Review Blog

May 01 2020

The year the maps changed by Danielle Banks

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Lothian, 2020. ISBN: 9780734419712. 310pp.
(Age: 10 - 12) Highly recommended. This wonderful story is told through the voice of 11 year old Winifred (Fred, Winnie). Fred lives in Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula with her police-officer, step-father Luca, grandfather Pop and Luca's new partner Anika and her son Sam. Fred rails against the new family situation and is fractious and difficult with Anika and Sam, particularly when Sam ends up in the same class as her. Fred's mother died some years before and she dwells on memories of her mother and feels loyal to her. Then Anika has a difficult pregnancy, is hospitalized and Fred becomes more empathetic.
It is late 1999 and when the war in Kosovo causes refugees to flee for safety the Federal Government is compelled to take some in and they get housed in a disused quarantine facility near Sorrento. This creates both support for them but also conflict amongst the locals. Fred's and Sam's class teacher, Mr Khouri, is smart and passionate about world events and not only shares this interest with his students but also supports the refugees. When the Government decides it is safe to return the refugees home the refugees and their supporters try to prevent them being sent back. Also a tragedy creates deeper understanding and love amongst all Fred's family.
This novel had many different serious threads, yet doesn't feel didactic because of the convincing storyline and the authentic character of Fred. Maps, the artificialness of borders and the things which people have in common is a predominant theme. Themes of needing love and acceptance and dealing with grief also stand out. The ways past Australian governments have responded to waves of refugees can be contrasted with current government policy. The reader can also ponder whether sticking to the letter of the law is always morally right. You can't help but feel attached to Fred and care for all that happens to those around her. These are really three dimensional characters who react and think in believable ways. The sense of place is really strong and the author's respect for the Aboriginal people who lived in the region for aeons is admirable.
Jo Marshall

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