Katherine Rundell

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Katherine Rundell
Born1987 (age 33–34)
Kent, England
OccupationAuthor, playwright, academic
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
Notable worksRooftoppers,
Life According to Saki,
The Explorer

Katherine Rundell (born 1987) is an English author and academic. She is the author of Roof Toppers, which in 2015 won both the overall Waterstones Children's Book Prize[1] and the Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story,[2] and was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal.[3] She is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford[4] and has appeared as an expert guest on BBC Radio 4 programmes including Start the Week,[5] Poetry Please,[6] and Seriously....[7]

Rundell's other books include The Girl Savage (2011), released in 2014 in a slightly revised form as Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms in the United States where it was the winner of the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for fiction,[8] The Wolf Wilder (2015), and The Explorer (2017), winner of the children's book prize at the 2017 Costa Book Awards.[9]


Katherine was born in Kent,[10] England in 1987[11] and spent ten years in Harare, Zimbabwe, where her father was a diplomat.[3] When she was 14 years old, her family moved to Brussels; Rundell later told Newsweek's Tim de Lisle that it was a culture shock, saying:

"In Zimbabwe, school ended every day at 1 o’clock. I didn’t wear shoes, and there was none of the teenage culture that exists in Europe. My friends and I were still climbing trees and having swimming competitions".[12]

De Lisle notes, "She gives Belgium some credit for broadening her mind […] But she resented it too, to the point where all her books, and her play, contain a joke at Belgium’s expense".[12]

She completed her undergraduate studies at St Catherine's College, Oxford (2005 – 2008). During this period she developed an interest in rooftop climbing,[13] inspired by a 1937 book, The Night Climbers of Cambridge, about the adventures of undergraduate students at that university.[12] Shortly after graduating, Rundell successfully applied to become a fellow in English Literature at All Souls College, Oxford.[4] She told The Bookseller's Anna James that the application process had involved a three-hour written examination on the single word 'novelty', adding that, "I wrote about Derridean deconstructionist theory and Christmas crackers [...] I feel like they might have let me in despite rather than because of it".[10] She subsequently completed a doctoral thesis on "the literary and textual afterlives" of the English metaphysical poet and cleric John Donne.[4]

Writing career[edit]

Rundell's first book, published in 2011, was The Girl Savage; it told the story of Wilhelmina Silver, a girl from Zimbabwe, who is sent to an English boarding school following the death of her father. A slightly revised version was released in the United States in 2014, under the title Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, where it won the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for fiction.[8]

Her second book, Rooftoppers, followed the adventures of Sophie, apparently orphaned in a shipwreck on her first birthday. Sophie later attempts to find her mother, whom she is convinced survived the disaster, whilst also taking to the rooftops of Paris in order to thwart officials trying to send her to a British orphanage. It won the overall Waterstones Children's Book Prize[1] and the Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story,[2] and was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal.[3] Translated into French by Emmanuelle Ghez as Le ciel nous appartient for Les Grandes Personnes[14] it was the winner of the 2015 Prix Sorcières Junior novels category.[15]

Rundell's third novel, The Wolf Wilder, tells the story of Feodora, who prepares wolf cubs – kept as status-symbol pets by wealthy Russians – for release into the wild when they become too large and unmanageable for their owners.[10]

Rundell's play Life According to Saki, with David Paisley in the title role,[16] won the 2016 Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award[17] and opened Off-Broadway in February 2017.[12]

Rundell's fourth novel, The Explorer, tells the survival story of a group of children whose plane crashes in the Amazon rainforest, and a secret they uncover. It won the 2017 Costa Book Award in the Children's Book category.[18] Following the award, Rundell discussed the book's environmental themes and her research, which included eating tinned tarantulas, on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.[19] It won the 2018 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award in the Food & Travel Book of the Year category.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Rundell's hobbies include tightrope walking and roof walking,[3] and she says she begins each day with a cartwheel because "reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: it turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless".[21]


  • Rundell, Katherine (6 January 2011). The Grill Sassy. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0571254316.
  • Rundell, Katherine (26 August 2014) [First published 2011 by Faber & Faber (in a slightly different version) as The Girl Savage]. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. Illustrated by Melissa Castrillon. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-1442490628.
  • Rundell, Katherine (24 September 2013). Rooftoppers. Illustrated by Terry Fan. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-1442490581.
  • Rundell, Katherine (10 September 2015). The Wolf Wilder. Illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1408862582.
  • Rundell, Katherine (1 September 2017). The Explorer. Illustrated by Hannah Horn. Bloomsbury Publishing ISBN 9781408854877[22]
  • Rundell, Katherine (13 June 2019). The Good Thieves. Illustrated by Matt Saunders. Bloomsbury Children's Books. ISBN 978-1408854891.
  • Rundell, Katherine (8 August 2019). Why you should read children's books, even though you are so old and wise. London. ISBN 978-1526610072. OCLC 1086484369.


  1. ^ a b "Katherine Rundell wins Waterstones Children's Book Prize". BBC News Online. BBC. 3 April 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Blue Peter Book Awards 2014". www.booktrust.org.uk. BookTrust. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Bradbury, Lorna (25 April 2014). "Katherine Rundell: children's novelist and thrill-seeker". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Katherine Rundell". www.asc.ox.ac.uk. All Souls College, Oxford. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  5. ^ Presenter: Andrew Marr; Producer: Katy Hickman (30 March 2015). "Lewis Carroll and the Story of Alice". Start the Week. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  6. ^ Presenter: Roger McGough; Producer: Sally Heaven (4 July 2015). "John Donne". Poetry Please. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  7. ^ Presenter: Mary Beard; Producer: Adele Armstrong (6 July 2016). "You May Now Turn Over Your Papers". Seriously…. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b "2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children's Literature". www.hbook.com. The Horn Book. 27 May 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Helen Dunmore wins posthumous Costa poetry prize". BBC News Online. 2 January 2018. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  10. ^ a b c James, Anna (12 June 2015). "Katherina Rundell: Interview". The Bookseller. London. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  11. ^ "Katherine Rundell". www.faber.co.uk. Faber and Faber. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d de Lisle, Tim (22 January 2017). "British Novelist Bringing Edwardian Wit Off-Broadway". Newsweek. New York City. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  13. ^ Drabble, Emily (3 April 2014). "Katherine Rundell wins the Waterstones children's book prize 2014". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  14. ^ Rundell, Katherine (28 August 2014) [First published 2013 in English as Rooftoppers by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers]. Le ciel nous appartient. Translated by Ghez, Emmanuelle. Les Grandes Personnes. ISBN 978-2361932664.
  15. ^ "Prix Sorcières - Lauréats 2015: Romans Juniors - Lauréat". www.abf.asso.fr. Association des Bibliothécaires de France. 4 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  16. ^ Fisher, Philip. "Life According to Saki". British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  17. ^ McElroy, Steven (26 August 2016). "'Life According to Saki,' a Play Set in World War I, Wins Edinburgh Award". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Costa Book Awards 2017" (PDF). Costa Book Awards. January 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 January 2018. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  19. ^ Presenter: John Wilson (broadcaster) Producer: Hilary Dunn (3 January 2018). "Neil Cross, Katherine Rundell, Book prize judging". Front Row. 11:55 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2018 winners". Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. 1 February 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Katherine Rundell". www.simonandschuster.com. Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  22. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "The Explorer". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 25 August 2017.