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At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England Hardcover – February 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Lexile Measure: 1070L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590486691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590486699
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #585,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Once there was a little girl--an orphaned African princess--who narrowly escaped death by human sacrifice in a West African village in 1850. A British sea captain named Frederick E. Forbes saved her life by talking King Gezo of Dahomey into giving the girl to Queen Victoria of England as a gift: "She would be a present from the King of the blacks to the Queen of the Whites." As impossible as this tale sounds, it is a true one. Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers--piecing together her story from letters he found in a rare book and ephemera shop in London--paints a hauntingly detached portrait of the small African princess whom the heroic captain named Sarah Forbes Bonetta.

We follow her charmed but unlucky life as the Queen's protégée through a succession of British middle-class households, beginning with the Forbes home. Because of her celebrated association and frequent visits with the Queen, Sarah grows up in an unusual position of privilege, education, and celebrity. On the flip side, she is keenly aware that her decisions are not her own, and as a rescued orphan under the Queen's protection, her life's path is dictated by those acting in what they perceive to be her best interests. It is hard not to feel that it was cruel of her protectors to wrench her (more than once in her life) from the adopted family she adores, and eventually to encourage her to marry a West African businessman whom she clearly stated she could never love, and who would take her away from her adopted country. As the epilogue states, "She was both unfortunate in her losses, and fortunate that those losses were not greater.... She seemed to find a measure of comfort wherever she was, but was destined to be apart from the world in which she lived." This story, rich with historic prints, photographs, newspaper clippings, excerpts from Queen Victoria's diary, and Sarah's letters, is both fascinating and tragic. We have Myers to thank for rescuing this fine woman again--this time from the forgotten shelf of a London bookstore. (Ages 11 and older)

From Booklist

Gr. 5^-8. Myers pieces together bits of history and letters to form a unique and dramatic mosaic: the life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a seven-year-old African (Egbado) princess saved by an English naval officer from a rival tribe's ritual sacrifice in 1850. Sarah is brought to England, where Queen Victoria puts the girl under her protection until Sarah's marriage. The queen also acted as godmother to Sarah's first child and met and corresponded with Sarah throughout her life. Through Sarah's story, Myers offers insights into Victorian attitudes and society and examines the flow of people and ideas between England and Africa during the period. The inclusion of passages from Sarah's correspondence helps bring her to life, and Sarah's photo on the jacket brings readers face-to-face with this remarkable young woman. An intriguing biography as well as an unusual source for those interested in British or African history. To be illustrated with reproductions of photographs and documents. Carolyn Phelan

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Unusual and compelling story of a courageous lady.
Elizabeth R.
I can with out a doubt say this is one of the best books I've read, and I've read alot of other great books.
Rivers
I am recommending that all my students read this book as well as others by Myers.
Reginald D. Garrard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
When deciding to buy some books for my kids in elementary school to read, I was intrigued by the title of this book, and I chose it. Reading this book for me was an exhiliarating experience, and I would highly recommend it. The author tried to do justice to the life and history of this admirable African or should I say Nigerian princess (I am biased here), and for the Yoruba folks, she was an Egbado. Her ancestory can be traced to present day Abeokuta, Nigeria.
This book encapsulates the moving story of an African princess, who escaped death from a wicked king in the present day Republic of Benin (Dahomey) courtesy of a British Naval Captain (Frederick Forbes) during the early part of the 19th century. Captain Forbes brought her to England when she was about 6/7years old, where she had a first taste of the British Aristocrats and became known as Sarah Bonetta Forbes. She then had to be sent to Sierra Leone (West Africa) due to illness, having been thought to be unable to withstand the cold weather. In Sierra Leone, she was an astute student in the Female Institution there, and she maintained contact with Queen Victoria. She also met with the famous First African CMS Bishop, Samuel Ajayi Crowther. After about 4 years in Sierra Leone and now about 12 years old, Queen Victoria requested that she be sent back to England. She lived in England until she was about 19 years old. Reading her letters and her experience in England, gave me a personal satisfaction, as I had insight into a potential scholar the world did not really get to know. Sarah undoubtedly was an extremely bright kid, and Captain Forbes conceded that she was ahead of her contemporaries including the caucassian kids she schooled with.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ein Kunde on August 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England" tells the life story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, who was born an African Egbado princess, captured by rival Dohamans and taken to Dahomey to be murdered in a ritual sacrifice, rescued and adopted by a British naval captain, taken to England and presented to Queen Victoria, and raised under the Queen's protection in England and Sierra Leone. This handsome book is a very fine biography for young readers; it includes many excerpts from Sarah's letters and the Queen's diaries, as well as historic illustrations. Relevant information about 19th century West Africa and Britain (e.g., the Dahomey empire, the slave trade and British actions to end it, Christian missions in Africa, Sierra Leone, the British class system, women's place in society, etc.) is well presented. Although Sarah's story is interesting because of its uniqueness, much about the lives of ordinary 19th century West Africans and Europeans can be learned here. Despite the fact that there is little material concerning Sarah's life, the author has done a fine job and readers interested in Africa should be glad he did. The book contains a useful bibliography which includes "Dahomey and the Dahomans" (1851) by Frederick E. Forbes (the captain who rescued and adopted Sarah).
19th century Dahomey is also the setting of "The Viceroy of Ouidah" by Bruce Chatwin.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Reginald D. Garrard VINE VOICE on September 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If any literary giant needs to have his work adapted to film, it is Myers. As one of the premier writers of fiction for juveniles, the author has added another significant piece to his long line of classics. This one tells the story of a little-known African princess who comes under the wing of England's legendary Queen Victoria.
Not only does the book reveal the horrors of the African slave trade, the atrocities that some tyrants inflict on their enemies, and the class system that pervades much of a "civilized" society, it is a marvelous tale of a girl who overcomes such obstacles and becomes the darling of English society.
Although Sarah's life is brief, it is a memorable one as the character grows from frightened child to a loving mother.
I am recommending that all my students read this book as well as others by Myers. Now, if only someone in "Tinsel Town" would discover this fine author.
I'd much rather see his stories on the big screen than any about a teenaged wizard.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm 12 years old, and I love to read. I can absolutely say that this is with out a doubt one of the best books I've ever read, and I've read alot of great books. I love tthe way the author would put the letters, and the diary entries in the book, that way it let us see what the queen, and Sarah were going through. If you like historical books this is definatly on I would read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rivers on June 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm 12, and I love reading. I can with out a doubt say this is one of the best books I've read, and I've read alot of other great books. Just the way he would put the letters, and the diary pages in the book, and the pictures were gorgeous. So, If you like historical books I would definatly recomend this book
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The book, At Her Majesty's Request was the most wonderful book I've read because it tells the story of how Sarah Bonetta overcomed so many problems. First w/ the horror of watching her parents being killed, and then almost being sacrificed by the slave holders because of who she was and where she lived.Then when she was saved by a white man whom she couldn't even understand becase she spoke a different language.And then soon after that she learned how to speak english and then she became friends w/ the Queen of England, Queen Victoria.So the book to me was very heart-warming and I hope you love the book too! Go Wells Wolverines!
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More About the Author

Walter Dean Myers is a New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author who has garnered much respect and admiration for his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, he is considered one of the preeminent writers for children. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#94 in Books > Teens
#94 in Books > Teens

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