Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell is editor of The Book of Hopes, an anthology of stories and pictures for children. Her own books for children include, most recently, The Good Thieves.

Consider the Stork

Katherine Rundell, 1 April 2021

It was wartime​, and propaganda fell from the sky like dishonest rain. Nazi planes dropped leaflets over British lines in Europe telling them that their wives were in bed with American soldiers, complete with drawings of said wives undressed. The Allied forces flew hydrogen balloons over Axis troops to scatter images of fields lined with German graves. But the scope of both planes and...

Consider the Giraffe

Katherine Rundell, 19 November 2020

Horace​ was stridently anti-giraffe. The animal was, he believed, conceptually untidy: ‘If a painter had chosen to set a human head on a horse’s neck [or] if a lovely woman ended repulsively in the tail of a black fish, could you stifle laughter, friends?’ His account of the giraffe in Ars Poetica (c.8 bc) ends on a plea: ‘Let the work be what you like, but let it be...

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell, 2 July 2020

Hares​ have always been thought magical. In their long-limbed quivering beauty, they were believed to be walking, breathing love potions. Philostratus warned his third-century readers that there were unscrupulous men out there who had found in the hare ‘a certain power to produce love and try to secure the objects of their affection by the compulsion of magic art’. Pliny...

Consider the Greenland Shark

Katherine Rundell, 7 May 2020

In​ 1606 a devastating pestilence swept through London; the dying were boarded up in their homes with their families, and a decree went out that the theatres, the bear-baiting yards and the brothels be closed. It was then that Shakespeare wrote one of his very few references to the plague, catching at our precarity: ‘The dead man’s knell/Is there scarce asked for who, and good...

Consider the Hermit Crab

Katherine Rundell, 6 February 2020

They are not, in fact, hermitical: they’re sociable, often climbing on top of one another to sleep in great piles, and their group behaviour is so intricately ordered that they make the politics of Renaissance courts look simplistic. When a crab comes across a new shell, it will climb into it and try it on for size. If the shell is of good quality but too big, it waits nearby for another crab to come and inspect it. If that crab also finds it too large, it joins the first crab, holding onto its claw until a queue develops – it can stretch to twenty crabs, arranged in order of size from smallest to largest, each holding onto the next: a hermit crab chorus line. When at last a crab arrives who can fit the vacant shell, the first crab in line claims the new crab’s former shell, and there is a flurry of crabs climbing into their neighbour’s home. The crab’s abdomen is soft and vulnerable to attack while exposed, so the whole process takes place with astonishing rapidity.

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