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Summary: Imagine life as a 12-year-old girl living in Colonial Africa in 1912. With only your father (because your mother abandoned you and returned to Great Britain with your brother), the local tribesmen (who are your father’s employees), and Buller (dog) and Simi (baboon) as your pets. Meet Beryl Clutterbuck, daughter of an English racehorse trainer and settler in Njoro, British East Africa. Despite her British heritage, Beryl was more content to be among the Nandi warriors. So much so that she trained with her friend Kibii and his father Arep Maina to become a hunter. She lived for the thrill of adventure … and life never let her down. As she became a woman, however, the pressure was on for her to become a proper lady. She cut a deal with her father that she would attend the British School in Nairobi for one year. Almost to the day, she returned to their home, where she ultimately took over her father’s racehorse farm. Never content, Beryl ultimately learned to fly a plane and in September 1936 she became the first woman to fly solo eastward across the Atlantic Ocean.
This is an historical novel based on the life of Beryl Markham, and includes notes that she wrote as part of the text.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 11 and up
Interest Level: 12 and Up
Reading Level: 4.6
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Amelia Earhart is a household name, but Beryl Markham's should be as well. The author creates a suspenseful, poignant, and at times humorous biography of this unique woman. The title doesn't do the book justice or give you much insight into how incredible Beryl's story is. [Frankly, I'm still not sure how it fits.]
Pros: Readers of all ages will be spellbound by this fascinating historical novel. Beryl Markham was a woman ahead of her time, but also true to herself.
Cons: There is some violence in the book, particularly as it relates to animal attacks. They are not gratuitous, but do make real life living among wild animals.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. I would buy this is as a gift for a young girl who likes history and strong women.
Educational Themes: Although the story largely focuses on Markham's life, there are other elements to the story that may interest readers. Readers may not be interested in the administration of the British colonies in Africa, but there are likely other biographies of the time that describe life experiences. Similarly, there are books about the Nandi and Masai tribes. There is a great bibliography in the back, to get you started.
The parallels with and references to Ameila Earhart may spark an interest in reading about women and the history of flight.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.