Katherine Rundell, The Explorer, Bloomsbury Australia, 1 Sept 2017, 416pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781408885284
When four children crash in the Amazon, they have no one to rely on but themselves. Using their wits, friendship and bits of knowledge collected from books, the survivors procure life’s essentials — food, shelter, warmth — and set off to save themselves. Inadvertently, they discover a wondrous place that holds the key to their rescue, if only they can keep it a secret.
At once a classic adventure story and a modern day tale of the wonders of nature, Katherine Rundell’s much anticipated middle grade novel brings the tradition of great survival stories to a new generation of readers. From poisonous ants and jungle fire to the simple joys of catching a fish and the glorious taste of honey, these lost children experience life’s extremes in their brief days navigating the Amazon jungle. Along the way, they develop a reverence for nature that displaces pride, arrogance and the need for attention.
With a fascinating setting and the age old question of how to survive without parents or adults, The Explorer is a book that will keep kids turning pages. We are dropped right into the action from chapter one, and while exciting, the adult reader in me wished for more back story. I wanted to care about the four children lost in the jungle, but I didn’t know them well enough to have an attachment. Little by little we learn about Fred’s desire for his father’s love and Con’s dead parents, but overall I missed an emotional link with the characters. That said, the closing chapters are quite touching and make for a satisfying, heartfelt ending.
Written for children aged 9 – 11, The Explorer will ignite the imaginations of children who enjoy adventure stories.
Reviewed by Stephanie Ward