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It's handy to know how to cook a tarantula: the class book review

This tale of four children whose plane crashes in the Amazon jungle is an old-fashioned adventure story...but it offers useful survival tips for any readers unlucky enough to find themselves in a similar situation

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This tale of four children whose plane crashes in the Amazon jungle is an old-fashioned adventure story...but it offers useful survival tips for any readers unlucky enough to find themselves in a similar situation

Title: The Explorer
Author: Katherine Rundell
Illustrator: Hannah Horn
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's

Teacher review

When their plane crashes in the Amazon jungle, four children are the only ones left alive. With no idea when – or if – they will be rescued, these very different personalities are forced to pull together and pool all their knowledge, skills and ideas in order to survive.

As they struggle to find food, shelter and a way home in this very strange, beautiful but dangerous territory, they begin to uncover clues that they may not be alone, as they thought.

This is a well-written, quite old-fashioned adventure story of the "Four Survive in the Amazon Jungle' kind, although the concern for environmental issues adds a modern touch. The rainforest itself comes brilliantly alive, and we are given a vivid picture of its sweeping landscapes, lush vegetation and exotic wildlife, both adorable and deadly. There is a strong sense of nature having the upper hand, although it is made clear that the human race is a threat and could easily destroy everything that is magical about this place.

the explorer, katherine rundell, hannah horn, bloomsbury children's, adventure, book review

The characters all have their own problems and fears, particularly loss and grief in their families, which have caused them to feel lonely and unloved, and at first they do not always appear likeable. Their experiences in the rainforest, however, help them to understand each other, discover their own inner strengths and forge deep friendships.

Fans of Bear Grylls-type adventures will be thrilled by the twists and turns, white-knuckle action and fascinating location of the story, but, for me, it felt a little too much like a survival manual, which eventually became totally unbelievable. Perhaps, like the children in the book, I need to get in touch with my wild side.

Jackie Murrell is librarian at Bromley High School, in Kent. She tweets as @LibraryGeek12

Pupil reviews

‘Handy in the middle of the rainforest’

This was a heart-stopping book. I never knew what was going to happen next – what the characters would have to go through to survive.

This was an adventure book, mixed in with plenty of humour. I loved how Katherine Rundell could make you feel so tense, but then laugh aloud. It would definitely be handy if you had this book with you if you crashed in the middle of the Amazon rainforest! I learned a lot from it: for example, how to make a spear and how to catch and cook a tarantula.

Throughout the book, I felt like I understood all the characters. If anyone would give their own opinion, I would concur. I understood how they felt about things and what their personalities were like.

I loved this book! I would recommend it to anyone; any age would find this book exhilarating.

Rebecca Kearney, Year 6

‘On the edge of my seat’

The Explorer is about four children whose plane crashes, stranding them in the Amazon. The story follows them as they try to survive the challenges of the jungle, both physical and emotional.

The Explorer is a page-turner that kept me on the edge of my seat. The characters involved me emotionally and I was happy they had each other, although I worried about Max because he was so young.

The character that drew me in the most was Con. Con’s spirit and caution reminded me of myself. The moral of the story is: never give up and things will turn out right, which is a good lesson in life. I would recommend this book to readers who love adventure stories like Swallows and Amazons or Treasure Island.

Iona Ibe- Spence, Year 6

‘Sad and funny at the same time’

The Explorer is an adventure book about four children stranded in the rainforest. This book shows a lot of bravery, positivity, determination, boldness and inspiration. The book makes you think a lot and is very intriguing.

The story is sad and funny at the same time. It is sad in the way that they are stuck in the jungle and funny as the youngest one is slightly confused, because he is only 5 and doesn’t understand very many things. It kind of confuses you.

In the book, the main characters are Con, Lila, Fred, Max and the Explorer. I really like Con, because she does not like the jungle at first and does not trust anyone, but later in the book she trusts and loves the jungle and the Explorer.

 Overall, I really enjoyed this book, although the epilogue was a bit confusing. I recommend you read this book, 100 per cent.

Ella Cain, Year 5

‘Rooting for the characters’

Four children find themselves lost in the Amazon rainforest after their plane crashes. These four travellers are very different in character and all have their own reasons for their journey to Manaus.

The author, Katherine Rundell, is keen to paint a picture of the four children so that her readers fully understand them. She explains their home lives, their traits and their hopes for the future. There is a clever paragraph part way through the book in which, through the mouth of the Explorer, the author describes the characters by the way they breathe:

“The English girl breathes through her teeth, the Brazilian girl with the ropes of her hair breathes as though she fears waking the world. The small boy appears to be breathing through a veritable revolutionary barricade of snot. And right now you are breathing as if you’re afraid that I plan to throw a knife at your kneepad.”

Three of these characters are optimistic about getting out of the Amazon. However, Con is pessimistic. I liked Con as a character because she is a logical person who considers the risks involved with each of the challenges she faces. From the start, she says that they are unlikely to survive and that their best hope is to stay by the plane and wait for a search party to arrive. The other three persuade her that they need to find their own way to safety and, during the story, she gradually learns to take risks. Con’s way of thinking gives a balance to the group, and she finds that she has skills which she can use to help them escape the Amazon.

By the end of the book, I really felt like I knew the characters and was rooting for them to get to Manaus safely.

Louise Coley, Year 6

‘Gripping, exciting and even funny’

When I first looked at the book I was honestly a bit frightened that it wouldn’t be that interesting, but as soon as I started reading I couldn’t put it down!

The book created a vivid picture in my mind; the description was really powerful. It made me think about how we should be more grateful for what we have and how comfortable our life is, because there are other people in the world who aren’t living as well as we are.

The book was moving and adventurous but it was also mysterious. When Fred, Con, Lila and Max find a bag with a map in it, it makes you wonder if they are really alone. I know I would definitely NOT want to be in their situation as they had to take life-threatening risks!

I especially like the bit where one of the children sits on a bullet ants' nest and only has a few days to get to hospital and survive.

I would recommend this book 100 per cent as it is gripping, exciting and even funny.

Meri Harrod, Year 5

If you or your class would like to write a review for Tes, please contact Adi Bloom at

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