• Kate Greenaway Award – longlisted


  • CBI Book of the Year Award – shortlisted
  • CBI Book of the Year Illustration Award – Winner


  • Junior Library Guild
  • New York Public Library – Best 100 Childrens’ Books 2013
  • Cybils 2013 Nomination
  • SLJ 100 Magnificent Books 2013


Christmas 2013: Best Books of the Year For younger children.  The Telegraph

“This enchanting and gentle tale of family love was sparked by a true story. Many years ago camel caravans carrying salt traders and camel caravans carrying gold would travel through the mountainous and desert regions of Timbuktu, using guides to navigate the terrain. When the author discovered that the most famous of those guides was blind, her imagination started racing.”

“Sympathetically written and elegantly illustrated, this is a beautiful story which captures the essence of a long-gone culture both in its language and its images.”  Books For Keeps

“This beautiful story, wonderfully illustrated by Lynch, will encourage readers to read it over again, as they ponder just how the girl got to be in the desert and why the camel was so brave. The acceptance by Issa of the baby he finds in the desert, his responsibility in caring for her and then her being able to repay his kindness is a theme that carries the story along and remains with the reader.”Highly recommended. ReadPlus


An old man, wise to the life of the African desert, finds a treasure.Issa is the most sought-after guide in the desert, as he sees, hears and smells so keenly. A mysterious ribbon, torn loose in a desert storm, leads him to an amazing discovery—a baby girl he raises as his own. When Issa loses his sight, the young girl, a gift from God he names Mariama, learns to use words to describe colors and shapes. The mountains are a “deep, dark blue, like the scarves of the camel traders who came from the north.” Then, one day, travelers come from the distant east. Their impatience and disdain for Issa almost results in disaster, but Issa and Mariama save them, and a family is reunited after many years of searching. Peet and Graham have crafted an elegant story filled with gorgeous descriptions of the desert world and its storms. Their characters have strength gained from their Islamic faith, abiding love and respect for their harsh land. Lynch’s mixed-media paintings, some framed in borders, capture the grandeur of the people and their landscape using a color palette saturated in golds, coppers and blues. The story, perhaps set during the time of the kingdom of Timbuktu, resonates and would be a beautiful read-aloud.

A sumptuous, memorable tale of family ties.


“The husband-and-wife team of Peet and Graham (Cloud Tea Monkeys) tell the tale in grand, Arabian-Nights style (“the light of the rising sun touched the tips of the mountains and painted them a glowing, burning gold”), while Lynch (No One But You) matches their tone with watercolor and gouache paintings that recall Rackham or Dulac. It’s a romantic story, an ostensibly traditional tale invented out of whole cloth, and—as any good romance should—it succeeds in hooking readers right from the start and leaves them wanting more.”

Publishers Weekly

“Lynch’s gorgeous watercolors illustrate the fable of a Timbuktu guide who blindly let travelers across the vast deserts.”

School Library Journal 

“The mixed-media illustrations, some as full panels, others as small insets, still others acting as backdrop for the text – communicate the harsh beauty of the dessert with their soft and painterly outlines, vast and empty expanses, and earthy palette. The book;s picture-book format may mean it requires a little hand-selling to readers, but those who explore its pages will be rewarded with a simple tale that’s both adventurous and heartwarming.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Lyrically told…  The story, with its iconic elements of abandonment, loss, and love, has no real unexpected moments, but it’s told with such precision to detail (of both setting and emotion) that children will respond. The artwork, often framed, is reminiscent of the work of Trina Schart Hyman and has a stately look that suits the story.”  Booklist

“A beautifully wrought story both in words and illustrations, “Mysterious Traveler” excels in every regard.”

The Times Herald 

Wonderful Books on Compassion

“This gentle, hopeful story shines with polished language, a suspenseful plot, and light-infused, earth-colored paintings by the remarkable illustrator P.J. Lynch. While the authors specify no specific setting, an afterward notes they were inspired by reading about the ancient town of Timbuktu, in Mali, and of a famous blind guide. Middle-school students will uncover an entrancing world in Mysterious Traveler.”      Books Of Wonder and Wisdom 

“Husband and wife creative collaborators Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham offer old-fashioned, great storytelling in this marvelous tale inspired by Graham’s fascination with Timbuktu, the gold and salt caravans and guides that would lead them through the Sahara Desert.”

“This story has everything: an exotic setting, suspense, emotion and a marvelous twist. P.J. Lynch’s sumptuous illustrations include lovely portraits and striking landscapes of desert and mountain. Peet won the Carnegie Medal for Young Adult novel “Tamar.” Peet and Graham previously collaborated on another marvelous picture book, “Cloud Tea Monkeys.”       Buffalo News

“P.J. Lynch brings his spectacular illustrations to make this story complete.”       Post Tribune

“The co-authors achieve a poetic sense of far away and long ago in this longer picture story book that tells the tale of a young girl found in a vast desert by an elderly guide who raises her. Illustrations by P.J. Lynch match the lushness of the authors’ descriptions of place and the tender relationship between the child and her adoptive grandfather.”       Herald Sun

“Muted, earth-toned watercolors supplement the text, creating a magnificent story. This heart-warming book is based on a true story…”Library Media Connection


“Mal Peet, Elspeth graham and PJ Lynch. Although this sounds like the shortlist for an award, it os ‘only’ the glorious cast behind this illustrated tale of desert guides, lost princesses and cranky camels. Enjoy the ride…”

“Mysterious Traveller is a beautiful folkloric story inspired by those of the traders in mali, and holds many of the ingredients found in traditional tales: a lost princess, adventure, danger, mystery and misfortunes upturned, yet it is very much told in a contemporary voice. It carries a message about the importance of knowledge, and not being impetuous. What is also particularly powerful is Issa’s love for his land, and the importance of respecting and taking notice of the natural beauty around us, as reflected by the stunning and evocative artwork by PJ Lynch. The eeriness of the desert, but also its grandeur, is conveyed wonderfully in his paintings, particularly through the use of colour and scale, which allows the reader to comprehend the sheer size and beauty of the landscape.

Both prose and artwork come together to produce a stunning book which, regardless of being set in a distant land, tells many a universal truth, to be enjoyed by young readers and adults alike.”

Melanie McGilloway    Inis

“Peet and Graham have chosen the perfect location for a classic tale of familial love, danger and ultimately, reconciliation.

While the plot of this story is certainly enjoyable and satisfying to read, it is the wonderful descriptions of the desert, and the characters’ relationship with it, that make this book stand out. The authors’ manage to to conjure up an entire vast landscape and a unique way of life in just 32 pages of text, using powerful imagery and descriptive passages which are fresh and well written. This is complimented by P.J.Lynch’s beautiful illustrations, rendered in a palette of earthy browns and reds and shot through with splashes of cobalt blue. a master of landscape and portrait alike, Lynch is perfectly at home in this kind of setting, which allows him to present the reader with an epic vista on one page, only to pull them into an intimate family scene on the next.

Mysterious Traveller is the sort of book I would have loved to have had read to me as a child, and which adults will thoroughly enjoy reading aloud.”

Louise Gallagher     Inis

“Stylishly and evocatively illustrated by PJ Lynch, Mysterious Traveller, by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham; blends an excellent sense of setting and a rich understanding of characterisation. The ancient north African desert, depicted equally vividly in the book’s verbal and visual imagery, serves as location for a poignant story that, in essence, is about love and loyalty, trust and endurance. It is all the more poignant for being told in a style that echoes some of our oldest stories.”

Robert Dunbar.

The Irish Times

REVIEWS (Australia)

“Mysterious Traveller tells the story of Issa, a desert guide, and what happens after he discovers an abandoned baby girl in the desert. With pictures from award-winning Irish illustrator P.J. Lynch, it reads like a classic fable and, like many great short stories, feels as if it could have become a longer work.”

Sydney Morning Herald   

I“This is a truly beautiful story. The relationship between the two main characters is precious and glorious. The descriptions in the text are visceral, amazing, and the language simply sweeps you into a place with Issa and Mariama. The illustrations that accompany this story are delicate, beautiful and simply wonderful. An incredible story of family, time, wisdom and kindness, that is well worth sharing.” Highly recommended.     Bug In A Book


“This is an extraordinary book which is ideal for older readers. The story is inspired by a real happening during the travels of the gold and salt caravans in Africa. The illustrator’s use of muted earthy colours combines with the moving lyrical language to rise like a crescendo from the page.

P. J. Lynch, the illustrator of the magnificent The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, has done a superb job. He has set the pictures inside decorative frames reminiscent of the Arabian Nights. The jacket cover is breathtaking and replicated on the book’s cover which shows Mariama and the blind Issa looking out into the distance at the desert.”

Buzzword Magazine


“I rarely come across stories like this one, I don’t know why but I guess nobody writes them anymore.”

“Simply told with biblical wisdom -”wealth does not always bring happiness, but poverty always brings sorrow”. I guess we all know that but stories personalise this in a powerful way.

The illustrations by P.J. Lynch are magical. They capture the character of the old man and the desert landscape beautifully.

This short novel for everybody is the best of it’s kind I have read for some time.”BobsBookBlog

Radio NZ – John McIntyre 

‘A modern fable, a tale you’d expect to find in The Arabian Nights, a Sub-Saharan Hans Christian Anderson… But written with a depth of understanding and respect for the richness of North African history and culture. The beauty of the story lies in the relationships.’

The illustrations by Irish artist PJ Lynch are gorgeous. Beautifully presented book in every way.’s-book-review-with-john-mcintyre

Radio NZ Saturday Morning   May 25th 2013

Kim Hill with Kate DeGoldi     From 10.55 to 13.35

‘Mysterious Traveller is equally as beautiful (as Cloud Tea Monkeys) and here the artwork is by PJ Lynch who’s a famous Irish artist… …again the story is really alluring in that Arabian Nights way…‘KDG

‘The descriptions of the desert in Mal’s hands are just… they’re kind of palpable and sensuous…‘KDG

‘I hesitated before calling these picture books because the text is so thrilling…’ KH. ‘…and it’s so very substantial, so they’re like illustrated novels…  …Let’s try and invent a name for them.’ KDG

‘But I can only see a child being enthralled at them being read aloud. It’s such a pleasure to read – the words on your tongue are a genuinely sensual experience. And the combination of artwork with them is… I just think they’re the most beautiful packages. They are gift books. But books that will be read over and over again.’ KDG’s-books-with-kate-de-goldi    (from 5.40 on)