cover image Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Katherine Rundell. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4424-9061-1

Twelve-year-old Wilhelmina “Will” Silver loves her “wildcat life” on a farm “in the hottest corner of Zimbabwe” where she rides horses, trains monkeys, and plays with her friend Simon. Disapproving neighbors consider her “a different species,” but her widowed father thinks her “irrefutably the most beautiful creature living.” His untimely death shatters Will’s world, and results in her being sent to an English boarding school. Will’s father’s dying words, “Courage, chook, ja?” sustain her in a mystifying new environment for which she has no preparation or advocate, where mocking classmates call her savage. Employing a close third-person narrative, Rundell (Rooftoppers) deftly conveys the terror that impels Will to escape into the streets of London, which she navigates with ingenuity and survival skills honed in Africa. Lyrical prose, Zimbabwean dialect, and evocative dialogue express Will’s internal and external worlds; after a street fight, “her heart was rattling around like a cutlery drawer in an earthquake. She spoke to an imaginary Simon. ‘Sha, hey?’ ” A gripping, magical, and heartwarming tale of resilience, friendship, and hope. Ages 8–12. Agent: Claire Wilson, Rogers, Coleridge & White. (Sept.)