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.