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Summer Book Reviews: Part 1


Do you love to read? TFK Kid Reporters do too! Ethan Zhang and Tabitha Kho shared their reviews of two of the summer’s most interesting books. This is the first in a five-part series. Check back soon for more from TFK’s Summer Book Review roundup.


Title: The Last Mapmaker

Author: Christina Soontornvat

Reviewed by: TFK Kid Reporter Ethan Zhang

Genre: Fantasy

Number of pages: 368

What’s the plot? The Last Mapmaker is about a 12-year-old girl named Sai. She comes from a poor area in the kingdom of Mangkon. Her father is a con man. Usually, Sai’s humble background would determine her future. But Sai is determined to shape a future of her own. She conceals her humble beginnings to become an assistant to Paiyoon, a master mapmaker. Paiyoon invites Sai to accompany him on a voyage to chart the southern seas. But once at sea, Sai finds out that the real purpose of the expedition is not to make maps. It is to expand and enrich the empire. The ship is heading for the fabled Sunderlands, in search of treasure and more land for the kingdom. Rumor has it that the place is inhabited by dragons. By taking this dangerous journey, Sai finally leaves her old life, and her secrets, behind. But she doesn’t know whom she can trust on the ship. Everyone on board has a secret. And Sai comes to question the very purpose of the journey.

Are the characters relatable? Readers will find many of the book’s characters relatable. They might sympathize with Sai, who is fighting to have a better future while being uncertain about whom to trust. Readers will also admire the war hero Rian, who is a kind and good-natured friend to Sai. Other readers might like Captain Sangra, for her leadership and willingness to go against tradition.

Who would like this book? Anyone who enjoys fantasy books filled with life-changing adventures will enjoy The Last Mapmaker. And if you appreciate vivid description and shocking revelations, this book is a must-read.

How would you rate this book? Why? On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate The Last Mapmaker a 10. The made-up world was inspired by real history, and it is fully believable. The plot is filled with excitement and suspense. We follow an exciting journey with plenty of danger. But don’t worry—the story has an optimistic ending. Most important is the book’s theme. It’s about choosing your own destiny. Finding out whether Sai will be successful makes the book a page-turner.


Title: Moonwalking

Author: Zetta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Reviewed by: TFK Kid Reporter Tabitha Kho

Genre: Realistic fiction/Novel in verse

Number of pages: 224

What’s the plot? This book follows two kids, JJ and Pi. Punk-rock-loving JJ and his family fall into poverty after he and his father participate in a labor strike. As JJ reflects: “It took three days to break the strike . Six months to realize no place would hire Dad again. They called it blacklisted.” Pi is a Black, straight-A student by day and a graffiti artist by night. He protests racism and commemorates the life of his role model, Ricky, who was killed at 15. Pi also cares for his younger sister and mother, who has frequent anxiety attacks. He wants to be a famous artist, like Jean-Michel Basquiat. JJ and Pi become friends after Pi offers JJ a place to eat in peace. But when JJ hesitates to stand up for his friend, Pi turns his back on him. Both have to deal with their own problems, but will they ever forgive each other?

Are the characters relatable? The characters are very relatable and are dealing with very real, human feelings. I can’t say that I have gone through anything even close to what they experience, but their emotions, thoughts, and questions feel very authentic. I feel that the authors are skillful and true in their storytelling.

Who would like this book? This book is not just for poetry enthusiasts. I don’t enjoy reading poetry, but I love this book! It’s definitely for more experienced readers, though. You need motivation to push through the harder parts and puzzle out the verse.

How would you rate this book? Why? For me, it’s an 8 out of 10. Great book. At times, I found the poetic style hard to follow and lost motivation. But I finished it with a smile and a warm heart, wanting more. The book is worth the work needed to get through it.