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Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa…

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

by Don Brown

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Audience: 3-5th grade
This is a great book that portrays the life of Mary Kingsley who was a woman explorer in the 1800s in England. I will read this book to older students to showcase the struggles women explorers faced. ( )
  ShantiR | Apr 24, 2014 |
Another great Don Brown biography. This is definitely one of my favorites. Well done. Much appreciated. Mary Kingsley is such an unusual historical figure. It's fascinating to read of the exploits of her short life after her parents death. She accomplished so much in so short a time. ( )
  matthewbloome | May 19, 2013 |
Picture-book biographer Don Brown - whose other contributions to the genre include Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein and Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries - tells the tale of Victorian explorer Mary Kingsley in Uncommon Traveler. After passing a lonely - one almost might say neglected! - childhood and young adulthood, caring for her infirm mother, Kingsley set out for West Africa at the age of thirty, a journey few women of her time would have undertaken. Wading through swamps, tussling with alligators, and getting to know the native peoples she met, Kingsley conceived a respect and love for the region that would astonish her contemporaries back "home..."

I enjoyed Don Brown's book enough that I am tempted to add Kingsley's own memoir, Travels in West Africa, to my (ever-growing) to-be-read shelf. The story is fascinating, as is the woman. She seems such a contradiction to me - willing to step out of a traditional woman's role, and travel on her own, but either indifferent or opposed to various issues of women's rights; feeling a deep and true respect for the cultures of Africa, but unable or unwilling to challenge the racist underpinnings of colonialism itself. I'm glad that Brown points out some of these contradictions in his afterword, which was very informative. Although I can't say the illustrative style here really appealed to me, the tale itself was so engaging, and the figure of Mary Kingsley so compelling, that I would recommend Uncommon Traveler to all young readers with an interest in the history of exploration, or a taste for biography. ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 26, 2013 |
Given her extraordinary life, this information picture book about Mary Kingsley was both enlightening and entertaining. Although her childhood seemed bleak, Kingsley found comfort in learning and eventually had the gumption to set out for Africa to explore and continue the work of her father. As a work of nonfiction, this book would introduce children to terminology associated with African cultures like the different names of tribes, rivers, and exotic landscapes. Also, the funny anecdotes about her experiences with animals like crocodiles and hippopotamuses would keep children engaged.

I believe this book would fare better for a younger audience and would not necessarily be useful at the secondary level. However, the book introduces a woman who fearlessly broke barriers and added to the scientific and anthropological fields. She is a woman I would like to introduce into my lessons concerning either Victorian England, exploration, or noteworthy people in anthropology.

The book is organized chronologically beginning with her childhood in England then focusing on her adventures in Africa until her eventual death in 1900. The story is dotted with excerpts from her writings and speeches which add authenticity to the narrative. The sentences are not very complex but include words that would help expand younger readers' vocabulary. The author even included a bibliography to point where he got his information although there were no citations anywhere in the text.

All in all, a good book with a heroine whose life story will entertain younger audiences. ( )
  kaamstutz | Jan 21, 2013 |
This book is simply beautiful. The slight wistfulness in the voice of the narrator combined with the soft, but detailed illustration mad me want to travel to west Africa on my own to explore the world. This picture book biography tells the story of the trying childhood of Mary Kingsley, here desire to explore the world like her infrequently present father, and how she comes to terms with becoming her own woman after years of caring for family members. ( )
  Jmmott | Sep 14, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618369163, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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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