Wild Girl

Wild GirlWOW!*!&! 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.

Wild Girl
illus­tra­tions copy­right Liz Kay, from Wild Girl: How to Have Incred­i­ble Out­door Adven­tures by Helen Skel­ton, Can­dlewick Press, 2020

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.

Wild Girl
illus­tra­tions copy­right Liz Kay, from Wild Girl: How to Have Incred­i­ble Out­door Adven­tures by Helen Skel­ton, Can­dlewick Press, 2020

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.”

Helen Skelton
Helen Ske­ton, (pho­to cred­it: Ruth Crafer, CC BY-SA 3.0

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

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