The Woman Who Rode A Shark is a beautiful new children’s book by Scottish author Ailsa Ross. Ailsa happens to be my cousin. We have the same birthday and we both have law degrees from Edinburgh University but the similarity ends there. I followed a thoroughly conventional path after graduating, feeling jealous as Ailsa went exploring and developed her talents as a writer.

Ailsa has now settled in the Canadian Rockies and has spent the past couple of years gathering up the stories of other fierce female adventurers throughout history. These 50 inspirational women and girls are brought together in Ailsa’s first book and their stories are brought to life by Amy Blackwell’s stunning illustrations. The result is spectacular.

Wang Zhenyi
The astronomer who travelled across China

How do you help girls shape the world?

By showing them women’s amazing achievements across the ages. This is how the book begins and I couldn’t agree more. But you quickly realise that this book is not just a factual account of what each of these incredible, largely forgotten, women did. Ailsa captures the essence of the adventurous spirit embodied by these women and she inspires the reader to join them. On the very first page we learn that there are fewer barriers to adventure than we might think – gender is certainly not one of them – and we are all, basically, a little bit magic.

Arunima Sinha – The amputee athlete who climbed Mount Everest

The artists, pioneers, scientists, activists, athletes and the seekers

The book is divided into six sections. There are the artists, with their “boundless curiosity” and “gigantic dreams”, the scientists, the pioneers who have “blazed trails from the mountains to the plains”, the activists who have “dared to speak up, kick down barriers, fight injustice”, the athletes and the seekers who have “journeyed in search of meaning, love, safety – the things that make a life”. So whatever your little adventurer is into, there will be women in here that resonate with and inspire them. Some of their stories you may know but most of their stories you will not. That is why this book is so important.

Illustrations by Amy Blackwell for ‘The Woman Who Rode A Shark’ (AA Publishing)

The Woman Who Rode A Shark

You will find Kimi Werner, the woman who rode a shark, on page 92 in amongst the athletes. Her Great White encounter took place in 2013, just six years ago. That is one of the things that I love most about this book. Although it captures the incredible feats of some of history’s fiercest female pirates, pilots and spies, there are lots of modern day stories too. These demonstrate that exploring and adventuring is not only for the people of the past; it is for the people of the present and for the people of the future – including for the readers of this book.

Adventure is within you

“Adventure is within you” is a key message of the book and there is a space towards the back for the reader to sketch a picture or paste in a photo representing themselves and their next adventure. So get inspired and go explore. Perfect with the summer holidays just around the corner.

Available in some really good book shops…

The book is available from Amazon and in some bookshops – from Waterstones in Aberdeen to Stromness Books & Prints in Orkney. It is aimed at children aged 8-12 years and it makes a fantastic gift (I have bought five copies as presents so far). In my experience, parents will be just as captivated as the children.

To be clear, Ailsa did not ask me to write this and I have not been gifted the book. I just really love it. You can use Amazon to check out reviews by people who aren’t related to the author…

You can also follow Ailsa’s online community @WomenAdventurers. She would love to see pictures of you and The Woman Who Rode A Shark book out having adventures of your own.

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