers Race with The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. If you enjoy books about racing to a goal you might also enjoy Bartlett and the Ice Voyage by Odo Hirsch and The Mapmaker Chronicles series by AL Tait.