Review: The Mapmaker and the Ghost

Review: The Mapmaker and the GhostThe Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash
Published by Walker BFYR on April 24, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Humor, Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Won

Goldenrod Moram loves nothing better than a good quest. Intrepid, curious, and full of a well-honed sense of adventure, she decides to start her own exploring team fashioned after her idols, the explorers Lewis and Clark, and to map the forest right behind her home. This task is complicated, however, by a series of unique events—a chance encounter with a mysterious old lady has her searching for a legendary blue rose. Another encounter lands her in the middle of a ragtag gang of brilliant troublemakers. And when she stumbles upon none other than the ghost of Meriwether Lewis himself, Goldenrod knows this will be anything but an ordinary summer . . . or an ordinary quest. Debut author Sarvenaz Tash combines an edge-of-your-seat adventure, a uniquely clever voice, and an unforgettable cast of characters to prove that sometimes the best adventures of all are waiting right in your own backyard.

First Sentence: “Goldenrod Moram had a first name that sounded like it belonged in the middle of a fairy tale, where she would be the dazzling princess in need of rescuing.”

See that first sentence up there? Well, Tash totally hooked me with that and the remainder of the first paragraph in which we learn how Goldenrod is not much like her name sounds, and just what she thinks about princesses. From that amusing beginning, The Mapmaker and the Ghost amused and impressed me all the way through, never once losing my attention.

This is one of those books that definitely makes me wonder why I don’t read more middle grade fiction. I mean, I know why I don’t; it’s because a lot of middle grade can make an older reader want to headdesk because the kids spend chapters trying to solve simple riddles. THIS is not one of those books, and Goldenrod is not one of those heroines.

Speaking of Goldenrod, she is totally fabulous. I’m pretty sure that if I had to choose one word to describe her it would be something like ‘precocious’ or ‘cheeky.’ She’s clever and spunky, and I’m sure she will grow up to be a delightfully snarky girl. In fact, Goldenrod is just the type of just graduated fifth grader who might be obsessed with explorers Lewis & Clark, enough so that she wants to create a map of her town. All kids get obsessed with things like that, by which I mean seemingly weird and random tasks, but not every kid has the dedication of Goldenrod (I sure didn’t). There is no doubt in my mind that she will go on to do amazing things.

The quest plot line for the rose was fun and mingled well with the other happenings, although I was slightly worried for a time that these might not come together properly. Thankfully, the strings do get all tied up in the end. The world as depicted here has little to do with reality (hello, ghost of Meriweather Lewis!), but it’s hugely fun and humorous. Actually, the sassy ghost had me flashing back a little bit to the ghosts from another Apocalypsies book, Croak by Gina Damico. I apparently love sassy ghosts. I know something new about myself now.

Now that the rather serious things are on the way, we can talk about the really gross stuff, the fun things that you really don’t get in YA. Tash has a ton of that in here. You get snot, puns, the fuzz between toes, and belly button lint, among other gross things. There’s also Barf, although that’s actually a teacher’s name, which, adult though I may technically be now, made me laugh EVERY TIME.

My favorite quirk of the book, though, was actually the weird food concoctions that everyone in Goldenrod’s family seem to whip up, and maybe even some other folks too. It’s like this town, or at least the coolest people in it, have discovered a whole new world of food combinations. Maybe Goldenrod will go on to become an explorer of the palate and of taste sensations. :-p  Seriously, watch for these, because they are hilarious and mixed throughout. Some sounded atrocious and some, horrendously picky eater though I am, sounded pretty tempting, like this one: a peanut butter, strawberry and cheerios sandwich. That may have potential.

Tash’s debut is clever, unique and fantastical, basically everything I hope for a middle grade book to be. If middle grade fiction is something you enjoy, you would be doing yourself a disservice missing out on this one.

Favorite Quote:
Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that the modern world is sorely lacking in imagination. And grown-ups are the biggest culprits of all.”

18 responses to “Review: The Mapmaker and the Ghost”

  1. Thank you for your review! I’ve followed news about this book with interest since I heard about it on Twitter.
    I’m so glad to hear that it’s as intelligent and complex as I thought it would be!

  2. Kayla Beck says:

    I’m so jealous that you get to read so many darn books! Time is such a precious commodity, and you use it so well, my friend. Very awesome review and the book is already on my TBR. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      I am reading way more than usual. A normal year is somewhere around 200 books. I just decided to go for it and do the book challenge I’ve always wanted to do this year.

  3. This is such a cute sounding book. I agree that the first line is great. The food concoctions sound crazy. I’m guessing sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a bad way.

  4. alicia marie says:

    I have been thinking about reading this book and already have it on my tbr list, but after reading your great review i will most definitely be moving it up in my tbr pile!! thanks for sharing what you liked about the book! you had me at sassy ghost : )

  5. Michelle says:

    Oh, I tried so hard to get a copy of this! I trained as a cartographer at university, and so my interest in all things to do with cartography coupled with the premise made it very alluring. Now that I have read your review I want it even more. (I also really enjoyed Croak.)

  6. Judith Ann says:

    Thanks for your review. This sounds like a load of fun. I’m slightly obsessive about OS maps and love young teen mysteries – even more when they’re fun! Is young-teen the right translation for middle-grade? I’m thinking tweenagers, tho nobody in their right mind says that any more!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I would put middle grade in the 8-12 span. Something like that. Obviously, it all depends on a person’s reading level.

      This is truly awesome middle grade!

  7. Nikki says:

    This books sounds so exciting! I can’t wait to get my hands on it and I absolutely adore the cover!

  8. MackenziLee says:

    I loved this book! And Sarvenaz is absolutely adorable!

  9. I had the same thought earlier this week while reading a Diana Wynne Jones book, “Why don’t I read more middle grade??” This one sounds fabulous and I’m adding it to my tbr now!

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