November 17, 2017

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The Explorer | Katherine Rundell

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redstarRUNDELL, Katherine. The Explorer. 336p. S. & S. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481419451.

Gr 5-8 –The fiery crash of a six-seater plane, following the apparent heart attack of its pilot, leaves British adolescents Fred and Con and Brazilian children Lila and her brother Max stranded in the Amazon jungle, having escaped the flames and left relatively unhurt, but with little knowledge of how to survive. Strangers to one another, the three young teens must overcome their emotional baggage and learn to cooperate in order to deal with the needs and antics of five-year-old Max. Building a raft, they intend to follow the river to Manaus using a map they find hidden in a tree, but their journey leads them to an ancient lost city and a strange man who is possibly a famous explorer who disappeared years before. The author’s knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Amazon, explained in a preliminary note to readers, lends authenticity to the setting as the children experience both beauty and danger, pooling their own limited knowledge to build a fire, extract honey from a beehive, eat grub pancakes, watch cavorting pink dolphins, adopt a baby sloth, avoid treacherous piranhas and caimans, and face their fears and personal histories. Each character has a unique backstory and talent or special interest that contributes to his/her survival. Elegant descriptive passages and lyrical writing (“The fire made a noise like an idea being born, a roar that sounded like hope”) enhance but also occasionally jar the fast-paced, often gritty narrative. ­VERDICT Fans of adventure novels such as Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet or Willard Price’s “Adventure” series (which are also favorites of Rundell) will enjoy this jam-packed survival ­story.–Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library ­System, Bellport, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

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