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Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa
     

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

by Don Brown
 

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Mary Kingsley spent her childhood in a small house on a lonely lane outside London, England. Her mother was bedridden, her father rarely home, and Mary served as housekeeper, handyman, nursemaid, and servant. Not until she was thirty years old did Mary get her chance to explore the world she’d read about in her father’s library. In 1893, she arrived in

Overview

Mary Kingsley spent her childhood in a small house on a lonely lane outside London, England. Her mother was bedridden, her father rarely home, and Mary served as housekeeper, handyman, nursemaid, and servant. Not until she was thirty years old did Mary get her chance to explore the world she’d read about in her father’s library. In 1893, she arrived in West Africa, where she encountered giant Xying insects, crocodiles, hippos, and brutal heat. Mary endured the hardships of the equatorial country—and thrived.

Editorial Reviews

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

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.|
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)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618002733
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/28/2000
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
10.25(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.12(d)
Lexile:
AD550L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

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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