A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Paints a vibrant, rich picture of life on a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe and is peppered with Shona words and phrases, which are defined in a brief glossary.
Will's mantra to herself is "courage," echoing her goodbye to her father, and through her trials she taps that courage in diverse ways. Independence, unconventionality, friendship, and loyalty are celebrated.
Positive Role Models
Will is strong and self-assured, showing great resourcefulness both in the bush and in London. She's adept at taking care of her emotional needs -- she finds space when she needs it and asks for help when necessary. Her father parents with a light hand, appreciative of her unique character. The farm owner is spineless when it comes to his wife's demands, but he has deep affection and respect for Will and her family. A school headmistress and a few students are courageously open-hearted toward Will. Daniel and his grandmother offer Will exactly the right kind of help.
Violence & Scariness
Will's bullied and harassed by girls at school, who shove her -- fully dressed -- into a bathtub.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Will and her friend Simon are said to have been "in sort-of-love" since age 7, but there's no romantic content.
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"For Christ's sake." A woman described as being "false as 'dammit.' " A few references to characters swearing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The manipulative wife of the farm owner pours her new husband a gin and tonic.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell (Rooftoppers) is the story of a stubbornly independent young girl with a strong moral compass. The subject matter is fine for children as young as 8, but they may find the well-written prose challenging. Wilhelmina copes with the loss of both parents, one of whom plays a central role in the story, and abandonment by another paternal figure. She runs away from school. More conventional girls and women are mocked.
Is It Any Good?
In CARTWHEELING IN THUNDERSTORMS, Katherine Rundell breathes life into another fascinating, independent girl. Stubborn, spirited Will lives a beautiful life, and the portion of the novel set in Zimbabwe thrums with energy and beauty. Young readers will want to linger there with Will forever. When the story moves to gray London, the story also loses some of its shine. The resolution feels rushed, but readers who fall head over heels for Wilhelmina will realize midway through that a satisfying ending is unlikely.
However, the character, rather than what happens to her, sticks with you. Rundell is a talented, poetic writer with a knack for creating vivid, charismatic characters. She published this book as The Girl Savage in the U.K. two years before her lovely Rooftoppers, which also features a resourceful, unconventional heroine.
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Our Editors Recommend
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