The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure Book Poster Image
Exciting, funny, lively guide urges girls to adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of how-tos, such as tying knots, repairing and changing a bike tire, finding the North Star. Blurbs with quotes and details about their accomplishments from a diverse range of famous women adventurers. Many tips and step-by-step guides: getting outside your comfort zone;  breaking down larger, daunting goals into manageable, one-at-a-time steps; how to focus; and more. Lined pages with journaling prompts encourage girls to make connections to the author's stories, dream big, and plan safely.

Positive Messages

Dreaming big and failing is better than dreaming small and succeeding. Unexpected situations and failure occur when you learn how to be brave in spite of being afraid, to stay focused and persevere, and to laugh at yourself. Let your shy, fearful inner self step aside sometimes and try bravery in everyday situations, such as introducing yourself or raising your hand in class.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lots of inspirational examples of real-life girl and women adventurers from diverse backgrounds and varying ages, who didn't let others' doubts keep them from achieving their goals. The author admits to doing some inadvisable things (such as illegally climbing the Golden Gate Bridge), but she cautions kids not to follow that example and always discusses thorough planning and safety when adventuring. She's a great model for explaining the thrill of accomplishment, how she works through her fear when she has to be brave, being gutsy and open to adventure in everyday situations close to home, learning to be confident and stay focused, and all that can be learned from trying something big and failing.

Violence

Scary situations include scuba diving in the San Francisco Bay searching for a dead body (as a trained diver for the fire department). A couple of details about what happens to a body underwater are mentioned, navigating in total darkness, and being poked by crabs. Crawling through total darkness while fighting a fire and surviving an explosion are also described.

Sex
Language

"Kickass" a couple of times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Dad had a nightly martini when the author was a kid.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that "The Gutsy Girl" is an illustrated memoir of anecdotes detailing author Caroline Paul's adventures being a firefighter, kayaking in Croatia, parasailing, hiking around Denali, and more. Blurbs provide quotes from and details about other inspirational adventurers for women and girls. There are a lot of tips and how-tos, as well as lined pages for journaling to encourage girls to get outside their comfort zones, have an adventure, and not to be afraid of failure. She mentions that one of the adventures detailed, climbing Sam Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, is illegal. Safety considerations are mentioned, and a flowchart for assessing risk is included. Details about how to become braver a little at a time, how to stay focused, and how to manage a large goal by breaking it down into achievable steps are some of the lessons any kid who's timid, but especially girls, can learn. It's a great way to get kids started experiencing the world around them instead of watching it from afar.

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What's the story?

Author Caroline Paul wasn't always THE GUTSY GIRL she is today -- firefighter, scuba diver, kayaker, climber, white-water rafting guide. When she was a kid she was actually pretty timid. So she created this guide to help other timid kids, especially girls, learn how to be brave and start an adventure, one step at a time. Drawing parallels from her own experiences having grown-up adventures, Paul shows girls how they can start being brave by trying some small things first, such as raising your hand in class or repairing your own bike tire. She breaks down the steps to overcoming fear, staying focused, and staying calm when things go wrong. She also shows how much more you can learn from dreaming big and failing than you can from dreaming small and succeeding.

Is it any good?

Exciting, funny, and chock-full of girl power, this memoir accompanied by lively illustrations will thrill and delight big kids and tweens. But the fun's not confined to the pages between the covers. Tips and how-tos give specific examples that parallel author Caroline Paul's adventures and encourage kids, especially girls, to get out into the big, wide world and have adventures of their own.

Paul's wry, humorous voice draws the reader into the excitement and joy that come from trying something you might have thought you couldn't do. But she doesn't shy away from the bumps along the way, either. Mistakes from the embarrassing to the dangerous add to the drama and make her easy to relate to. Each chapter is well-structured with a real-life story, connections for kids to make to themselves and their worlds, and opportunities to write about their reactions to each story, dreams, and plans for their own adventures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how to start being brave. Have you done anything brave or adventurous before? What's something you're usually too scared or shy to do but you wish you could do?

  • What's the difference between "gutsy" and "reckless"?

  • Which adventurer you learned about do you admire the most? Why?

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