THE YEAR THE MAPS CHANGED, by Danielle Binks, Quill Tree Books, Oct. 18, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
A 12-year-old faces change at home and in her community in The Year the Maps Changed, a new middle-grade novel by Danielle Binks.
If you asked 11-year-old Fred to draw a map of her family, it would be a bit confusing. Her birth father was never in the picture, her mom died years ago, and her stepfather, Luca, is now expecting a baby with his new girlfriend. According to Fred’s teacher, maps don’t always give the full picture of our history, but more and more it feels like Fred’s family is redrawing the line of their story . . . and Fred is feeling left off the map.
Soon after learning about the baby, Fred hears that the town will be taking in hundreds of refugees seeking safety from a war-torn Kosovo. Some people in town, like Luca, think it’s great and want to help. Others, however, feel differently, causing friction within the community.
Fred, who has been trying to navigate her own feelings of displacement, ends up befriending a few refugees. But what starts as a few friendly words in Albanian will soon change their lives forever, not to mention completely redrawing Fred’s personal map of friends, family, and home, and community. —Synopsis provided by Quill Tree Books
Set in 1999, The Year the Maps Changed is a study of family and how it morphs. For Fred, family used to be her mom, stepdad and grandfather. But just like maps of places can change, so can the lines on Fred’s family map. And sometimes those lines shift to include people Fred never considered.
Fred is the kind of character you’d want your kid to be friends with. She’s bright and thoughtful and thinks beyond herself even when she’s struggling with her own problems. Fred also has a strong, supportive group of people around her that are just as multifaceted and flawed as she is.
Author Danielle Binks approaches both Fred’s personal life and the refugee situation honestly. She respects her readers, speaking to them on their level about hard things. She doesn’t shy away from difficult topics or hide her characters’ pain. And her book is better for it.
The year the Maps Changed is a quiet read that packs a punch. Though it’s set a little more than 20 years ago, readers will easily relate to many of the themes throughout.
A note for North American readers: The Year the Maps Changed takes place in Australia. This may cause some confusion with American readers, especially where seasons come into play. Winter for Australia is summer for North America. A short discussion prior to reading should clear up any confusion.
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