The Explorer by Katherine Rundell review – wildly exciting adventure

The gripping tale of four youngsters plunged into the Amazon forest will delight with its warmth and wisdom

From the whimsical streets of Victorian Paris in Rooftoppers to the frozen white plains of Russia in The Wolf Wilder, Katherine Rundell conjures an extraordinary sense of place in her novels, no more so than in the lush Amazon rainforest of her latest. Readers are plunged, quite literally, into a wildly exciting adventure when four children crash-land hundreds of miles from civilisation after their pilot suffers a heart attack. They are alone and in absolute peril, without food or water, at the mercy of the ferocious jungle. But it’s also a place of wonder: Rundell’s rich, descriptive prose will transport her young readers to a mesmerising world where they can swim with river dolphins, eat a tarantula and discover a ruined city. The mystery deepens when the discovery of a map suggests they are not the first humans to find this place.

The early 20th-century setting disallows the pesky interference of modern technology, lending a timeless feel to the plot. At the heart of the novel is how her four main characters – aspiring explorer Fred, gloriously spiky Con and Brazilian siblings Lila and Max – embark on a journey of self-discovery, coming to terms with their situation and finding the bravery and ingenuity they need. On one level it’s a gripping story of survival and the tenacity of the human spirit against all odds, but it’s also a hymn to hope, love and courage, delivered with all the warmth and wisdom we’ve come to expect from one of our most talented writers for children.

• The Explorer by Katherine Rundell is published by Bloomsbury (£12.99). To order a copy for £11.04 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

Contributor

Fiona Noble

The GuardianTramp

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