The Last Mapmaker
By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Exciting seafaring fantasy adventure for brave tween.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers get a feel for Thai culture and history. Offers food for thought on big issues like colonialism, environmental destruction, animal welfare. A bit about sailing, like where and what different parts of a ship are and how sailors used the sun, stars, and time to navigate. The art and science of mapmaking.
You can't change the past or hide from it, but you can choose what to do next and change your future. You can decide what to make of your life, if you're willing to take chances. If you get to know people by listening to them, you'll often find out they're very different from what you first thought.
Positive Role Models
Sai, who's almost 13, is a good model for perseverance, empathy, and courage. She keeps going in the face of danger, never gives up, and is guided by her own feelings when helping others or deciding what to do. Bo is a good model for teamwork and perseverance. A villain is motivated by jealousy and desire for power and fame.
All Asian characters in a fantasy realm that draws from Thai culture have a range of skin tones and hair types. Men and women are equal, and women have positions of power and authority.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Narrator grabbed from behind, uses self-defense techniques to escape her assailant. A captured baby whale's distress is described. An adult whale is harpooned several times; thrashing in blood is mentioned. A hand is whipped in punishment; blood mentioned. A couple of fights mention punches. A past beating is implied by a scar and limp from a broken leg. Past sadness mentioned from baby pigs in distress in a slaughterhouse. Characters in danger from storms at sea and a fantasy creature.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sai says she could kiss Bo, he backs away, and she says she's only joking.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Some potty humor name-calling like "turd" and "dung."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several mentions of a tavern and heavy sleeping after coming home imply that Sai's father frequently drinks to excess. An adult takes prescribed injections for involuntary shaking. Sailors at sea drink wine and bet on card games.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Last Mapmaker, by Christine Soontornvat (A Wish in the Dark and All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team), won a 2023 Newbery Honor. It's a seafaring fantasy rooted in Thai history and culture. Narrator Sai, who's 12, becomes the mapmaker's assistant on a voyage to chart unknown waters. Violence includes harsh punishment like whipping; animals, especially baby animals, in distress; assaults; and a couple of fights with punches. There's danger from intense storms at sea, from being stranded, and from a fantasy creature. Adults drinking to excess is implied, and an adult character takes prescribed medication. There's a joking reference to a kiss, and some mild potty humor name-calling like "turd" and "dung." Parental loss and separation are a theme along with the environmental damage a society's quest for more power and territory can bring about.
Where to Read
There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the Story?
In THE LAST MAPMAKER, 12-year-old Sai has been working hard and saving every penny she can as an assistant to the kingdom's most illustrious mapmaker, Paiyoon. But if Paiyoon, or anyone else, ever found out the truth about Sai and her father, her chance of escaping poverty would disappear forever. When she hears that the Queen is offering a prize to the ship that discovers a fabled southern continent, Sai signs on to the voyage with Master Paiyoon, certain that it's her best chance to get away from her old life once and for all. But Sai isn't the only one keeping secrets, and she quickly learns that navigating relationships with others can be as treacherous as the stormiest of seas.
Is It Any Good?
Acclaimed Newbery Honor recipient Christine Soontornvat has created an exciting and unique seafaring adventure featuring a smart, brave tween girl protagonist. The fantasy kingdom inspired by Thai history and culture is vivid and fully believable, and it's populated with colorful, intriguing characters. Dashes of humor help keep things from getting too dark as the excitement builds and the pages keep turning.
Tweens will relate to Sai as she learns that people aren't always what they seem, and longs for a better life than the one she has. They'll also get plenty of food for thought about big issues like colonization, environmental destruction, animal welfare, friendship, trust, and more. The ending brings everything to a safe, satisfying, and optimistic close.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence and scariness in The Last Mapmaker. Does it make the story more exciting, or is it too much?
Is Sai a positive role model? How does she show empathy and perseverance?
Why are fantasy stories so popular? What do we love about them? What are some of your favorites?
- Author: Christina Soontornvat
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Ocean Creatures
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: April 12, 2022
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: Common Sense Selection, Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: January 30, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate