Review of Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield
by Susan Goldman Rubin; illus. by Richie Pope
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    48 pp.    g
10/20    978-0-7636-7994-1    $17.99

Mary Seacole was raised by a Jamaican Creole mother who taught her herbal medicine and a Scottish soldier father whose stories inspired her to see the world. After using her skills during a cholera outbreak, Seacole is determined to volunteer as a nurse in the Crimean War, but first in London and then again on the battlefield she is turned away — by Florence Nightingale herself — because of her skin color. But Mary Seacole is not easily stopped, and she becomes a familiar sight welcoming people to her guest house/hospital and bringing her supplies to the battlefield, where she becomes known as Mother Seacole and eventually gains fame when a British journalist tells her story. Rubin sprinkles Seacole’s own words throughout the book, bringing in some of her larger-than-life personality. The text is longer than a typical picture-book biography, making this a good choice for readers who may be ready for but intimidated by chapter-book biographies. Pope’s illustrations have the difficult job of showing the devastating circumstances Seacole often finds herself in as a battlefield nurse, and his soft, cartoony watercolors deftly walk that line. Back matter includes source notes and a brief bibliography.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Laura Koenig

Laura Koenig is the Team Leader for Central Library Children's Services at the Boston Public Library.

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