True Grit Junior Edition, by Bear Grylls (Corgi Juvenile, RRP $20):
I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this book but am pleased to say I was proved wrong.
Let me begin by owning up to one thing in particular: I’m not greatly enamoured of Bear Grylls.
While his fans watch his various “boy’s own adventure” TV shows and no doubt puff out their chest in collective pride at the antics of their seemingly invincible superhero, I just find him annoying. And a little smug.
Sure, he could probably survive for a year in the wilderness with just a half- sucked wine gum and a dead possum for sustenance, drinking his own urine and using the possum’s pelt as a sleeping bag, but I don’t really care.
Then there’s the whole name thing. No, I don’t mean his nickname “Bear”, which was probably quite cute when he was a wee nipper (besides, I have a nickname of my own that has very much stuck for several decades), my issue is with the naming of his issue: his three sons are the not-so-oddly-named Jesse, and younger brothers Marmaduke and Huckleberry. Is it just me, or are the rich and famous getting worse at naming their kids?
But back to the book. This is a collection of true stories of heroism and survival that Grylls says have shaped his life. It’s a new, abridged version of his earlier book, repackaged and reworked to appeal to the younger reader.
The stories are pulled together with an obvious sense of respect and reverence, giving an accurate look at various adventurers and explorers, along with ordinary people who did extraordinary things, and also giving an interesting insight into what makes Grylls tick.
In telling the stories of these people who have shaped the man he has become, he loses all smugness and instead comes across as someone who is in awe of the achievements of those he looks up to: from those adventurers we are all so familiar with, such as Mallory and Shackleton, to others you may not know so much about.
Once in a while, a book comes along that actually delivers a lot more than you expected. This is one of those time.