Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

Overview

In 1870, an eight-year-old girl named Mary Kingsley lived in a small house on a lonely lane outside London, England. Her mother was bedridden and her father was rarely home. Mary did not go to school. She served as housekeeper, handyman, nursemaid, and servant, for years. In 1893 Mary traveled to West Africa and proceeded to embark on an astonishing journey of discovery. In her high-necked blouse, long skirt, and Victorian boots, she endured the brutal heat and hardships of Africa, and thrived. With luminous ...

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Overview

In 1870, an eight-year-old girl named Mary Kingsley lived in a small house on a lonely lane outside London, England. Her mother was bedridden and her father was rarely home. Mary did not go to school. She served as housekeeper, handyman, nursemaid, and servant, for years. In 1893 Mary traveled to West Africa and proceeded to embark on an astonishing journey of discovery. In her high-necked blouse, long skirt, and Victorian boots, she endured the brutal heat and hardships of Africa, and thrived. With luminous watercolors and a lively text, Don Brown tells the fascinating story of a most uncommon woman.

A brief biography of the self-educated nineteenth-century Englishwoman who, after a secluded childhood and youth, traveled alone through unexplored West Africa in 1893 and 1894 and learned much about the area and its inhabitants.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Brown again trolls feminist history for an engaging heroine, this time the redoubtable British explorer Mary Kingsley," wrote PW. The woman who set off to see the wilds of West Africa in 1892, at age 30, emerges as "an intrepid and admirable character." Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Brown (Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure) again trolls feminist history for an engaging heroine, emerging this time with the redoubtable British explorer, Mary Kingsley. After a reclusive childhood spent dutifully nursing her mother and educating herself through books (she was never sent to school), Mary determines to see the world and sets off in 1892, at age 30, for the wilds of West Africa. Exploring the country in full proper Victorian dress ("It is at these times that you realize the blessings of a good thick skirt," she remarks after falling into a spike-filled pit and narrowly escaping injury), the plucky Mary collects insects and fish for the British Museum of Natural History. A series of piquant pen-and-ink and watercolor sketches shows her approaching a hippo, fending off a crocodile with her canoe paddle and wading "through sun-cooked swamps of ink-black slime." It's difficult to discern a chronology for Mary's adventures, but the vague sense of years of travel and adventure matches the artwork's appealingly impressionistic flurry of lines blurred with smoky color. Mary emerges as an intrepid and admirable character. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From The Critics
Mary Kingsley never went to school and never traveled anywhere until she was thirty, when she left for West Africa. The simple watercolors and fun-filled text tell the story of this most unusual adventurous Victorian woman. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: A. Braga SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-The author of Ruth Law Thrills a Nation (Ticknor & Fields, 1993), Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure (1997), and Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries (1999, both Houghton) brings another unsung female adventurer to light. Confined in a Victorian manse with bricked up windows, Kingsley spent her young years caring for her bedridden mother and awaiting the intermittent visits of her peripatetic father. Resourceful and independent, she escaped through the books she read in her father's library. Released from her servitude by her parents' death, the 30-year-old woman embarked on extended travels to Africa, where she found her spiritual home and felt a kinship with the native people. She returned to England to write and lecture on her observations. Brown's spare text, filled with perfectly chosen details, gives individuality to a universally appealing tale of a neglected child who eventually triumphs through her own spirit of independence. By incorporating quotes from his subject's writing, the author provides an accurate picture of her common sense, her sense of humor, of wonder, and of self. The sketchy watercolor illustrations accurately convey the dreariness of her childhood, but are less successful in portraying her travels. Dominant hues of gray, brown, green, and blue effectively evoke settings and transitions, but the details in the drawings are as disappointing as the ones in the text are delightful. The human figures are shadowy, with hollow eyes, stiff arms, and pallid complexions. It is unfortunate that the visuals don't support the beauty, excitement, and lushness that so enthralled Kingsley.-Starr LaTronica, Four County Library System, Vestal, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Leonard S. Marcus
Here, deftly distilled, is the improbable but true story of Mary Kingsley, straitlaced Victorian turned African explorer. Ever unfazed, Mary smacks a crocodile on the snout with her paddle when it noses its way into her canoe. The pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are lush and deliciously wry.
Parenting Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
Brown has created a companion piece to his Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries (1999) by profiling yet another fascinating and relatively unknown 19th-century British woman. Mary Kingsley never went to school, had a sickly mother and a mostly absent father, but she read in her father's library all the while tending to her mother and running the household. When both parents died in 1892, the 30-year-old Kingsley went on the first of several trips to Africa. There, in her proper Victorian attire, she collected insects, scratched a hippo behind the ear with her umbrella, fell into a spike-filled pit (kept from harm by her "good thick skirt") and went back home to write and lecture about all she had seen and done. Brown manages to get a lot of her story into a few graceful vignettes, and he does the same with his watercolors, using a blue-green and gold-brown palette to evoke London and jungle, desert and heat. The figures are sketched with just enough line to keep them anchored, as we see Kingsley bat a crocodile on the snout, cross a ravine on a slippery log, and bathe in a starlit lake. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)
From the Publisher
"A grand introduction to the woman and an inspiring story about perseverance, this is an uncommonly good book about an uncommon traveler."—Booklist, starred review (7/00) Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Brown brings each detail to life through vivid imagery."—The Bulletin, starred review (7–8/00) The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Starred

"Readers will welcome Brown’s unflappable Mary Kingsley to the growing number of picture books about newly-recognized female explorers."—Horn Book, starred review (Sept/Oct 2000) Horn Book, Starred

"Brown manages to get a lot into a few graceful vignettes, and he does the same with his watercolors, using a blue-green and gold-brown palette to evoke London and jungle, desert and heat."—Kirkus Reviews (6/15/00) Kirkus Reviews

"Mary emerges as an intrepid and admirable character."—Publishers Weekly (8/21/00) Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618369164
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/25/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 703,110
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.06 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. School Library Journal has called him “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.” He lives in New York with his family.

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2007

    My Review

    I really hated this book. I felt no connection to the character and I felt like their was no reason or purpose to the book. I don't understand where the author was going with this one. Brown, Don. Uncommon Traveler. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2007

    Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

    ¿Uncommon Traveler¿ is written and illustrated by Don Brown, and it was published in 2000. Brown is both a professional author and illustrator. His books combine succinct language, dramatic storytelling, and beautiful, spare watercolor-and-ink art that portray his subject¿s remarkable lives. ¿Uncommon Traveler¿ is about a girl named Mary Kingsley who lived in London, England. During her childhood, it was like she lived alone. Her father George traveled the world and didn¿t come home often, her younger brother Charles was away at school, and her mother, also named Mary, was sick and stayed in bed. Young Mary never went to school. She spent her whole childhood at her house and garden, and when she did go out, she felt out of place at the few parties she had went too. You would think that Young Mary would be sad and unhappy, but she wasn¿t. Mary was happy and she states ¿I had a great, amusing world of my own the books in fathers library.¿ These books were both young Mary¿s companions and teachers. Mary was also a child who had to do many responsibilities around the house, ¿she nursed her mother, she tidied the house, she helped her father during his few visits, and she was the family¿s handyman.¿ These duties young Mary had to attend to carried on for years. At age 30, Mary¿s mother and father had passed away and she was now a free woman. ¿Inspired by her father¿s journeys and the travel books she loved, Mary had the remarkable notion of going to West Africa.¿ Those who visited West Africa risked diseases, animal attacks, and the hostility of some Africans. Mary didn¿t care that she was a single-woman who would be facing many dangers in Africa she still planned her trip to go. Will Mary survive her trip in West Africa? This books genre is Biography. This book is a useful book for teaching a lesson about different countries. The illustrations are nicely done and they suit the text appropriately. I think the book is somewhat plain and it didn¿t grasp my attention, but I still think it is a good and recommendable book. The age range for this book is 5 to 8, grades K-2. Brown, Don. Uncommon Traveler. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2006

    Uncommon Traveler

    Biography: I like the book, Uncommon Traveler. At first, I felt sorry for the little girl, Mary, because she had to always be worrying about others or doing things for them instead of doing things for herself. I was happy for her when she was able to get out and go somewhere she wanted to and explore her interests. I think it is a good book for children because of the adventure it is able to keep their attention and has real things that someone might come across if they were exploring there. It could actually be considered a geological educational book. Don Brown is a professional illustrator. His first children's book, RUTH LAW THRILLS A NATION, was a Reading Rainbow feature selection and an NCSS-CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. His second book, ALICE RAMSEY'S GRAND ADVENTURE, received starred reviews in THE BULLETIN, KIRKUS REVIEWS, and SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. School Library Journal has called him 'a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.' RARE TREASURE, was selected as a NCSS-CBC Notable Children¿s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. His most recent book was a look at the childhood of Albert Einstein, called ODD BOY OUT. He lives in New York. Uncommon Traveler, is a bout a girl and her life from childhood through adulthood. As a child she takes care of everyone else, but herself. Eventually, she becomes a woman and is left all alone. The woman, Mary, decides to go to Africa to explore. The things about Africa that would bother others, did not bother her. She encountered many new things and adventures throughout Africa. Eventually she returns home and tells all about her adventures. Mary filled her apartment with things that reminded her of Africa¿¿of home. ¿Mary¿s narrow life as handyman, nursemaid, servant, and aide went on for days, for weeks, for years. Childhood ended. Youth disappeared¿. This is the part of the book it talks about what all Mary had to do during her youth and how long. Eventually, she was no longer a child, but an adult caring for others. ¿Once she stumbled into a spike filled pit used to trap animals and narrowly escaped¿. This is the part of the book where Mary, faces one of the many challenges and overcomes it. Brown, Don. Uncommon Traveler. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. Grade Level: K-2nd

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    That gater needs some manners!

    This fictionalized biography of Mary Kingsley trip to Africa is full of adventure. Don Brown¿s illustrations are dark and somewhat scary for younger readers, but I loved them. Mary is from England where she leads a busy life taking care of her parents. When they die, Mary goes on an adventure in Africa. Her adventures throughout Africa made me want to stay home, but I had fun reading about them. I give this book 4 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    College Review for Class

    What would it be like to live most of your life inside your house? Well, in this biography book ¿Uncommon Traveler¿ by Don Brown, that is what eight year old Mary has done. In 1870, a small house stood on a lonely lane outside London, England, this is where Mary lived, it was as if she lived alone. Her father George, a traveler and her mother also named Mary, and was sickly lived there, she was always alone. The outside living world she saw little of, and felt out of place. But still, Mary was happy. ¿I had a great, amusing world of my own: the books in Father¿s library.¿ Books were her companions and teachers. In 1892 her mother and father die, and for the first time in Mary¿s life, she is free from her duties. She is thirty years old now and her world that was once cramped and dark, is as big as the globe. Inspired by her father¿s journeys and travel books, she goes to West Africa. She doesn¿t care that she is a single woman and there are many dangers that she might face, all she wants to do is ¿.. To find out what adventures Mary has read this wonderful biography book ¿Uncommon Traveler¿, by Don Brown. Don Brown is a professional illustrator. Don Brown¿s first children's book was Ruth Law Thrills a Nation. Don now lives in New York. Brown, Don. ¿Uncommon Traveler¿. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. Grade Level: K-2nd

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2006

    Mary Kingsley

    Would you like to go to Africa? Think about that before you answer! In this book, you'll find what Mary Kingsley went through while she was in Africa. And even though this may seem like a short, easy read, it didn't hold my interest very well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    Good Book!

    This is a book about a young girl who lives with her mother who is sick and her father who is a traveler. She does not go to school and learns everything from her father¿s books in his library. At the age of thirty both of her parents die and she decides to take a trip to West Africa. One her journey she meets a lot of people, animals and learns to adapt to her surroundings. She meets a hippo in the road and scratches its ear with an umbrella and it walks away. She walks in the swamp that smells horrible and falls through a hut of someone while trying to climb a mountain. This book is a biography about a young girl¿s journey to another country and falling in love with the place she visits. The author of this book Don Brown uses his stories to retell historic events and to Highlight heroes. He excels in making history tangible and exciting for children around the world. To each child he introduces them to the struggles of real people, and explores the nature of perseverance and its importance to achievement.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Interesting

    I thought that this story was cute and interesting. It was kind of sad though because Mary's family was all gone and she was alone but fansinating how she traveled.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2006

    Uncommon Traveler

    Biography, This book is a biography of Mary Kingsley. This book starts when she is eight. She didn¿t go to school, but she learned plenty in her father¿s library. Mary¿s father traveled a lot and her mother was very sick. She did odd jobs around the house and took care of her mother when her father was gone. When her mother and father past away when she was thirty. She decided to go on a trip to West Africa and book tells of her adventures. The author Don Brown¿s first children's book was Ruth Law Thrills a Nation. Don now lives in New York. Bibliography Brown, Don. Uncommon Traveler. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

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