A gentle Australian coming-of-age story: Review of The Year The Maps Changed by Danielle Binks

A gentle Australian coming-of-age story: Review of The Year The Maps Changed by Danielle Binks

Maps lie.

Or at least they don’t always tell the truth.

They’re like us humans in that way.

I was eleven when everything started and twelve by the end. But that’s another way that maps don’t tell the whole truth – because it felt like the distance I travelled was a lot further than that.

Winifred looks back at the events of 1999 and how they shaped her view of the world. It’s a time of tension at home, locally, nationally and internationally. Australia has agreed to accept Albanian refugees fleeing war-torn Kosovo, providing temporary safe haven for 6000 traumatised people of all ages. One group of asylum seekers is assigned accommodation within Winifred’s community and their lives intersect with Winifred’s family and friends.

Blessed with a loving grandfather and adoptive father, Luca, Winifred struggles with the changes to family dynamics when Luca brings his new partner and her son to share their home. The announcement of a new baby causes further conflicting feelings, adding to the grief that Winifred feels for the loss of her mum in tragic circumstances years before. Winifred feels that she is being “left off the map” of her family and her journey to acceptance of the new family dynamic is a major theme throughout this warm and engaging story.

Other themes of compassion, perspective and “the moral compass” are also explored throughout the story. The kindness and courage of the neighbouring Vietnamese family and Winifred’s teacher, Mr Khoury, remind us of our multicultural heritage and previous humanitarianism. The way Winifred questions everything and challenges ‘the norms’ tests everyone’s resolve and will make the reader reflect on their own position.

Author Danielle Binks grew up in the Mornington Peninsula, where this story is set. In 1999 Danielle was the same age as Winifred, and her detailed memories and research of that era create a fully developed snapshot of that time in our history.

I would recommend this book for primary school aged readers and any adult who is interested in the history of that tumultuous time in Australia’s history. I wasn’t completely cognisant of the issues, so I enjoyed revisiting this era and reflecting on the decisions and attitudes from that time which have coloured our ongoing position to acceptance of asylum seekers. There are never any guarantees of happy endings, even in children’s fiction, but this gentle story of Winifred’s growing understanding of the larger world and the adults around her is beautifully told and a very compelling read.

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Synopsis

'I was twelve when everything started and thirteen by the end. But that's another way maps lie, because it felt like the distance travelled was a whole lot further than that.'Sorrento, Victoria - 1999Fred's family is a mess. Fred's mother died when she was six and she's been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca's girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred's just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.But even as the world feels like it's spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia's 'safe havens' on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.
Danielle Binks
About the author

Danielle Binks

Danielle Binks is an editor, book blogger, youth literature advocate, and literary agent specialising in middle-grade & young adult acquisitions with Jacinta di Mase Management. In 2017 she edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anhology (Harper Collins). She is one of the founding members of the #LoveOzYA committee and remains a leading voice in the movement.

Books by Danielle Binks

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