Review of Fearless World Traveler: Adventures of Marianne North, Botanical Artist

Fearless World Traveler: Adventures of Marianne North, Botanical Artist
by Laurie Lawlor; illus. by Becca Stadtlander
Primary, Intermediate    Holiday    48 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-8234-3959-1    $18.99

As a teenager, Marianne North (1830–1890) acquired a love of music, art, and especially botany (all things that her wealthy Victorian parents disapproved of), teaching herself about plants from books and observation. At the age of forty, after the death of her widowed father, North was finally free to pursue her passions. Initial trips to paint plants in North America and the Caribbean inspired her to go from being “a traveler who painted” to “a painter who traveled,” visiting fifteen countries — and creating copious art there — over the next fourteen years. In this fascinating and detailed account of North’s life, Lawlor (Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World, rev. 7/12) covers the difficult traveling conditions and accommodations North often encountered; even though “traveling alone was frowned upon for ‘unprotected ladies,’” she remained undeterred. A few years before her death, North convinced the director of London’s Kew Gardens to let her build the Marianne North Gallery to house her collection, of which 832 paintings are still viewable today. Grouped by geographic regions, they form an “astonishing” mural-like display, captured by Stadtlander (On Wings of Words, rev. 5/20) on an impressive spread. An appended note about North’s legacy cogently characterizes her work in oil paint, which placed plants in their natural surroundings, as “unlike traditional botanical illustration of her time”; and Stadtlander’s vibrant ink, watercolor, and colored-pencil art in lush, natural colors echoes North’s own realistic style (exhibited on the endpapers via eight reproductions). Back matter also includes sources, notes, and picture credits, plus a “who’s who” of other well-known people in North’s noteworthy life.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University. She served on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee.

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