Katherine Rundell

One Christmas Wish

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If you had a Christmas wish what would it be? Would you wish for gifts, food or maybe even snow days? In Katherine Rundell’s book, ‘One Christmas Wish’, Theodore has an opportunity to make a special Christmas Eve wish of his own, a wish that turns into a magical Christmas adventure. 

Once again, Theo’s parents are working late on Christmas Eve and he is left alone in the care of his rather neglectful babysitter. Whilst decorating the family Christmas tree with antique ornaments and gazing out of the window, Theodore seizes the opportunity to make a wish on a shooting star. He wishes with every inch of his heart not to be lonely, to be with somebody, to be un-alone. No sooner then the wish has been spoken, it is magically granted. The ornaments on the tree stretch and come to life- their mission, to keep Theodore company on Christmas Eve. 

One Christmas wish can turn into an extraordinary experience when a rocking horse, a robin, an angel and a tin soldier become your friends. Theodore receives just what he wanted for Christmas and in return his Christmas Eve becomes a quest to help his new playmates with their seasonal wishes. Each decoration appears to need something to make it complete again, whilst the rocking horse has an insatiable appetite for eating everything (including chewing through the cables of the Christmas trees lights), the little Robin has forgotten how to sing; the sweet angel has broken wings and the tin soldier misses his true love. Theodore is able to help each of his new friends find exactly what they need and in return, he finds the companionship he desperately craves.

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After a hectic evening of mischief and magic, Theodore wakes on Christmas morning to find that the restorative magic of the shooting star has stretched beyond the Christmas Eve adventure and has helped create a miraculous Christmas morning.  Theo’s parents have caught the Christmas spirit and the home has been transformed into a festive wonderland of decorations, presents, music and food. Theo and his parents share mugs of hot cocoa around the tree and settle in for a Christmas never to be forgotten. Their experiences have helped them to learn that the real treasures are the people in our lives, and the best gift you can give is the gift of your time.

Katherine Rundell’s book, ‘One Christmas Wish’, is a modern Christmas fable and Emily Sutton’s beautiful illustrations, in her characteristic 1950’s style, make this tale feel like a real Christmas classic. The story is a heartwarming reminder that Christmas is more than the gifts and the trimmings, it is a season of love and goodwill. Readers might imagine and write about their own Christmas dilemmas and wishes, create their own magical Christmas decoration characters and plan their own enchanted Christmas Eve adventures. This is a lovely book to read with any KS2 class.

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One Christmas Wish  Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408885734

The Explorer

Congratulations to Katherine Rundell for winning the Costa Children's Book Awards 2017.

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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

 

The Wolf Wilder

LONGLISTED FOR THE NORTH SOMERSET TEACHERS' BOOK AWARD QUALITY FICTION CATEGORY

Book Title : The Wolf Wilder

Author : Katherine Rundell

Illustrator : Gelrev Ongbico

Publisher : Bloomsbury

ISBN : 9781408862582

Katherine Rundell’s third book ‘The Wolf Wilder’ is an epic tale from start to finish. Set at the beginning of the Russian Revolution, the story follows Feodora and her friends on an adventure to save her mother from the hands of the evil General Rakov. 

Katherine was inspired by old Russian Fairy tales of heroines, frozen landscapes and most importantly, wolves. It could be said that ‘The Wolf Wilder’ is a very different take on Charles Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood, where a fearless red-cloaked girl enters the bleak wintry forests of Western Russia; however, the wolves are her companions and not her enemies and her goal is not to get to grandma’s house, but to free her mother from the dark prisons of St. Petersburg.

At the start of the story, Feo and her mother, Marina, live humbly together on the outskirts of a small village where they spend their time rehabilitating wolves into the wild, or ‘wolf wildering’. It is the fashion of the day for rich Russian aristocrats to keep wolves as pets, but as soon as a wolf displayed its true nature, it became necessary to dispose of it. Fearing that the killing of a wolf would bring bad luck, it was instead sent to a wolf wilder and returned to its natural habitat. When one of the wolves Feo and her mother have rehabilitated kills one of the Tsar’s cattle, they are ordered by Rakov to slaughter of all the wolves in their care. They refuse such an outrageous demand and continue their quiet lives caring for the animals they love so deeply.

Unbeknown to them the tyrannical General Rakov makes Feo and her mother his obsession. Marina is captured and imprisoned for disobedience and there follows a courageous game of cat and mouse as Feo battles her way through the icy landscape to rescue her and avoid capture herself. Feo forges many new friendships along her journey, the most important being with a young soldier, Ilya and the youthful revolutionary, Alexi; her greatest support, however, are always her wolf companions.

Battling through ferocious snow storms, encounters with the Russian army, the wilful ignorance of the local village people and even Rakov himself, Feo and her band of loyal followers are undeterred from their goal. They use the rumblings of the growing revolutionary feelings to their advantage and plan a revolt that will provide them with the distraction and muscle power they require to aid Marina’s escape from prison.

As with all good fairy tales, this story ends happily ever after, but not without loss or heartache or the torturous growth of the human spirit as our young heroine realises her courage and strength despite the difficulties she encounters and the pain she faces.

There are so many opportunities for teaching with this beautiful text. Here are just a few ideas…

  • Explore Russian history around the time of the Russian revolution in 1917.
  • Research Russian fairy tales, particularly tales with wolves.
  • Look at animal rehabilitation - Lions, Primates etc occurring today in various parts of the world and arrange a fundraising activity to sponsor an animal being ‘wilded’.
  • Character profiles of Feo, Ilya, Alexi and Rakov.
  • Research wolves - their habitats, food, behaviour etc.
  • Listen to Russian music and explore Russian dance.
  • The setting of the story is winter in the forests of Russia. Readers could create poems about the icy landscape.
  • Feo prepares as bag with emergency items. What items would readers include in their own emergency packs?
  • Feo describes snow . How might readers add their own interpretations and experiences to this description?
  • Explore the characteristic of courage. How we can face our fears and not to be held back by them? Follow your heart in the same way Feo did, persevering despite challenges and stand up for what is right.
  • At the end of the story,  Feo gives an epic revolutionary, motivational speech. How would readers persuade the people of St. Petersburg to join them in the battle for freedom?