Author(s): Eirlys Hunter
Four children temporarily lose their parents just as they are about to begin the race that offers their last chance of escaping poverty. Their task is to map a rail route through an uncharted wilderness. They overcome the many obstacles posed by nature, bears, bees, bats, river crossings, cliff falls, impossible weather, but can they survive the treachery of their competitors? This is a fast-paced and charming novel. It's children are brave and competent but not always right. It's world is magical enough to be intriguing but close enough to our own to keep the reader on firm ground.
The Santander family has become destitute since father went mapmaking and never returned. In a last desperate attempt to make enough money to live on, mother signs up for a competition to map a route over and through a mountainous region that nobody yet has passed. On the way there, mother and children become separated, and the children end up doing it on their own.
I loved the characterisation. The kids are kids, but they're also gifted in various ways. The other competitors are all a little over-the-top, which is great in a kids' (steampunk-style) adventure. The descriptions of the journey are fabulous - wild mountains, wild rivers, wild animals ... - and the plot carries the reader along at a breakneck pace. What a great read!
Kathleen, @ Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop, 2018.
Eirlys Hunter is a London-born fiction writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She has published seven books for children as well as a novel and short stories for adults. Hunter teaches writing for children at the IIML at Victoria University.
Eirlys Hunter has lived in Manila, Singapore and the Middle East. She has worked behind a bar, primary school teaching, cleaning a cliff-top fort, sorting mail and sending sand to Saudi Arabia. Hunter has always loved maps—imagining the landscape they’re showing and what might happen there, as well as how to get from one place to another. Her obsession with maps sent her to Cambridge University to study geography. When it turned out that maps didn’t come into the course, she spent her time acting in plays instead.