The Danger Gang And The Spirit Of Adventure! by Stephen Bramucci
The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!, stars a self-aggrandizing narrator, a fact-checking butler, a fencing rival-turned-best-friend, and a defanged King Cobra. The plot hinges on papaya-throwing orangutans, a tongueless giant, and a band of modern day pirates (who dress up as old-fashioned pirates). There are post-modern devices, homophones, and anagrams; double-crosses, cryptic clues, and hidden lairs.
Which is all just to say: The novel has a fair bit going on.
But The Danger Gang is also an easy book to boil down: A boy and his friends travel to Borneo to rescue his parents from pirates. In fact, I could distill it even further, reducing it to just one word: Adventure. If I did my job right, that single word will be recognizable as the book’s theme, summary, and genre. If I did my job right, that word will loom large over every page.
The Danger Gang’s main protagonist, Ronald Zupan, has good reasons for being adventure obsessed. He sees the accolades that come with derring-do as the fast track to his parents’ attention. He’s also witnessed how treasure hunting and close calls have brought them fame, fortune, and widespread adoration—three things he longs for. But Ronald isn’t just interested in far-flung travels and dashing rescues, he finds adventure in everything. Breakfast, pet ownership, and making friends all offer that chance for excitement. There’s never a dull moment in his world; nothing is ordinary. He’s never once said, “I’m bored.”
That’s what I love about this character, and it’s where he and I overlap the most. When I was Ronald’s age (he turns 11 in the book), my brain made even little adventures feel huge. My cousins and I built a complicated fort in the wild tangles of beach grass on the Oregon coast, we played hide and seek across an entire city block, and we explored our grandmother’s basement for hours. In my head, we might as well have been slicing a path through the jungles of Colombia or looking for relics in a Mayan temple. I grew up with a sense that there was a whole world out there and even though I only had access to a little corner of it, I wasn’t going to miss my chance to explore.
Since 1999, when I left college to hitchhike around the country, I’ve had the privilege of chasing the adventures I always dreamed of. I’ve crossed Australia in a car powered with used French fry oil, rowed down the Mekong Delta, and driven myself on safari through East Africa. I was caught in a flash flood in the Amazon and tracked komodo dragons in Indonesia. All together, I’ve surfed in six continents, traveled to more than 60 countries, and seen 49 of the 50 states (I’m coming for you North Dakota!).
Along the way, I’ve realized one thing: True adventure is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not about what you do; it’s about how you approach it. Do you allow even ordinary activities to feel thrilling? Are you open to the sense of wonder that the world holds? If so, you don’t need to travel anywhere.
Adventure is waiting on the walk to school.
In your neighborhood.
In the pages of a book.
It’s more about mindset. It’s about seeing magic in the world, honoring brand new experiences, and allowing them to excite you (regardless of how risky they are). Adventure is about living with wide-eyes and intense curiosity.
Kids are the best at this approach to life, because a true spirit of adventure is the opposite of being jaded. It comes from letting excitement course through your veins, rather than playing the dubious critic. That’s why I wanted to shift from travel writing to writing books for young readers in the first place. That’s why I wrote The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!.
A few years ago, I did a school visit to talk about tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda. It was thrilling to see the eyes of students light up over tales of giant Silverbacks and dense jungles. My hope is that The Danger Gang will take the message of that classroom visit—that there’s a big wide world worth loving, exploring, and protecting—even further. My hope is that readers will close the book with a call echoing in their ears: “Adventure awaits!”… even if those adventures are waiting in their own back yards.
Stephen Bramucci is an award-winning travel writer and adventurer. He’s rowed down the Mekong Delta, crossed the Australian outback in a car powered by French fry oil, and explored ancient pirate islands in Madagascar. A lifelong animal lover, Steve’s encounters with endangered species often come up in his classroom presentations.