Poetry Box November challenge – using poetry forms
The Uprising – The Mapmakers in Cruxcia, Eirlys Hunter, illustrations by Kirsten Slade, Gecko Press, 2021
Eirlys Hunter’s The Mapmakers’ Race (2018) was a thrilling read. An original story, beautifully written, with terrific characters. I wanted more! And now my plea is answered because Gecko Press has just released a second volume featuring the magnificent mapmaking family: The Uprising – The Mapmakers in Cruxcia.
In the first book the Santander children (Sal, Joe, Francie and Humphrey) win an exciting map race but in the second book their quest feels a lot more personal. Their father has gone missing on his mapmaking expedition. A clue turns up. They find themselves in Cruxcia. But this is no idyllic valley in the ancient mountains. The locals are struggling to save their precious land from the greedy, most definitely mysterious (and you could go so far as to say evil) goals of the Grania Trading Company. Disastrously Humphrey and the Santanders’ mother fall ill after drinking toxic water, so it is up to the children to find and rescue their father, and to help the locals defeat a powerful enemy.
Some of the locals recognise the Santander children are friends not foe, in fact extremely useful friends to have. The children are smart, daring, cunning, imaginative, and extremely skilled mapmakers. You get to care about the family, you get caught up in their quest, and I was crossing fingers and toes that their cunning plans and scary risks would pay off.
Like all good heart-racing adventures, the novel is more than a fast moving plot. The place itself, this haven valley, comes alive as you read. I love how Eirlys makes my tastebuds pop with food. Food is such a tasty way to connect people and draw close to some place different. The children reach for the sunderstrum tin for a snack! They pack pasties, apple cake and nuts for their long trip, and Hessa makes a chewy farron porridge for breakfast. I also love how celebrations are important. The people of Cruxcia celebrate Hallowmas, but they don’t decorate a pine tree, they hang family trees on the wall, and tell stories of their ancestors. The Santander children mourn their ancestor gap. They don’t know the stories. Ah. I felt that gap.
Driving the adventure story are ideas that really resonate with me: what home means, and how we care for it, both individually and as communities. How we work together for the good of the planet (our collective home). How kindness can play a part in living our lives.
The cover image shows Kirsten Slade’s illustrations are full of mood and detail – they are like pocket mappings of buildings, mountain routes, town streets. A perfect fit.
To read a book that is gripping yet also sparks with fascinating life is the very best thing. Eirlys is one of our treasured children’s authors, and this novel underlines why. I highly recommend finding a cosy nook and losing yourself in the crannies of The Uprising. It’s simply glorious, and I do so hope there is another Eirlys Hunter novel in the pipeline!
Eirlys Hunter is a London-born fiction writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She has published seven books for children as well as a novel and short stories for adults. Hunter teaches writing for children at the IIML at Victoria University. Eirlys Hunter’s website.
As an illustrator, writer and creator of comics, Kirsten Slade uses a variety of traditional and digital media techniques to tell her own and others’ stories. Born in Liverpool, England and an immigrant three times over, Kirsten now makes her home in Wellington, New Zealand. She has a BA in Printmaking from American University in Washington, DC.
Gecko Press page