Author: Danielle Binks
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publication Date: 28 April, 2020
Copy: Borrowed from my local library

The Year The Maps Changed was a fabulous book that should definitely not have taken me 4 weeks to read. It’s a book that deals with some pretty hefty subject matter and does it with heart, insight, humour and an authentic 11 year old voice.

Fred is a girl who goes by many names and she is about to embark on a massive year that will change everything for her. One of those years that you look back on and wonder how it all fit into just one year.

Mr Khouri is the primary school teacher that takes Fred and her classmates for geography and ties the subject to much more than what you find on the map.

Fred is navigating a whole new phase of her life with her adoptive father Luca. It has been just her, Luca and her Pop since her mother died when she was six but now the dynamic is being blown wide apart.

Pop is in a rehab facility after a fall and Luca’s girlfriend has just moved in with her son. So much is changing and Fred is just not sure where she fits in and who belongs to her in the family sense.

I should have read this book in the course of an afternoon or two but life has been getting away from me lately so it took a lot longer than that, and I finished it even longer ago. I started the review straight away but never got far with it because I got distracted and now the book is overdue at the library and I have got to get it back. I don’t feel that I can write a complex and comprehensive review from this distance so I will keep it brief and maybe not as indepth as I would have liked.

The Year The Maps Changed is a middle grade fiction so it’s not really a coming of age story but it certainly saw Fred learn a lot about herself, her town, society and family; and that took her into a new stage of her life and gave her a whole new perspective.

Fred was used to being an only child growing up with Pop and Luca but with the entrance of Anika and Sam the whole axis of her universe changes and though it takes a while she slowly learns the responsibility of being a big sister and having someone to look out for in the schoolyard, though it did take a little help from her friends.

Alongside the more intimate changes in her life there is a bigger unrest in the wider world that impacts Fred and her community when international crisis sees refugees brought to a ‘safe haven’ on the outskirts of her town.

Mr Khouri and Luca both find themselves involved with the ‘safe haven’ in different capacities and that sees Fred and her classmates take an interest. Binks explores the effects this has on the class, and the wider community. Not everyone in the area is happy with having the refugees living so close. Binks tackles the issue with insight and sensitivity, illustrating how the prejudices of the parents aren’t always shared or passed on to the children.

A lot of time is given to the weight of the moral compass and the subtle differences between what is right and what is moral. Mr Khouri and Luca are both put in positions where they have difficult decisions to make but they always try to instil a strong moral compass in the children they guide.

The Year The Maps Changed is a story set at the turn of the century when we had a lot hanging over our heads about the state of technology and the fear of Y2K but Binks demonstrates that a lot of the issues are timeless, there have been other refugee groups head to our shores since then and there are sure to be more in the future. It is important that we remember to be charitable and consider the aftermath rather than just the immediate dangers in times of civil unrest.

A well written, engaging and important book for younger readers to expose them to these situations in an age appropriate manner and hopefully instil a sense of togetherness with those who are different from us.

Danielle Binks can be followed on Twitter and at daniellebinks.com.

The Year The Maps Changed is book #18 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2020.

The Year The Maps Changed is available through Hachette and where all good books are sold.