Book Review: To Timbuktu

To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story. Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg (illustrator). 2011.

Casey and Steven have three plans for their post-college life: Be together. Be creative. Be somewhere else. Specifically, they want to get out of the country, have time to write (Casey) and draw (Steven), and see where their new relationship is going to go. In To Timbuktu, we are able to follow them on their journey from China to Mali and all sorts of places in between.

Casey and Steven make a great team as they recount their travels in words and pictures. (Incidentally, they are also the digital team behind Jon Scieszka’s Spaceheadz series.) Casey’s narrative focuses on the people they meet and the practical details, but she sprinkles in bits of humor, like the profiles in which she interviews personified versions of the Asian countries as a way of introducing their brief stays in Laos, Vietnam, and others. Steven’s crayon and charcoal drawings fill out the setting and complete the story.

There is a lot of appeal in this book. I would recommend it to teens and adults who are interested in travel, particularly for an inside look at the Asian or African countries featured. It is a must-read for young people thinking about teaching English in a foreign country. But it isn’t just about travel. It is also about the people, relationships, and deciding what to do with your life. This would be a great high school or college graduation gift for young people who dream big.

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