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Monday, June 20, 2016

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, written by Katherine Rundell. Simon & Schuster, 2014. $10.99 ages 9 and up

"So we waited until it was all arranged. We? Will's head rang with the word. It meant that Captain Browne had joined in the plan to snatch Will's heart out of her chest and hurl it halfway across the world. And Cynthia Browne was not capable of understanding a creature like Will. Will had never, and would never, "stamp and scream". In anger she became rigid, and hushed, and lethal."

As I read this breathtaking and hopeful story, I found myself immersed in Will's homeland, Zimbabwe and then again, in London. Both are familiar to the author and she ensures that neither is a place of mystery;  rather, Africa is colorful and vibrant and as much a character as it can be while London is cold, urban and ultimately, home once again.

After leaving England to live in Zimbabwe, it is the home that Will and her parents love with all their hearts. It is wild, as is Will. It is alive with wildlife that fascinates Will, with friendship and adventure, and with mostly friendly people. Will lives her early life with passion, with independence, and without fear. It is a wonder to watch her as she makes her way through her days, loving and well loved.

Tragedy strikes, leaving her with one option ... boarding school back in England. Returning to London is a shock and for the most part, heartbreaking. It is a profound change for a brilliant and capable child. Her feelings of homesickness are harrowing and ring so true. Harassed by the other girls for being different, and hating her bleak existence, Will takes matter into her own hands.

She runs away, bent on living on her own in London. Her encounters with an assortment of people throughout the story guide her through the golden sunshine of Zimbabwe and the bleakness of her London existence. These characters are central to her finding her way through those dark times and back to the light. The personal relationships will live with the reader long after the cover is closed.

The writing is so beautiful. What a talent Ms. Rundell is!

Once rescued from the London streets, Will shares her love of Zimbabwe and her life there with Daniel's grandmother.

"I don't ... I can't describe it. Imagine if there's just trees, ja, and grass and boys and bats, ja, and warthogs, and dragonflies. And nobody hates you. And you could run, ja, or ride, for miles, and if you got lost, the women just gave you mangoes and aspirin and directions - and once, I fell out of a tree, and they gave me a ridgeback, to keep, ja. You can't know." Will discovered her face was turning red with the rubbing, and sat on her hands." It was like living in pure blue."

Please find a copy and spend a few hours with Will. It is a brilliant book not to be missed.

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