The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
The winner of the Costa Children's Book Award for 2017 will slow your soul and make your heart beat faster
By Katherine Rundell
Bloomsbury Children's books
Reviewer: Shaun Lambert
Katherine Rundell’s new book for children has just won the Costa Children’s Book Award for 2017 amongst some fierce competition. She is a Fellow at Oxford College, and enjoys tightrope walking and sauntering on roofs. She was born in Zimbabwe and grew up revelling in freedom and nature. This all changed when she moved to Belgium with her parents – her father was a diplomat. Here I imagine life was much more restricted.
Katherine is the author of Rooftoppers, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner), The Wolf Wilder, and now The Explorer.
The themes of restriction (often inner) and freedom resurface in this book. The story revolves around four children travelling in a light airplane flying over the Amazon which crashes into the jungle when the pilot dies at the controls. They meet the Explorer, but that idea of becoming or being an explorer becomes a major theme for the children.
What I am looking for in a review is to know whether the book is worth reading; where there is magic or mystery or a particularly fine form of attentiveness on display from the author.
The story is multi-woven, like the jungle in which it is set. The characters entangle you in their child-like reality. Although there is an ecological heart to the book it is not puritanical, but truthfully attentive to the reality of our interconnectedness with nature. Interestingly this book took me straight back to my childhood growing up in East Africa. It was as if it began to pulse and jungle plants and animal life stretched out a leaf or a limb from the pages.
The book demanded and won the paying of ferocious attention from me, the essence of exploring, according to the author. My soul slowed down as I read it, while my heart beat faster. I was tempted to read under the covers to see if the story glowed on its own, each word like a fire fly drawing me in further, sending me further.
After reading the book I was left slightly drunk with wonder: I had tasted the possibility of becoming an explorer.
Shaun Lambert is the author of Flat Earth Unroofed and minister at Stanmore Baptist Church