I was eleven when everything started and twelve by the end. But that’s another way maps lie, because it felt like the distance travelled was a whole lot further than that.
The Year The Maps Changed is a lovely middle-grade book by agent, reviewer and Victorian writer, Danielle Binks. I have to admit to really, really wanting to read this one as soon as I heard about it.
Fred’s in her last year of primary school and her dad (he’s adoptive, yep, it’s complicated) is having a baby with his girlfriend, Anika. Anika has a son called Sam who is now supposed to be a new brother for Fred. Throw in a poorly grandad and the mix becomes quite messy. I really like Fred – I like that her feelings make her a bit uncomfortable and that she’s a bit difficult (aren’t we all?).
There’s a lot to like about this book:
- 12 year-old Fred who I’ve already mentioned, she’s such a relatable kid. Plus, her teacher Mr Khouri is brilliant;
- The way Binks has sketched out a vivid sense of place for the backdrop of this story. Place is integral to the plot and even though I’m not familiar with the Victorian coastline, I didn’t have any trouble imagining the little coastal town of Sorrento or the range of opinions in the community;
- The time period of the book – the story takes place in 1999 at an interesting point in Australian politics and Binks manages to make the political landscape accessible to middle-grade readers – not an easy thing to do, but she does it with aplomb;
- The diverse and interesting cast of characters, especially the juxtaposition between ‘new Australian’ Vietnamese refugees and the Kosovar-Albanian refugees seeking a ‘safe haven’;
- The realness of the story without it ever seeming too harsh, although there is plenty of grimness painted here, Binks presents it in a palatable form for a young readership. Also, I may have wiped away a tear or two and I rarely cry reading books.
All in all, this is a terrific book. Binks uses geography and cartography to tell a story about a particular time in Australia’s history and opens up a lot of questions, especially around who we are as a people, and who we aspire to be. Such questions are reflected in the choices the characters make, and none more so, than the choices Fred makes.
Highly recommended reading and one that’s not just for the kids.
Sorrento, Victoria – 1999 Fred’s family is a mess. Fred’s mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca’s girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred’s just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.
But even as the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia’s ‘safe havens’ on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.
About Danielle Binks
Danielle Binks is a Mornington Peninsula-based author and literary agent. Her debut book ‘The Year the Maps Changed’ is out with Hachette on April 28 – a historic-fiction novel for 10-14 year-olds, set in 1999 it deals with the events of ‘Operation Safe Haven’ and Australia’s biggest humanitarian exercise to-date.
Connect with Danielle
Find out more about the book
My sincere thanks to Date A Book, Hachette Australia, Hachette New Zealand and AusYaBloggers for giving me the opportunity to be part of the book tour for this book.