Katherine Rundell: Three Books that Made Me a Writer

Katherine Rundell:edited:Photograph by Blair MowatWhen the Amazon Book Review interviewed the writer Katherine Rundell earlier this month, it was clear that this Shakespeare scholar, tight-rope artist, and amateur pilot is as well-read as she is adventurous. Her new novel for young readers, The Explorer, is the exciting, emotional story of four children fighting to survive after their plane crashes in the Amazon rainforest. It’s a tale of bravery and ingenuity that will make you believe, as Rundell does, that “children are capable of great things,” and that “meeting fear head on is what galvanizes the human heart.”

Rundell grew up running around barefoot in Zimbabwe, reading books from the local library, which were often very old indeed. Dated or not, the stories she read then instilled in her the love of literature and pithy, vivid writing that makes her books for children such a delight for readers of any age. We asked Katherine Rundell to tell us a little bit about the books that meant the most to her as a child.

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Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.
One of the first books I remember loving was Where the Wild Things Are: Sendak had such an intricate and generous understanding of what children want - I drank in that madcap, bold world he builds and wanted more. It taught me what it is to be hungry for books.
 

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Charmed Life, by Diana Wynne Jones.
The writer Diana Wynne Jones is famous in the U.K., but still not as much read as she deserves - she should be even more famous than J.K. Rowling (whose work I also adored). Charmed Life, written in the 1970s, is about a wizard who does not know he is a wizard, sent to live in a castle with an enigmatic man at the head of it (sound familiar?) and it thrilled me; she is so sharply funny, and her books believe in the wit and intelligence of children. She taught me not to underestimate children. 
 

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Journey to the River Sea, by Eve Ibbotson.
Perhaps the book that has most influenced my most recent work is Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. It's a brilliant adventure and a love letter to the beauty of the Amazon rainforest; when I first read it, I longed to go to the Amazon. Years later, I did, and my own book The Explorer came directly from that journey. 
 

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The Explorer, by Katherine Rundell.
 

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