Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa” as Want to Read:
Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  98 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
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 s ...more
Paperback, 32 pages
Published August 25th 2003 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 2000)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Uncommon Traveler, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Uncommon Traveler

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 03, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it
I debated between three and four stars on this one. It didn't really GRAB me--I didn't feel as much connection to Mary as I like to do when I read picture book biographies--and the artwork was sometimes a bit odd for me, but overall I think it's a nice introduction to Kingsley. Born in 1862, Mary spent the first thirty years of her life virtually house-bound, waiting on her ailing mother and awaiting her father's brief and infrequent returns from his many travels. Yet, she educated herself and w ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jan 03, 2010 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: children who think they have it bad; children who yearn for adventure
Recommended to Lisa by: Kathryn
I am a fan this author-illustrator’s work and I did like this book.

I figure if Kingsley could be happy, I could try to keep from seeing this as a dismal story of a horrific childhood and an exciting and somewhat fulfilling but way too short and still lonely seeming adulthood. Why she so adored her father and deliberately wished to follow in his footsteps is something I don’t fully understand. All in all, I consider this a rather sad story, even if Mary wouldn’t agree.

I did love how Mary was her
Feb 22, 2013 Ch13_julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: info-bios
Set in 1870, "Uncommon Traveler" is a story based on Mary Kingsley. Mary was born in London, England and her childhood was not exactly picture perfect. She took on a lot of responsibility at a young age. Mary took care of her family, until they passed away when she was 30 years old. Mary had always loved to read and learn any opportunity she got as a child. Once her parents had passed, she found herself able to live her life the way she wanted. Despite her critics, she decided to travel to Afric ...more
(NS) Sue
Nov 09, 2009 (NS) Sue rated it really liked it
Mary Kingsley is a plucky, admirable heroine. She spent her lonely, reclusive childhood in Victorian England, caring for her bedridden mother and taking care of the family house. She was never sent to school and educated herself in her absent, well-traveled father's library. At the age of thirty, after her parents die, Mary decides to see the world and sets off to explore West Africa (in proper Victorian dress!) where she thrives. She has many adventures with the native people and animals and co ...more
May 04, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
We really enjoyed reading this book about Mary Kingsley tonight. The kids have been interested in Africa lately, so I thought this would be a good choice for us. We all really liked it and were quite impressed by Mary Kingsley, the spunky, adventure-loving gal who travels through West Africa on her own pluck. Quite a gal and lots of food for thought.
Oct 16, 2011 RobesonBoys added it
Shelves: m-t-k
A new author for us...well adapter. He distills biographies and real life snippets into children's books. A neat way to explore people and places while having things still feel like fiction.
Alex DK
Feb 20, 2016 Alex DK rated it it was amazing
Read as part of our history studies
Christine Turner

In 1870, an eight-year-old girl named Mary Kingsley lived in a small house on a lonely lane outside London, England. Her mother was bedridden and her father was rarely home. Mary did not go to school. She served as housekeeper, handyman, nursemaid, and servant, for years. In 1893 Mary traveled to West Africa and proceeded to embark on an astonishing journey of discovery. In her high-necked blouse, long skirt, and Victorian boots, she endured the brutal heat and hardships of Africa, and thrived.
Susan Hirtz
Sep 05, 2015 Susan Hirtz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Africa of 1900
Recommended to Susan by: self exploration
Fantastic account of a woman traveling alone in West Africa at the turn of the 20th century. She did not stick to the reserved colonial outposts she encountered. Instead she was determined to live life to the fullest and hired guides, did scientific exploration and ethnographic notation.

Her account is as unbiased an account as can be found of those parts at that time. She traveled in places no one commonly knew anything about but the Europeans, slave traders and local people. Instead of leaving
Nov 25, 2014 Shelli rated it it was amazing
Mary Kingsley is now added to my list of woman throughout history that I would love to share a cup of tea with. (This list includes: Harriet Tubman, Irena Sendler, Florence Nightingale, Alice and Eleanor Roosevelt to name just a few) This fascinating woman grew up in gloomy shadows in a wealthy yet unloving home where she was forced to grow up to quickly. When she was finally freed, at age thirty, from her responsibilities of caring for her sickly parents she traveled to Africa for an adventure ...more
Dec 21, 2009 Connie rated it really liked it
I never heard of this woman until I got this biography from my Secret Santa at LibraryThing. She had a fascinating life after she was grown - exploring Africa alone in those days when travel was difficult.

I like how the book is written. The author doesn't speculate on her thoughts or motivations (although actual quotations by Mary Kingsley are used when appropriate), and while her childhood was certainly "difficult" (she grew up isolated, educating herself and taking care of the house and her in
Apr 30, 2009 Bonnie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Liff, Melinda
Recommended to Bonnie by: Sweet Public Library
An inspiring story of Mary Kingsley in Africa, raised alone by a sickly mother while her adventurous father, a doctor, traveled the world. She rarely if ever left her house or garden but learned to read from her father's library of books that he would bring back from his travels. After her parents passed away she left England in the 1800s and traveled, often alone, through dangerous and rough terrain, to visit the peoples of Africa. Of course she is deemed crazy by the people in England from whe ...more
Ashley Dement
Oct 22, 2009 Ashley Dement rated it liked it
The Uncommon Traveler is the biography about Mary Kingsley a young girl who was born in London England. During her childhood, she was very imaginative and curious about nature and animals. When she grew up she moved to Africa to explore the creatures of that country. The illustrations were outlined in ink and then they were colored in with watercolors. There were borders around each picture and the rest of the page was white with plain black letters. The story could be in the classroom to teach ...more
Jan 29, 2009 Natalie rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
What a wicked story. Until her parents death, Mary Kingsley lived in service of her family. Cooking, cleaning, nursing, doing maintenance. She basically spent the first thirty years of her life stuck in her gloomy home.

She did however have books to keep her company, and after all those solitary years years went by she had a great longing for adventure.

So in 1893, still in Victorian garb Mary Kingsley, left home with the destination of West Africa. She met murky swamps, enormous beetles, treache
Mary Kingsley's early life (if you consider up to age 30 early life) was very difficult. She took care of her sick mother while her father traveled and her brother was away at school. She never went to school, and hardly ever left home. But she had her father's library.

When her parents both died, she could finally leave home, and West Africa called to her. Many years later she stated, "If I have a heaven, that will be mine."

Her adventures there were fun to read about. Amazing what a person can d
May 07, 2009 Heather rated it it was amazing
Amazing! The true story of Mary Kingsley in Africa. Victorian woman goes to study and adventure in Africa. It describes a very strong female protagonist who braves the wilderness and defies society to satisfy her curiosity for learning and also to volunteer.


In a swamp, and eight-foot-long crocodile "chose to get his front paws over the stern of my canoe," Said Mary. "I had to reire to the bow, to keep the balance and fetch him a clip on the snout with a paddle. This was only a pushing y
Nov 12, 2007 Carly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Grades 3-5
Shelves: biography
This is an amazing book. It has beautiful pictures and a great story. It tells the story of Mary Kingsley's life and I really think it will pull kids right in because of the beautiful illustrations and action packed story. It would be a great book to pull in during a Wax Museum unit in elementary school.
Sep 24, 2012 Sheila rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens
This is a children's story book, but I have to admit that I (an adult) enjoyed it far more that my daughter (the child) did. A true story of Mary Kingsley and her adventures in Africa, I enjoyed the story, the pictures, and the fact that it was historical. But my daughter, whom the book was for, was not impressed, so I will have to just give this 3 stars.
Inhabiting Books
An interesting account of a little-known female explorer. My kids were fascinated. I liked that the author used Mary's own words to describe certain events and situations. It allowed us, the readers, to get a feel for her personality.
Mommy says: Don Brown is a fantastic storyteller, taking a historical figure (usually -- if not always -- a woman) and telling her tale in a way that keeps kids interested for the whole book. Highly recommend this author!
Oct 09, 2011 Matthew rated it it was amazing
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.
Johannes Kristian
Mar 30, 2010 Johannes Kristian rated it liked it

She didn't go to school, but books were her teachers. When her parents died, she traveled to Africa and explored. When she was old, she lived in an apartment with her collections from Africa and she kept it very hot in to remind her of Africa, of home.
Leslie Inglis
May 13, 2013 Leslie Inglis rated it it was amazing
We found this at a library book sale in DE when I was preggers with Mia... It is one of my favorite books in her collection! But then I've always admired Mart Kingsley so it's fabulous to have a children's book to introduce Mia to her at an early age!
Aug 14, 2008 Corinne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: elementary age kids
Great overview of the life of Mary Kingsley who explored the east coast of Africa in the late 1800s.
Barbara Lovejoy
Nov 11, 2014 Barbara Lovejoy rated it really liked it
I knew nothing about Mary Kingsley until I read this book. What a fascinating woman AND story of her adventures.
Mrs Bond
Amazing story, wonderfully told. Beautiful illustrations, muted and soft, as if we were seeing Kingsley's memories. Includes note and bibliography.
Madmadam rated it really liked it
May 18, 2010
Feb 17, 2009 Misa rated it it was ok
I never knew about her.
Michael Fitzgerald
Michael Fitzgerald rated it it was amazing
Apr 27, 2015
Melanie Rightmyer
Melanie Rightmyer rated it really liked it
Jul 13, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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 pac
More about Don Brown...

Share This Book