Review of To Timbuktu, by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

To Timbuktu

Nine Countries
Two People
One True Story

by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2011. 492 pages.

This book reminds me of Mo Willems’ You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons. Both are about overseas adventures taken by people fresh out of college, complete with plenty of illustrations. To Timbuktu, however, has more text, since the cartoonist, Steven Weinberg, teamed up with a writer, Casey Scieszka. It’s less light-hearted because of having more text, but it also gives a lot more information about their cross-cultural experiences.

Casey and Steven met as students abroad in Morocco. They decided, after graduation, that they would go overseas together. This is the story of their adventures.

I think they had the most fun in China, where they spent the first six months and both taught English. That section is especially fun, with the descriptions of the kids and their antics trying to teach. After that, their time was a little less structured. Casey had a grant to study Islam in the schools in Mali, and Steven was working on his art.

The story is fascinating, and you’ll learn a lot about the countries they visited. Okay, I confess: I didn’t even know that Timbuktu was in Mali, let alone what living there is like. I didn’t know there’s a language spoken in Mali called Bamankan, or much about Mali at all.

I actually met Casey Scieszka at ALA Annual Conference a couple years ago when I was fangirl-ing her Dad, and I liked her very much. They said at the time that she was writing a graphic novel. This isn’t really a graphic novel; it’s an illustrated memoir. But it’s heavily illustrated, and that makes it all the more fun. After all, since they visited these cultures I know nothing about, it’s nice to have pictures to help understand.

This is an excellent book for anyone who’s ever dreamed of picking up and traveling around the world. You can enjoy their experiences without having to get hot and dirty.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

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