KATHERINE Rundell’s trip up the Amazon River paid dividends after her latest children’s story won a top industry award.

Ms Rundell’s fourth book, The Explorer, tells the tale of four children fighting for survival in the Amazon rainforest.

The 30-year-old, a fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University, got her own taste of life in the wild when she visited Manaus in Brazil before taking a journey along the Amazon.

Ms Rundell tweeted her delight after picking up the £5,000 Costa Children’s Book Award, telling her followers she was ‘stunned and thrilled’.

The author also picked up £5,000 in 2014 when her children’s book Rooftoppers won the Waterstones children’s book prize.

Ms Rundell said: “When I won the Waterstones prize I used the money to visit Manaus and the Amazon with my boyfriend.

“We got a big boat along the Amazon, then a smaller boat then a tiny boat and went along tributaries for days and slept in hammocks in the forest.

“During the night you could heart the sound of animals walking underneath and when that happened you prayed they weren’t the kind that ate humans.”

Oxfordshire author Philip Pullman, whose novel La Belle Sauvage was one of the biggest bestsellers of 2017, was quick to congratulate Ms Rundell.

And BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth tweeted her appreciation, saying her children had ‘devoured’ The Explorer.

After picking up the Costa Children’s Book Award, Ms Rundell now competes with four other category winners for the £30,000 Costa Book of the Year prize.

The overall winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on January 30.

While she is waiting to find out if she will be quids in, Ms Rundell will continue to juggle her latest writing projects.

Her next children’s book will have a circus theme and to make sure the story is realistic she is conducting some thrilling research.

The author revealed this included testing out a flying trapeze in London but added she could not say any more as she has been sworn to secrecy by her publishers Bloomsbury.

At the same time the St Catherine’s College English graduate is continuing to focus on the subject of her doctoral thesis, the metaphysical poet John Donne.

Ms Rundell said she was working on a Donne biography but did not know when it would be completed.

Born in Zimbabwe, the writer is the bestselling author of Rooftoppers, The Girl Savage, The Wolf Wilder and The Explorer. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages and she has won numerous industry awards.

Last year, she wrote a play, According to Saki, which won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh award, before it transferred to New York.

Ms Rundell is also learning ‘very slowly’ to fly a small plane.

For more about the Costa Book Awards visit costa.co.uk/costa-book-awards