‘Remember: Be good, be adventurous…and look after your parents.’
These are among the last words of the Unknown Adventurer, a globe-trotting explorer whose notes and sketches have been discovered in a remote part of the Amazon. Apparently intended for two young relatives, her (or his) work has been faithfully reproduced here, in The Lost Book of Adventure: From the Notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer edited by Teddy Keen. Contemplation of our beautiful planet is combined with practical instruction and field-notes. All that is required is one sensible adult, to assist young readers with the practicalities of becoming a fully-fledged adventurer.
The most striking aspect of this unique book is its embrace of jeopardy. We begin sedately enough, with instructions on map reading, fishing, and the merry warming of ‘socks and souls’ round a campfire. And then it’s raft building, off-road biking and mountain climbing, before a steep ascent to the extreme outdoorsy stuff. By which I mean dealing with wild bears, lightning strikes, and my personal favourite, how to escape quicksand. Since you ask, you must lie back and spread your weight. Calm floating rather than panicked floundering.
The wealth of wilderness knowledge contained in this book is amazing, but what thrills me most is its fundamental belief in the capabilities of children. Resilience and resourcefulness are quietly expected. As is calmness in all situations.
That all-important ‘sensible adult’ is often called for too. I’m thinking particularly of the ‘10 Things out of Duct Tape’ activity, which somehow requires a saw and some red-hot resin.
The lucky reader is given far more than technical know-how, as it appears that the Unknown Adventurer was an artistic soul. There are numerous compelling tales of nomadic wanderings, interlaced with some lovely and detailed pencil drawings.
Both practical and beautiful, this book makes the perfect companion for intrepid kids who intuitively understand that ‘the universe belongs to the adventurous’.
The Lost Book of Adventure: From the Notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer edited by Teddy Keen is published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 192 pages.