Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Michaela MacColl
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Life in Africa is full of trouble for Beryl Clutterbuck. Growing up on a horse ranch in British East Africa (modern-day Kenya) with her father and no mother, Beryl is often left to her own devices. No matter how hard she tries to avoid it, trouble always seems to find her, which prompts her father, Captain Clutt, to assign her care to the Nandi tribe. With Arap Maina as her teacher and Kibii as her friend, Beryl quickly learns the ways of the Nandi and dreams of being a warrior. Then Emma Orchardson comes to keep house for Captain Clutt. Emma, a married woman with a son, is not the mother Beryl wants. Beryl does all within her power to treat Emma poorly and make her feel unwelcome. Captain Clutt finally resorts to sending Beryl off to school in the city with the stipulation that if she lasts a year, she can come home. It takes all her effort, but Beryl succeeds and makes it home to stay.
This book is filled with adventure and life lessons. Based on the true story of Beryl Markham, the first female pilot to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, this book jumps back and forth between childhood and the later flight of Mrs. Beryl Markham. Between chapters, interviews and journal entries from the time of the flight are inserted to give readers a glimpse of the future of Beryl. As informative as these are, the story flow is interrupted and confusing at times. There is a strong disconnect between the childhood of Beryl and her later flight. Never once does the book really explain how Beryl became a pilot, only briefly touching on who her teacher was. Readers may enjoy simply skimming the inserts and reading the story of Beryl’s childhood, which is a wonderful tale by itself. The plot is thick and full of detail, based on the actual words of Beryl Markham from her biography. Older readers will enjoy this book.
*Contains moderate language and moderate violence.