WOW!*!&! I want to carry a backpack with me wherever I go, handing out a copy of this book to every person I see. I loved every daredevil, detailed, astonishing minute of reading this book. I believe you will, too.
Mind, I grew up at a time where I heard two phrases constantly: “Sit still” and “Ladies don’t roughhouse.” Roughhouse meant any kind of running, climbing, jumping, or playing in the dirt. Above all, I was not meant to get dirty. I was an obedient child (well, mostly) so I learned to lead a sedentary life.
Not Helen Skelton! She’s raised the bar on my Admiration Meter. A TV personality who hosted segments on the BBC’s Blue Peter from 2008 through 2013, and now a presenter on Countrylife and host of BBC’s swimming coverage, she is someone who smartly sets about training to accomplish goals and meet challenges.
In this book, she shares Adventures in the Snow (riding a bike to the Antarctic), Adventures on the Sand (running an ultramarathon in the Namib Desert), Adventures on the Water (kayaking 2,000 miles on the Amazon), Adventures in the Mountains (climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in England), Adventures in the Countryside (accomplish the Royal Marines Commando 30-mile speed march while carrying 40 pounds of equipment and finishing in 8 hours), and Adventures in the City (walk 492 feet on a high wire 217 feet above the ground).
Each of these daring feats is chronicled with her highly-absorbing journal (she’s a skilled writer), distance and trip details in graphics, how she trained, a gear list (kit list in this graphic), and suggestions for the reader to do Wild Adventures and Extremely Wild Adventures, referencing specific locations in the world. Finally, the shiver-inducing “Wild Girl Wall of Fame” calls out women who have excelled in adventures in a similar terrain and endeavor.
In Adventures in the Snow, she shares that it’s flat terrain with nowhere to hide, so when you have to go to the bathroom, “you just have to go. Mortifying to begin with, but at least pooping shows that your body is healthy and working normally, something you care far more about by the end of an expedition than any embarrassed faces.” Skelton also recommends “practicing your aim into a sandwich bag” as that’s where all urine and poop must be stored.
Although she and her hiking partner rode bikes with 8‑inch-wide tires, they also cross-country skied and kite-skied. From her descriptions, I could feel the cold and the wind on my face, even though it was covered by a balaclava.
About the ultramarathon in the Namib Desert, she writes, “I jumped at the chance, rather compulsively given that my only previous experience was that I had once run a half-marathon for fun. That was 13 miles and I wasn’t that fast and I didn’t find it easy. I knew I was taking on a real challenge, where every step would be filmed, and I don’t think anyone seriously thought I could run that far in temperature of up to 108°F. No one. Not even my parents, who are the most supportive people in the world.”
When she arrived for the race she found, “Twenty-three people had signed up. To say I stuck out was an understatement. Everyone else was dressed in running gear, and I turned up wearing a polka-dot dress and flip-flops. Of course I was intimidated. The other competitors had all taken part in dozens of events and clocked thousands of miles between them.”
There are many short tidbits and paragraphs throughout the book, making it easy for the not-so-motivated reader. And those tidbits are fascinating! We learn than in the Namib Desert, she lost all ten of her toenails. She kept them in her purse and asked people to guess what she she was hiding in her purse.
Tips for training are included in every section. To learn how to kayak, she presents tips for practicing in your bed. I’m pretty sure I could kayak confidently now.
The photos are phenomenal … often recording danger, amazing sights, and wonders. Liz Kay’s illustrations keep the energy high and clear up any questions we may have about how to do something or what to take along. The entire book is designed to interactively involve readers in the adventures.
It’s a book I’ll return to again and again. You’ll want to give a copy to your favorite readers and not-yet-in-love-with-reading newbies, young and old. Helen Skelton and her adventures are a blast!
Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures
written by Helen Skelton
illustrated by Liz Kay
Candlewick Press, 2020