Wildboy by Brando Yelavich
Brando Yelavich, aka Wildboy, was living in Auckland and slowly "falling off the rails", when he decided to realise a big dream of his -- a massive adventure in the great outdoors.
At the tender age of 19 he began a mission to become the first person to circumnavigate Aotearoa on foot, living off the land hunting and foraging for his own food. What he thought would take eight months, ended up becoming a journey of almost two years.
Wildboy is a picture book, written by Brando and illustrated by his mother Donella. The non-fiction book documents his journey in a simple, yet inspiring, way for the younger readers.
Told in the first person, it's an easy read that flows well. It really felt like Brando was sitting there in the room telling us it, it's personal, funny incredibly positive.
His mother has done a fantastic job illustrating the books. The colourful and realistic illustration feature a variety of beautiful Aotearoa landscapes, fauna and flora for readers to spot. During his trek, Brando carved a compass into bark and rocks all around the country as a way to show other explorers that he is there in spirit with them. The compass symbol has been incorporated into each page of the book as well, a whimsical touch that makes for a fun treasure hunt too.
Brando has already published his memoir from the trip, Wildboy: An Epic Trek Around the Coast of New Zealand and the follow-up To The Edge and Back. Both are aimed at older audiences. The picture book Wildboy is quite simplistic so as to capture the imagination of anyone who longs for adventure, regardless of their age.
However, while it was great for the youngest reader, it would have been lovely to have some real photos of the trip or more specifics about it. The spark of adventure was kicked off in my children by reading this book, and it would be lovely to have a bit more detail. There is a gap in Brando's trio of stories; a more sophisticated picture book rich in detail designed to capture the older child would be the icing on the cake.
Brando's next adventure involves attempting to cross the Greenland ice cap in May, alongside three other young inspiring explorers.
He's an incredibly positive, inspiring and determined young man. A mission to turn his life around and become an inspiration to others has certainly been realised. This picture book will help other young people realise their big dreams are in reach too.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser