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Mary Kingsley in Africa

by Don Brown & illustrated by Don Brown

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-618-00273-1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

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)