To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story

Overview

Casey and Steven met in Morocco, moved to China then went all the way to Timbuktu. This illustrated travel memoir tells the story of their first two years out of college spent teaching English, making friends across language barriers, researching, painting, and learning to be themselves wherever they are.

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Overview

Casey and Steven met in Morocco, moved to China then went all the way to Timbuktu. This illustrated travel memoir tells the story of their first two years out of college spent teaching English, making friends across language barriers, researching, painting, and learning to be themselves wherever they are.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fusing travelogue and personal exploration, this entertaining chronicle covers the nearly two-year odyssey debut talents Scieszka (daughter of Jon) and Weinberg embarked on after graduating from college in 2006. Their goals? "One: get out of the country. Two: pursue our creative interests.... And three: be together." After a six-month stint in Beijing teaching English, the couple journeyed to Shanghai, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand before landing in Mali, where Scieszka (with a Fulbright grant) researched the role of Islam in the educational system. Impressively witty, perceptive, and candid, Scieszka's present-tense narrative catapults readers into each setting, as do Weinberg's fluid cartoon sketches, seamlessly incorporated into every page. The author introduces the various countries with clever q&as ("ake sure you check out my Mae Kong River parties," advises a personified Laos) and explores each nation's language, politics, traditions, and food. Yet at the heart of the book are the friendships that Scieszka and Weinberg forge, as well as their own maturing relationship. Come grad season, skip Oh, the Places You'll Go!—this will be far better appreciated, with its effortless mix of globe-trotting adventure, romance, humor, and expanding self-knowledge. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Casey and Steven met and sparked a relationship while studying abroad in Morocco their junior year, and after finishing college, they found that they shared three postgraduation goals: “One: get out of the country. Two: pursue our creative interests (visual art for him, writing for me). And three: be together.” This unique travelogue documents their two-year international jaunt teaching English in China; traveling through Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam; and, finally, living in Mali, where Casey studied the role of Islam in education on a Fulbright grant. Nearly every page is split between Casey’s cheery narration and Steven’s charcoally cartoon drawings, which capture slice-of-life vignettes and depict the many people they met along the way. The couple’s experiences can run together into a sort of “And then . . . and then . . .” style of travelers who are careful to recount every adventure and insight but rarely get too deep into any one. For teens itching to get out into the world, this is a road map, and Casey and Steven make for eminently pleasant traveling companions. — Booklist

Heading into adulthood from the younger end of Eat, Pray, Love territory, two young college grads with itchy feet take most of a double wanderjahr to test their coupledom overseas. In quick, good-humored black-and-white sketches that occupy at least half of nearly every page, Weinberg not only evokes a sense of place in depicting apartments and street scenes but displays an unusual ability to capture fleeting expressions, poses and the emotional tenor of momentary encounters. The two build funds of self-confidence teaching English to children in Beijing, dawdle their way through Southeast Asia, then settle in Mali for most of a year for a Fulbright-funded research project. Occasional brushes with police, illness and hostile locals or disenchanted fellow travelers aside, Scieszka maintains an upbeat tone in her episodic, present-tense travelogue—noting the destructive effects of politics, poverty and tourism but focusing on the pleasures of new friends, new foods, adapting to local conditions, being grownups (“It’s liberating! It’s…full of pressure”) and finding reasons to get “out of bed on the other side of the world even when it’s raining, you haven’t made any friends yet and you’ve got the travel shits like whoa.” Newly fledged adults (and even those with plenty of mileage under their wings) will find both entertainment and perhaps a dollop of inspiration. — Kirkus Reviews

 

Fusing travelogue and personal exploration, this entertaining chronicle covers the nearly two-year odyssey debut talents Scieszka (daughter of Jon) and Weinberg embarked on after graduating from college in 2006. Their goals? "One: get out of the country. Two: pursue our creative interests.... And three: be together." After a six-month stint in Beijing teaching English, the couple journeyed to Shanghai, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand before landing in Mali, where Scieszka (with a Fulbright grant) researched the role of Islam in the educational system. Impressively witty, perceptive, and candid, Scieszka's present-tense narrative catapults readers into each setting, as do Weinberg's fluid cartoon sketches, seamlessly incorporated into every page. The author introduces the various countries with clever q&as ("[M]ake sure you check out my Mae Kong River parties," advises a personified Laos) and explores each nation's language, politics, traditions, and food. Yet at the heart of the book are the friendships that Scieszka and Weinberg forge, as well as their own maturing relationship. Come grad season, skip Oh, the Places You'll Go!—this will be far better appreciated, with its effortless mix of globe-trotting adventure, romance, humor, and expanding self-knowledge. Ages 14–up. — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Something new under the sun? Possibly, at least for the young adult market: a team travelogue recording the journeys of two post college, travel-hungry adventurers. Follow writer Casey and artist Steven's romance from Junior Year Abroad in Morocco to six months teaching ESL ( English as a Second Language) in Beijing, to a holiday in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, to a stint in Mali, compliments of Casey's Fulbright fellowship to study the Saharan country's Islamic education of women. Casey's narration moves at a fair clip, usually in double-page-spread chunks to facilitate Steven's wraparound illustrations that border on a graphic comic's style. Savvy teens will enjoy the humor in the honestly reported relationship, fights and all. The sexual element, which of necessity exists, could probably be rated "PG." Steven's illustrated descriptions run to chaste kisses in doorways, and feet poking over the ends of "too small for Americans" beds. Teens should also be fascinated by reactions to the couple's cohabitation without benefit of a marriage license in Asian versus Islamic societies. As the tour progresses, there are also some tantalizing snippets illuminating Chinese, Arabic, and African life—not to mention a lot of fascinating food! Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
VOYA - Molly Krichten
Within this story, author Scieszka recounts travels and experiences through words while illustrator Weinberg does so through drawings, to take readers along on their adventures from meeting in Morocco to excursions across Asia and "all the way to Timbuktu." Scieszka and Weinberg are just out of college and teaching abroad, all while exploring the newness of their relationship and trying to discover what they really want out of life. The book's presentation is enjoyable; the illustrations bring comedy to the text. The story, however, is disjointed—a series of vignettes with no regard for readability or transitions. Often the narrative is more telling than showing, but when attempts at interjecting dialogue are made, it generally feels inauthentic. The audience for this book is questionnable. The publisher recommends it for 14 and up. Young adults on the cusp of graduating high school, or looking forward to a study abroad experience, or college students without concrete goals will find meaning in the book, but a younger audience may not be engaged in the subtleties of the romantic relationship, and others may simply perceive Scieszka and Weinburg to be privileged individuals with experiences that have no relevance to their own. Reviewer: Molly Krichten
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—To Timbuktu is a travelogue that will provide great inspiration for teenagers and young adults who are looking for adventure and self-discovery. After college graduation, Scieszka and her boyfriend set off on an almost two-year jaunt to various parts of Asia and Africa where they lived, worked, and learned far from their homes in the States. She journaled with words while Weinberg did so with sketched illustrations, and the result is an appealing and engaging tale of the ups and downs of their journey. It works as a series of vignettes that deftly and honestly explore the challenges that come with trying to be travelers and not tourist in lands where the locals couldn't help but view them as the latter, and the difficulties and beauties of friendships that span different cultures and languages. It also realistically depicts the strains travel can have on a relationship, as well as the strengths it brings. Scieszka struggles throughout with the complications of her research and not asserting her very different worldview into the stories of the people she is interviewing. Often humorous, and occasionally heartbreaking, the book presents a lovely picture of the couple's life together during this time with simple, eloquent text and emotive cartoon-style drawings.—Sharon Senser McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596435278
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 963,420
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Casey and Steven are from Brooklyn and D.C. respectively. They’ve set up camp all over the world– from China to Mali to Morocco– but are currently Brooklynites. Casey and Steven are also the co-founders of American Friends of IEP, a nonprofit which helps raise money for local language programs and book printing in Mali, West Africa. Learn more by visiting them at allthewaytotimbuktu.com.  

 

 

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