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Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms Paperback – March 1, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Wilhelmina Silver—aka Will, Wildcat, Madman, Cartwheel—has what she considers to be an idyllic life. Since her mother's death when she was five, she has been "raised" on a remote farm in Zimbabwe by her father, the farm foreman. She has been free to explore and run like the wind; ride bareback on her horse, Shumba; and has a pet monkey to keep her company. She is at home in the bush and sleeps in trees, if necessary, and routinely steals fruit and sets fires with her best friend Simon and the rest of the farm boys. She's a good reader and keen observer, but her formal education has been sketchy at best. The things she knows to be true are not easily quantified or necessarily valued. When her father dies, she is left in the care of Captain Browne, the kindly farm owner, and his scheming and manipulative new wife. When it is announced that the farm is to be sold and Will is to be sent to a private school in England, the girl's golden world is shattered. Leaving behind all that she has known and loves and adjusting to a cold, inhospitable climate is just part of her challenge. She has always been a quick study and a fierce competitor and there is no place for her to shine in the snooty, highly regimented school. Driven by desperation and the girls' cruelty, Will runs away and has to work out for herself what is real, valuable, and true. Rundell's vivid and compelling prose brings both worlds to life on a visceral level and propels her characters forward. Readers will be engaged by Will's voice (and her colorful linguistic twists), ache for her through her sorrow and loss, and celebrate her newly sparked confidence and resolve. Warning: there will be cartwheels!—Luann Toth, School Library Journal --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is the work of a writer with an utterly distinctive voice and a wild imagination. I admire her novels very much, and I hope they find the success they deserve. I’m certainly looking forward to her next." (Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials series)
*"With debut novel Rooftoppers (2013), Rundell showed her capacity to write an entertaining story featuring a courageous female protagonist; this second novel surpasses by virtue of its striking, soaring prose." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
*"A gripping, magical, and heartwarming tale of resilience, friendship, and hope." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
*"Rundell’s language soars in this portrait of a fierce and largehearted girl." (Booklist, starred review)
"Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is a treasure of a book." (VOYA)
"Instead of making Zimbabwe some mysterious “other” place, she imbues it with color, love and vibrancy...Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms offers readers a sympathetic and enticing portrait of a part of the world they might not have heard of before reading this book, but will certainly be intrigued by ever after." (BookPage)
"Katherine Rundell once again demonstrates her ability to weave a story with a strong, determined female character...This one's for readers who appreciate the classic elements of storytelling with a twist." (Shelf Awareness)
"Rundell’s vivid and compelling prose brings both worlds to life on a visceral level and propels her characters forward. Readers will be engaged by Will’s voice (and her colorful linguistic twists), ache for her through her sorrow and loss, and celebrate her newly sparked confidence and resolve. Warning: there will be cartwheels!" (School Library Journal, starred review)
"Rundell writes with a beautiful voice...both gripping and profound." (BCCB)
"Rundell’s finely drawn etchings of the people in Will’s sphere and rich descriptions of African colonial farm life sprawl across the page in sensual largesse." (Horn Book Magazine)
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Overall, this book was really worth reading because of all the adventure, but I don't think the author did a good job of writing an interesting beginning.
Some of the main things I like about the book are
1) The main character, Will, breaks the stereotypes about girls being weaker about boys
2) The adventures of running away and how Will struggled to survive, but in the end, she always found a way.
3) The uniqueness. I'm not sure if there was any other book like this or not, for I haven't even read a fifth of all the books in the world, but the whole " getting separated from your family and all that you know and going to school in a totally different place where you don't fit in" thing, kind of reminded me of the book, The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I thought it would be very similar to that story, but when I read further, I realized it was not.
I won't go into the plot as the summary does that well. If you want to know how a courageous, vulnerable, powerless, girl reacts when she's throw into an entirely new and foreign (literally) life with no preparation or choice, Will can show you how she tries to cope, does amazing feats of bravery, and finally has to accept the kindness of strangers and eventual hard wall of reality. She is an amazing girl and the plot is full of adventure and interesting characters. Mainly, it's the force of her bravery in the face of the unfairness of life that will fill the reader with admiration and have us rooting for her all the way. The evocation of her idyllic life on a farm in Botswana is beautifully portrayed as well, so we know exactly what she is losing. A great book to share with children of 10 and up, and for adult readers as well.
We will be looking for more books by this author.
The story in and of itself was interesting - a girl raised in the African bush sent to a British boarding school after losing both her mother and father - and the execution wasn't lacking ... but, BUT. I wanted so much more than I was given; Will is sent to the boarding school and, predictably, all hell breaks loose in her world, but so many threads are left completely unresolved at the end. I wouldn't say that I necessarily wanted less of anything to be given more of an ending, but I will say that by the end I would have gladly read 100 more pages of this book if it could have meant more closure to Will's story.
If you've never read Katherine Rundell before, I absolutely recommend starting with Rooftoppers, which is one of my absolute favorite MG novels, or Wolf Wilder - both are strong and beautiful novels from Rundell. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms isn't bad, per se, but in the shadow of Rooftoppers, it left much to be desired.