Review: To Timbuktu September 24, 2011Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
One of my favorite things to do is travel to new places and I am incredibly jealous of people who got to go off adventuring right after college. So reading the new book To Timbuktu by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg was a lovely vicarious trip to places unknown. Scieszka (yes, the daughter of our former Children’s Laureate Jon Scieszka, aka “Stinky Cheese Man guy”) and Weinberg met during a study abroad program in Morocco and after graduating from their respective colleges, headed off to Beijing to teach English for a few months before traveling through Southeast Asia and eventually ending up in Mali, where Scieszka had been awarded a Fulbright grant to study religion.
Scieszka is a writer and Weinberg an artist, so each person’s work complements the other’s beautifully. Scieszka is straightforward and blunt, explaining how decisions were made, the challenges of traveling and working with a significant other and how to make the best of bad situations. A sample quote that shows her style “Now just to be perfectly clear–I am NOT recommending long-distance dating as a lifestyle. It’s certainly a whole lot more fun to have a certain someone in your bed instead of on the phone. But for a finite amount of time, during which both parties are feeling personally fulfilled in other ways, it can be done.” The narrative is broken up by country (each new country they visit is introduced with a mock TV interview titled Meet (Country) that is charming), with the largest number of pages given to China and Mali. In between stories of teaching English to rowdy children and drawing the people on the streets of Timbuktu are short guides to things like Chinese Street Food, Temperatures in Beijing and Bamanankan (the local language in Mali).
This book is perfect for teens to who love to travel, recent college graduates, or anyone curious about traveling to countries slightly off the beaten path. The short sections would be great to use for comprehension lessons or classes on graphic novels. Weinberg’s illustrations are funny and engaging and Scieszka’s down-to-earth voice is one you will want to spend more time with. I’m excited to see what they create next.
To Timbuktu. Words by Casey Scieszka, Art by Steven Weinberg. Published by Roaring Book Press, 2011.