cover image Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

Don Brown / Author, Don Brown / Illustrator Houghton Mifflin H

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.)