Congratulations to Katherine Rundell for winning the Costa Children's Book Awards 2017.
It feels slightly like we're jumping on the band wagon here, but this review was written and ready to go before we knew it had won!
Four children are on a plane which crashes in the Amazon jungle and are the sole survivors. Very different in personality, background and up-bringing, they have to pull together to survive on their own. As they come to know and understand each other, a bond develops between them.
On meeting 'The Explorer', things happen to challenge their understanding of the world as they know it. Forced back to 'civilisation' by an accident, the unlikely group maintain their friendship and treasure the experience which has changed them all.
Evocative images of the wild create a vivid backdrop to the story, which is full of detail and information about the location, woven seamlessly into the fabric of the story. It is also full of helpful tips for how to stay alive- I just hope I never have occasion to cook a tarantula!
Each character is well developed and very individual- depicted 'warts and all', making an interesting mix of personalities stranded together. Their shared experiences in the jungle help them to understand each other as they face physical, metal and emotional challenges. The story also considers how relationships shape us in many ways.
'The Explorer' has a feel of books like 'Journey to the River Sea' about it and would make an excellent text for upper KS2 with its rich language and taste for adventure. The story of the explorer himself offers the chance to consider the values imposed on others; how the Western world treats/ has treated other cultures. The removal of social conventions offers opportunities for discussing gender 'roles' and preconceptions. Much to enjoy in these pages.
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Hannah Horn
Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1408854877