Back in June I had the pleasure of reading the highly anticipated new release from Katherine Rundall, published by Bloomsbury and aimed at middle grade readers of approximately 8-12 years.
This is the fourth Katherine Rundall book I have read and it didn't disappoint. It is a captivating and dare-devilish tale set in 1920's New York and has secured Rundall as my all-round top favourite author.
Rundell's books are for the more competent reader but what I love about her tales is that you are guaranteed to be whisked away and immersed in a beautiful, global setting. From the rooftops of Paris to the plains of Africa, from the exotic Amazon Jungle to the glamour and danger of New York, all her stories are unique, stand-a-lone and terrifically different. There is one thing that remains the same, however. Rundall's writing is both deceptively simple and deliciously bold. Her wonderful language has a light, airy feel to it that makes me feel like I'm floating in a bubble as I read...and the stories are enthralling.
In 'The Good Thieves'- a fast-paced and dynamic tale- feisty Vita and her mother arrive in New York to help her well-connected grandfather, who has been conned out of his ancestral castle by notorious gangster, Sowotore. Furious at the injustice that has been dealt to her beloved grandad, Vita searches for Sowotore on the streets of New York and finds him to be as bad and as dangerous as his reputation. With the help of some new and intriguing friends: an animal tamer, a trapeze-artist and a pickpocket, fighter Vita attempts a reckless and bold as brass plan to find the hidden jewel that will save the castle.
The description of 1920's New York alongside the thrill of a traditional circus is vivid. This book did exactly what books are supposed to do- swept me away to a far away world and kept me hooked from cover to cover. It's a rather grown-up read, however, and I would recommend it to the older end of the middle grade market.
Rooftoppers (Faber Faber 2013)
A baby who survived a shipwreck was found floating on the
Records say that Sophie's mother, a talented cello player, drowned in the shipwreck but now she's not so sure. Taken in and raised by a loving stranger, Charles, and pursued by social services Sophie persuades her guardian to help her follow the single clue she has and trace her mother's cello.
Fleeing to France and hiding from officials, Sophie discovers a beautiful and secret world on the rooftops of Paris and a gang of homeless urchins who have made it their home. Daring the treacherous journey from roof to roof cross the city, can her new and feral friends lead her to her mother before it's too late?
There are similarities to 'The Good Thieves' in this story. It is daring, wild and shows a hidden side to a city and it's inhabitants. Sophie is a gentler character than Vita but equally determined and the mission is family-based and emotive. Prepare tissues for the end!
There is something very classical and magical about this book, partly because Rundall's language somehow makes you feel like you are flying across the rooftops yourself and partly because it is so unique. This was a big award winner, winning the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, the Blue Peter book awards and being shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. This was the first Katherine Rundall book I read and probably still my favourite. Slightly simpler in plot than 'The Good Thieves', a competent 8-9 year old could probably cope with this.
The Girl Savage (Faber, 2011) -also published as Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms
Katherine Rundall certainly loves strong-willed female characters and, in her debut novel, Wilhemina (Will) is no exception. Allowed to run wild over the plains of Zimbabwe, her life is filled with beloved fun and freedom...that is until her cruel new guardian sells their home and sends her to an English boarding school.
Will's failure to adjust to a formal life of rules and education is choking. Pining for her native country, her home and friends she escapes onto the streets of London. Will she ever find anyone who understands her again?
This book was inspired by Rundall's own childhood in Africa and is saturated with spirit. It makes you want to turn your back on all formality and run barefoot under the hot sun - although looking out of the window at the pouring English rain, maybe not today!
The Explorer (Bloomsbury, 2018)
A slightly longer novel than the other, The Explorer is a tale of survival. When their plane goes down, four children- a boy, a girl and a brother and sister- must join forces to survive weeks of dangerous wilderness.
Their journey leads them from building dens and stealing honey from bees to rafting down an Amazon river full of electric eels and eating tarantulas. When they find an ancient ruin and meet a mysterious man with a hidden plane, will he be the key to their escape?
Again, there are some strong female characters in this story, tempered by the rather serious Fred. Five year old Max is the heart-strings of the story as he struggles to survive at such a young age. When he is taken gravely ill, the race is on to save his life...and time is running out fast.
Slightly slower paced than Rundell's other tales, this immersive story is still filled with plenty of action and has a strong climatic end. Their journey unfolds gradually, giving a sense of the endless days of being lost in the jungle. This story will appeal to all adventurers and explorers out there.
A little about Katherine Rundall
Rundall keeps a low profile as an author. She is not on social media, nor have I seen many interviews with her. However, she is a highly educated graduate of Oxford and grew up across both Africa and Europe, something which has greatly inspired her stories. This year she published a small book naming reasons and benefits of why adults should read children's books (something, as you see, I fully support 😀). She has already gained a reputation for being a classic storyteller and I can see all her books being around on the shelves far into the future.
The Wolf Wilder:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23257157-the-wolf-wilder?from_search=true
One Christmas Wish:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36352249-one-christmas-wish?from_search=true
Into the Jungle : Stories for Mowgli -https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38812918-into-the-jungle?from_search=true
Find your way through the fantastic forest of children's stories with this book review blog of picture books, junior fiction and middle grade publications.
Wednesday, 30 October 2019
Author Spotlight: Katherine Rundall -Middle Grade Legend.
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