Book Review: Fantastic Female Adventurers – Lily Dyu
“As a child, I didn’t read stories about girls like me who grew up to be adventurers” - Lily Dyu
Edmund Hillary, Bear Grylls, Chris Bonnington… What have they all got in common? They’re adventurers (although they may not style themselves that way), but also they’re men. As Lily Dyu points out in her introduction to Fantastic Female Adventurers: as a child we often hear stories about male explorers, but it’s not that there aren’t women pushing boundaries around the world, it’s just sometimes it’s harder to hear their voices. Dyu’s book aims to bring some of these voices to the forefront with her new book, providing girls and boys with adventurous role models without a Y chromosome.
Dyu’s writing brings the exciting stories of thirteen women to a new audience, but it’s more than just a list of achievements. Each short story shows the trials, challenges and determination of their subject. How swimmer Beth French gave up swimming the world’s oceans to support her son, how Gwen Moffat’s journey to mountain guide left her sofa surfing for many years, how Ellen MacArthur only slept in twenty minute bursts in her record-breaking round the world sail.
“I still feel afraid sometimes. But I am really curious about the world... This is why I am on the road.” - Jin Jeong
Each story has a different perspective too. In an industry dominated by wealthy white Europeans, hearing the story of Nepalese Mira Rai who won her first trail race in a pair of $4 trainers is a breath of fresh air.
Fantastic Female Adventurers is beautifully illustrated by Chellie Carroll, bringing to life Karen Darke’s handbike in the mountains of the Himalaya and Helen Sharman’s challenges of eating in space.
“We wanted to show adventure doesn’t need to be huge...Adventure should be for everyone” - Emma Timmis
Lily Dyu writes with children in mind, suitable for younger readers or as a thrilling bedtime story. Nevertheless, the tales still touch on serious subjects: climate change, equality and plastic pollution. My one disappointment was that sometimes the rhetorical questions for the reader feel stilted and don’t quite fit with the text. Whilst it’s a good idea to get young readers to explore their thoughts, perhaps it could have been presented better?
“I wanted to show all women and children that if someone like me - an ordinary mum from Manchester - can do these amazing things, then they can too” - Misba Khan
So, curl up in front of the fire and join Jin Jeong and Sarah Outen as they circumnavigate the globe or Anna McNuff as she runs the length of New Zealand. Shiver as you hear Ann Daniels’ story of powering to the poles and Tori James’ tale of reaching the top of the world.
Don’t have a child in your life to read it to? Enjoy it yourself. Dyu usefully signposts to further reading on each of the women if you’re hooked and want to learn more.
The best bit, a portion of each book sale goes to the chosen charities of each adventurer.
Go on, grab a copy and start dreaming of the impossible.