Review: The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

9781526608130A swashbuckling adventure set in Prohibition-era New York City made even more engrossing by its emotional core and blend of characters. Fun, but without the sprinkling of magic that made The Explorer a standout.

In The Good Thieves, young Vita assembles a small team comprised of an expert pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers to break into a derelict Hudson River castle once owned by her grandfather — cruelly purloined by a notorious conman named Victor Sorrotore — and recover a priceless hidden emerald.

Vita is an endearing protagonist, who rarely lets her bout with polio slow her down, and her fellow thieves are well-drawn and glow with personality. The action comes thick and fast, lyrically rendered, but New York never really comes alive like the jungle in The Explorer. The Good Thieves is guaranteed to entertain, but it is missing the emotional impact of its predecessor. Still, there’s no such thing as bad Katherine Rundell, and one of her middling novels is better than 95% of everything else on the shelves.

ISBN: 9781526608130
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 336
Imprint: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 13-Jun-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

9781408854877In Katherine Rundell’s gem of a book, The Explorer, a crash-landing in the Amazon leaves four children stranded deep in the jungle, who must find within themselves the strength, courage, perseverance, and wisdom to survive.

Rundell immediately thrusts readers into the action. The opening chapter details the plane’s mid-flight stutter as it travels from England to Manaus; the sudden shift from normalcy to desperation as the plane plunges into the fauna below. Before readers can catch their breath, we’re introduced to your young survivors — Fred, a white English boy, Constantia, an English girl, and biracial Brazilian siblings Lila and 5-year-old Max — and their plight for survival. At first uneasy allies, they surge through their fear and their discomfort, searching for shelter and foraging for food, scraping by as best they can on their wits alone; until Fred stumbles across an old map, and they decide to follow it to the X. Boarding their handmade raft,  the children make the precarious journey down the river, until they rediscover a lost city, and among its ruins, a mysterious man they refer to only as ‘the Explorer,’ who has the knowledge, and the tools, to see them home safely. Which he will do, right? He’s the adult amongst children, thereby the leader, thereby responsible for their wellbeing. But something from the Explorer’s past has hardened him; and he might not be the saving angel the kids hoped he would be.

The Explorer is a spirited, timeless tale of  self-discovery masquerading as a rip-roaring adventure story. Young readers will delight in Rundell’s ability to bring to life the sounds and smells (and the dangers!) of the Amazon, and will be white-knuckled during the pulse-pounding moments of near-death that punctuate the narrative. But its the underlying message — that these kids, that all children — are stronger, braver, and more resilient than they give themselves credit for — that elevates the book above other titles on the shelves. It’s easy — well, relatively so — for an author to craft an action-packed story of survival; it’s far more difficult to write one with as much heart as Rundell’s story. The Explorer pulsates with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

ISBN: 9781408854877
Format: Hardback (198mm x 129mm x mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Bloomsbury Childrens
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 10-Aug-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom