Cover image for The explorer / Katherine Rundell.
The explorer / Katherine Rundell.

First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, [2017]
Physical Description:
324 pages ; 22 cm
Left stranded in the Amazon jungle when their plane crashes on their way back to England from Manaus, Brazil, four children struggle to survive for days until one of them finds a map that leads them to a ruined city and a secret hidden among the vines.
Audience/Reading Level:
Interest age level: 8-12.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
RUN Paperback Junior Action Fiction

On Order



Parents' Choice Recommended

From Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner Katherine Rundell comes an exciting new novel about a group of kids who must survive in the Amazon after their plane crashes.

Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they're on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days they survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret.

Author Notes

Katherine Rundell was born in 1987. She is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Her books include The Girl Savage and The Wolf Wilder. She received several awards including the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the Blue Peter Award in 2014 for Rooftoppers, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, and the Costa Award for Children's book in 2017 for The Explorers.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A plane crash strands four children in the Amazon in this mesmerizing tale of courage and adventure from Rundell (The Wolf Wilder). Fred, Con, Lila, and Lila's five-year-old brother, Max, must face predators (including piranhas and caimans), growing hunger, and extreme elements if they hope to find their way back to civilization. A map, found by chance, charts their course, leading them to a ruined city of secrets. The dangers of the Amazon leap from the pages, as does the daring the main characters display amid overwhelming circumstances. Readers will be fascinated by the lengths the children go to in order to survive: "The grubs, when mixed with the cocoa beans and pounded with a clean stick, turned into a paste, which, if you squinted and were of an optimistic temperament, looked like flour and water." A quieter thread contemplates the nature of exploration and curiosity, tying into the enigmatic city of ruins. Fans of survival stories like Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain are an ideal audience for this fast-paced escapade with a lush and captivating setting. Ages 8-12. Agent: Claire Wilson, Rogers, Coleridge & White. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

When four children are marooned in the Amazon jungle, they eventually make their way to the ruins of an ancient city, inhabited by "the explorer," a British man with a tragic past. This fanciful survival adventure, relayed in suitably fanciful prose, evokes the improbabilities of nineteenth-century boys' adventure stories, British imperial exploration, and a brief moment of postcolonial awareness. (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New York Review of Books Review

KIDS LOVE AN UNFINISHED MAP. What'S in those empty spots? Why does no one know? Can I be the one to go find out? Katherine Rundell's latest middle-grade novel, "The Explorer," faces such enticing questions head on. After a plane crash, Fred is stranded in the Amazon jungle, where he will have to find shelter, food and - eventually - a way out. Stranded alongside the British schoolboy are Con ("short for Constantia, but if you call me that, I'll kill you"); Lila, shy and even-keeled; and Max, Lila's rascally brother. "The Explorer" moves at a good clip, its short scenes packed with crackling dialogue, and Rundell brings wonderful gusto to her descriptions of the many discomforts of jungle life. This is not the Amazon we think we know. The piranhas and caimans aren't mindless killers but animals occupying important niches in the environment, and the true insect menace is not the spiders but the bullet ants. The kids come to realize the jungle is what European explorers called a "counterfeit paradise," seemingly abundant but lacking food outsiders can easily recognize. There's a classic feel to this story from the start, with its crisply characterized quartet of kids facing exciting dangers that the reader is certain they will overcome. Even though we're in the Brazilian Amazon, everyone speaks the King's English. It's rather like the way 19th-century Europeans viewed the Amazon itself, a playground in which to work out inner selves. Rundell leans right into the nostalgia factor of her setup, as when the kids begin to suspect they're not alone in the jungle - and that the other person out there is one of those famous long-lost English explorers. After the heyday of classics like Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet" and Jean Craighead George's "Julie of the Wolves," fictional survival stories for kids are waning. It's a shame, since they stoke the greatest dreams and anxieties of youth. What if there were no parents? What if I had to make my dinner? Could I eat a grub? (Fred does, by the way, and it's "like eating porridge mixed with fingernail grime.") When calamity strikes, the kids must get back to civilization, and the mysterious adult they meet - the "explorer" of the book's title - helps them do so. They face big questions: Do they keep the secret of this man who wants to be left alone in the deep forest? How will Fred hold on to the love he feels for the jungle, "a trumpet call to a part of him he had not known existed" ? Rundell navigates these concerns with humor, as when Con notes that the macaws "make the birds in England look like they're dressed for a job interview." The book's verve is a welcome counterpoint to the lyrical descriptions, like the "white thundering smoke" of the rain. At points, Rundell's poetic fervor gets the better of the narrative, as when "the stars above them were clustered so thickly that the silver outnumbered the night." I'd rather not be arrested by Rundell's language when I could have stayed immersed in our heroic kids' jungle journey. With its fine balance of menace and cheer, though, "The Explorer" is a book to kindle imaginations. Young readers will finish it with an impression of the grandeur of the natural world. It's a lesson we'll be learning and forgetting forever: "When you get home, tell them how large the world is," the explorer says to the kids, "and how green." ELIOT schrefer is the author of "Threatened" and other books for young readers. "Mez's Magic," the first book in his new Lost Rainforest series, will be published in January.



The Explorer Flight LIKE A MAN-MADE MAGIC wish, the Airplane began to rise. The boy sitting in the cockpit gripped his seat and held his breath as the plane roared and climbed into the arms of the sky. Fred's jaw was set with concentration, and his fingers followed the movements of the pilot beside him: fuel gauge, throttle, joystick. The airplane vibrated as it flew faster, following the swerve of the Amazon River below them. Fred could see the reflection of the six-seater plane, a spot of black on the vast sweep of blue as it sped toward Manaus, the city on the water. He brushed his hair out of his eyes and pressed his forehead against the window. Behind Fred sat a girl and her little brother. They had the same slanted eyebrows and the same brown skin, the same long eyelashes. The girl had been shy, hugging her parents until the last possible moment at the airfield; now she was staring down at the water, singing under her breath. Her brother was trying to eat his seat belt. In the next row, on her own, sat a pale girl with blond hair down to her waist. Her blouse had a neck ruffle that came up to her chin, and she kept tugging it down and grimacing. She was determinedly not looking out the window. The airfield they had just left had been dusty and almost deserted, just a strip of tarmac under the ferocious Brazilian sun. Fred's cousin had insisted that he wear his school uniform, and now, inside the hot airless cabin, Fred felt like he was being gently cooked inside his own skin. The engine gave a whine, and the pilot frowned and tapped the joystick. He was old and soldierly, with brisk nostril hair and a gray waxed mustache that seemed to reject the usual laws of gravity. He touched the throttle, and the plane soared upward, higher into the clouds. It was almost dark when Fred first began to worry. The pilot began to belch, first quietly, then violently and repeatedly. His hand gave a sudden jerk, and the plane dipped drunkenly to the left. Someone screamed behind Fred. The plane lurched away from the river and over the canopy. Fred stared at the man; he was turning the same shade of gray as his mustache. "Are you all right, sir?" he asked. The pilot grunted, gasped, and wound back the throttle, slowing the engine. He gave a cough that sounded like a choke. "Is there something I can do?" asked Fred. Fighting for breath, the pilot shook his head. He reached over to the control panel and cut the engine. The roar ceased. The nose of the plane dipped downward. The trees rose up. "What's happening?" asked the blond girl sharply. "What's he doing? Make him stop!" The little boy in the back began to shriek. The pilot grasped Fred's wrist, hard, for a single moment; then his head slumped against the dashboard. And the sky, which had seconds before seemed so reliable, gave way. Excerpted from The Explorer by Katherine Rundell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.