Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield by Susan Goldman Rubin

Multicultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 29, 2021

 #ReadYourWorld

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Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield

Susan Goldman Rubin, Author

Richie Pope, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Biography, Oct. 13, 2020

Pages: 48

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Mary Seacole, Biography, Jamaican, Creole, Nurse, Panama, Crimean War, Heroine

Opening: “As a child in Kingston, Jamaica, Mary Jane Grant watched her mother pick out a bottle of medicine for a sick British soldier. She always chose the right one. Her mother had made all the medicines herself from flowers and plants. Mary wanted to be a ‘doctress’ just like her mother when she grew up.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

The life of pioneering Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole gets its dramatic due in a sweeping and stunning biography.

Mary Seacole spent much of her life on the front lines of the Crimean War, ministering to the wounded, caring for soldiers, and making her mark on the world of medicine.

This fascinating biography honors Mary Seacole’s life, from her childhood in Kingston, Jamaica (1805), and her encounters with racist Americans to her treatment of cholera patients in Panama and her bitter run-in with Florence Nightingale, who declined to work with her in Crimea because she wasn’t white, But Mary Seacole knew that the sick and wounded needed her compassion and care, and despite all obstacles, she answered the call to help them. In doing so, she earned herself a place in history.

Author Susan Goldman Rubin gives voice to this fearless nurse and healer through captivating details drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writings, while debut illustrator Richie Pope vividly captures her service at the bedside and on the battlefield. Inspiring and engaging, this biography introduces a compelling heroine who rose above barriers to earn a place in history.

Why I like this book:

Susan Goldman Rubin has penned a very detailed book about this strong, dedicated and determined woman committed to nursing people back to health. No one got in her way or broke her, no matter the amount of prejudice she endured because of her race and lack of formal medical training. Even Florence Nightingale turned down her services to help because she felt Mary was unfit. And when Nightingale was ill, she refused to allow Seacole to treat her.

Ultimately Mary was respected for nursing skills performed during several yellow fever outbreaks in Kingston, the cholera epidemic in Panama and her tireless work on the frontline of the Crimea War between Russian an Turkey. She became known as Mother Seacole. She persevered because of her love and compassion to help others. She bypassed Nightingale and went directly to the battlefields and helped doctors treat and transfer sick and wounded soldiers, including some Russian soldiers. Eventually she and a business partner, Thomas Day, set up a convalescent home in a British Hotel in Crimea to nurse soldiers back to health. She even treated Queen Victoria’s nephew.

Unknown to Mary, a journalist William Russell who noticed her tenacity, praised her efforts in the stories he wrote about Mary for the London Times. She had become famous in England.  With peace negotiations and a treaty signed, she prepared to leave Crimea. But before leaving, Mary visited the cemeteries and planted trees, flowers and shrubs in the honor of those who lost their lives. She wrote her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, and Russell wrote the introduction.

Although this book is filled with beautiful colorful illustrations, Mary Seacole’s story is meant for students in third to seventh grade. Each page is filled with detailed information, making it a perfect read for older students. It could be read aloud to younger students. Rubin put a lot of research into her book using Seacole’s memoir as a guide to the time period, There are sources notes and a bibliography at the end. It is a wonderful example of quality nonfiction that will be welcomed by many school libraries. Make sure you check out the backmatter. Queen Victoria’s nephew, an artist, sculpted a beautiful bust of “Mary Seacole, the Celebrated Crimean Heroine.” Today it rests on a pedestal at the Institute of Jamaica.

Susan Goldman Rubin is the author of many nonfiction books for children, including Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and the Quilts of Gee’s Bend. She lives in Malibu, California.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in return for a review.

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About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

25 thoughts on “Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield by Susan Goldman Rubin

  1. I remembered her name from somewhere but never knew the story behind this strong individual. Books like this should be in every classroom. I’ll be tracking down a copy. Thanks for featuring on this week’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

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  2. She sounds like an absolutely wonderful woman and I’m so glad that her story is accessible to younger kids! Especially now, it feels like the perfect 2020-2021 read. It’s interesting how history mirrors itself! I think stories about kindness and empathy are always needed, and hopefully it will inspire more people to be kinder to others! Thank you for the lovely review!

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    • Yes, it is the perfect read for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 27 and for Black History month. Mary was driven by her selflessness — she was all love, kindness and compassion! Her only mission was to help and heal others. She was known by the soldiers as Mama Seacole. Perfect story for young readers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Patricia ~ Isn’t it interesting that we each posted about a non-fiction book by this author for MMGM today? I have not read this biography, so it is going on to my TBR list right now. I love books about strong, determined individuals who endure hardship to make a positive impact on their community and the world. Thank you for sharing this book for MMGM.

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    • Yes, it is! You’d enjoy Mary’s story, because it is about getting out of your own way and doing what is right. She overcame a lot of obstacles because of her love and compassion to help others. Powerful role model!

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  4. I have never heard of Mary Seacole, but her story is really inspiring! I’m fascinated by the Crimean War time period. I never learned much about it in school as a kid, but I got to visit the Crimean War museum in Crimea in college.
    I love how this brave women followed her dream to help other people despite so many odds!

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    • I don’t remember learning about the Crimean War in school either. So this was a treat! And I didn’t know about Mary Seacole until recently — what a perfect role model for readers. She walked the path of love and compassion, against all odds. Remarkable strong woman!

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  5. Wow—I love that both you and June McCrary Jacobs recommended books by this author today! This book sounds like a really powerful story—I’m glad Seacole’s legacy was preserved in spite of all of those who seemed determined to erase it. Thanks for the great review!

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  6. I really liked this one and I’m giving it to our library because it showcases a woman who exemplifies what our history tends to ignore — a woman, not white, and not wealthy. So it’s important to let kids know that these amazing people were there all along!

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