Category Reading

Author of the Month: Katherine Rundell, Book Review Editor, Morag Charlwood

A Christmas Cracker of reading delights for children and adults.

Recommended: The Good Thieves, Katherine Rundell, Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Recommended: Why You Should Read Children’s Books,

Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.

The Good Thieves

Vita Marlowe has a mission. Her beloved grandfather, Jack, has been cheated out of everything he owns by a notorious conman with mafia connections. Vita is determined to set things right, so she devises a plan to outwit Jack’s enemies.

She finds a young pickpocket, working the streets of the city. Nearby, two boys with highly unusual skills and secrets of their own are also about to be drawn into her defiant plan.

Vita’s motto is “Impossible doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying

Katherine Rundell, in her previous children’s books has proved to be a wondrous story-teller. Her rollicking offering, The Good Thieves, lives up to and beyond anticipation. The message is in the title’s oxymoron of Good and Thieves, and instantly signals both her playful plotting and the moral heart of the yarn.

One of the great reading pleasures of this book lies in Rundell’s prestidigitation of the traditional elements of children’s literature that leads us into a magical mix of traditional, yet untraditional tale. So we follow a quest, with a motley crew of children as they take up arms against a dastardly villain. We have a stolen castle, the search for a precious jewel, animals and their rights, the circus. But this plays out in a New York setting of the 1920s, which becomes an integral character in the tale, providing the generic backdrop of speakeasies, prohibition, criminal gangsters, Carnegie Hall; you name it! 

It’s all good fun, a romp with a great heart; a moral tale of friendship across diversity, teamwork, the value of family listening and understanding and the power of strength in adversity. When all’s said and done, the title of this highly recommended novel is THE GOOD THIEVES.

Recommended reading age: good readers of 10+
Many adults who love a good plot and people who enjoy planning
Students of literature who gleefully enjoy genre- spotting
Readers, both children and adults who previously enjoyed Katherine Rundell’s
“The Explorer” (Winner of the 2017 Costa Children’s prize)
And Rundell’s splendid back catalogue of prize-winning children’s fiction.

Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.

I am tempted to call this little gem a manifesto for reading. Katherine Rundell’s thesis lies in the title. Essentially an essay on the value and power of childhood stories as ways into understanding the complexity of the Human Condition, it is easy to read in one sitting, but many of us will come back to it to revisit its wit and wisdom.

I love Rundell’s run-through of the history of children’s literature (covers a fair part of the ground,) I cheer at her view on the importance of free libraries and their role as backbones in a sensitive, diverse and literate society.

If I were Mother Christmas, I would suggest slipping a copy into every politician’s stocking.

Morag Charlwood, Editor, Shoreham Wordfest Book Reviews.

Morag Charlwood, Editor, Shoreham Wordfest Book Reviews.

“Purring mafiosi, breathtaking feats of nerve and a crackling sense of atmosphere throughout make this book a single-sitting treat, showcasing Rundell at the peak of her powers” – Guardian

Biographical Notes: Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell spent her childhood in Africa and Europe. After completing a degree in English and a doctorate on John Donne, she is now a full-time writer and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where she studies Renaissance literature and climbs old buildings at night. Katherine has won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award and has been shortlisted for many others. In 2017 she was selected as one of Hay Festival's Hay30 influential young thinkers to watch.

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