Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash

My husband who has taught 1st graders for 18 years used to whisper in my ear when our daughter was a hell-on-wheels three-year-old, "Barb get sad, not mad." Which of course made me so mad I wanted to rip his eyeballs out. But he was right. And I knew it. I did learn to be sad, not mad (only had one relapse when she turned 13, but that is another story).

Goldenrod's teacher, Mrs. Barbroff also gets mad not sad. When she witnesses Goldenrod stabbing a pencil through a bully's backpack and spearing his protein drink so it explodes like a fountain, she actually screeches like a seagull and lectures Goldenrod that she will turn into a hoodlum. Mrs. Barf ,as Goldenrod likes to refer to her, is militant and doesn't understand how to get students to think about their actions. Luckily Goldenrod's mom and dad are different and tell her they are disappointed with her behavior and ground her for a week. Only problem is they don't follow through either and Goldenrod talks her mom out of her grounding after one day. But it isn't surprising. Goldenrod can be charming and kind or strong and stubborn when she sets her mind to it.

Goldenrod misses her friend Charla who has moved away suddenly. The two pretended they were Lewis and Clark and would make maps and explore. Goldenrod decides she is going to map out the town and when she nears the forest she meets an old woman who sends her on a quest to find a rare blue rose. Goldenrod meets a ghost who helps her and a gang of gross and kooky kids who thwart her quest. When her brother gets in trouble the two team up and battle through all sorts of adventures.

I found the beginning interesting although I wasn't sure this tiny girl was strong enough to stab through a backpack and plastic bottle. I thought that maybe she could with a knife but not a sharp pencil. But no biggie, I could overlook that. The parents were kind of ditzy but enduring in their own way. The relationship between Goldenrod and her brother was real too. When the story shifts to the group of goofy boys and snot-blasting sharpshooter girl I lost interest. I think kids will love the gross humor but the characters didn't interest me. I also thought they were stereotypical with the orphan boy who has been in too many foster homes and wanted to belong and the neglected rest of the crew. I did like that Goldenrod shows kindness to the bully when she didn't have to.

Lewis and Clark is studied in 5th grade and that is the age of Goldenrod. A reader can glean a few nonfiction facts about the explorers but not much. I got a kick out of the ghost when he scared Snotshot into putting the rose where he wanted. There are also a lot of play on words and names that are humorous. The story shines in parts and lacks in others. I look forward to more books by this author as she keeps improving her craft. A good story for elementary-aged kids.

Reading level 6.4
3 out of 5 Smileys

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