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

Casey Scieszka, illus. by Steven Weinberg, Roaring Brook, $19.99 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-1-59643-527-8
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. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/21/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Children's
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