A book about surviving on one’s own seems pretty relevant in the middle of a pandemic during which we’re constantly being told to socially distance from one another. Granted the middle-grade nonfiction book Wild Outside: Around the World with Survivorman addresses extreme situations – from trekking Namibia’s Kalahari Desert without water or food to escaping a very interested jaguar in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. But the ideas of facing your fears, challenging yourself, and getting outdoors can certainly be adapted to the pandemic-ridden world in which we currently find ourselves.
In fact, in his first book for kids – following the White Pine–nominated Will to Live – author Les Stroud encourages young readers to start adventuring in their own neighbourhoods, just as he did as a child in Toronto’s West End. The creator of the award-winning hit series Survivorman, which is credited with inventing the “survival TV” subgenre, Stroud takes readers on 12 journeys across the globe, including five in Canada (from winter camping in -46 degrees Celsius to narrowly avoiding being charged by a moose).
The book is divided into four parts – “Prepare,” “Observe,” “React,” and “Adapt.” Each section includes an explanation of how the concepts pertain to adventure travel along with three related stories from Stroud’s life. While the stories are written in a zippy, easy-going style, the accompanying sidebars offer an even more intriguing read. They include explanations about how to determine direction without a compass, what to do when encountering a wild animal, and the importance of dressing in layers and writing checklists. “Try This at Home” segments teach junior adventurers how to track weather patterns, tell time by the sun, and identify edible plants and bugs (leeches anyone?).
Wild Outside is packed with completed quests, near misses, practical advice, and fun illustrations, though there are a few too many brooding-author photos. If the book inspires young readers to become budding adventurers, even in the safety of their local park, then Stroud can proudly check off one more accomplishment.