An African Princess: From African Orphan to Queen Victoria’s Favourite by Walter Dean Myers

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An African Princess: From African Orphan to Queen Victoria’s Favourite by Walter Dean Myers

Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: Walker Books have produced this book beautifully using a sepia style for the photographs and font. A map at the start gives the reader a sense of time and place as they undertake a trip to Victoria’s empire. An African Princess is a readable and intriguing piece of historical research if somewhat lacking in spirit.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781406354447

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This elegant edition of An African Princess tells of the life of Sarah Bonetta who is suddenly swept from the threat of a savage execution in 1848 only to face a brave new world under the patronage of the imperious Queen Victoria. Meticulously researched by the twice elected US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Walter Dean Myers, it is a creatively imaginative account, with an historical backbone of genuine diary entries, letters, autobiographical work, contemporary newspapers, social and anthropological studies and period photographs.

An interesting introduction describes the genesis of the author’s journey which led to him painstakingly collecting documentation from multiple sources to bring the story to life. The rest of the book devotes a series of chapters to dealing with Sarah’s progress through her formative years, her upbringing as a lady and subsequent life choices. What is particularly interesting is the privileged existence the young girl led while children of her age suffered Dickensian conditions. Myers’ narrative also provides insights into the nature of missionary schooling, what was expected of natives and the class system.

What was it about this Egbado child, given as a throwaway gift by the savage King Gezo of Dahomey, that so enthralled Queen Victoria? Myers has to ask a lot of questions and make suppositions but the girl who emerges from this portrait, gleaned from her personal letters and contemporary accounts, is likeable and conflicted if a little stiff and proper. Is Sarah, affectionately called Sally by her Majesty, in charge of her own destiny or will she let others dictate it? What are her choices? Where is her final destination? Does she become an erudite scholar or take the marriage route?

A selected bibliography and credits for archived photographs is provided at the back along with a short biography of the author. What is omitted is a guide to website links for readers wishing to find out more about Sarah’s story, her journey from Africa to England and the socio-political conditions of her time which would have been a welcome addition to this revised edition.

For more on the unusual attachments the enigmatic Queen Victoria formed throughout her life readers might like to check out Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu. If a closer look at the world Sarah Bonetta Forbes encountered appeals they could try Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard, Victoria: A Life by A N Wilson which offers a new portrait of the queen derived from previously unseen sources or, for some intrigue, a study of a royal sibling The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley . Alternatively to supplement the glimpse of London's poor provided by the Mayhew extracts, the curious can check out The Good Old Days by Gilda O'Neill, a comprehensive and rich analysis of the Dickensian conditions children of Sarah Bonetta Forbes' age existed in.

Buy An African Princess: From African Orphan to Queen Victoria’s Favourite by Walter Dean Myers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An African Princess: From African Orphan to Queen Victoria’s Favourite by Walter Dean Myers at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy An African Princess: From African Orphan to Queen Victoria’s Favourite by Walter Dean Myers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An African Princess: From African Orphan to Queen Victoria’s Favourite by Walter Dean Myers at Amazon.com.


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