Around the WorldAward-winning graphic novelist Phelan chronicles the real-life journeys of three nineteenth century adventurers who each set out to circumnavigate the globe for the sheer challenge of the journey. While the nineteenth century was full of Americans pushing boundaries and exploring new territories, these three were each inspired by Jules Verne’s best-selling novel Around the World in Eighty Days.
by Matt Phelan
MA: Candlewick Press, 2011
ages 9 - 12
available from your local library, favorite bookstore and on Amazon
nominated for the Cybils graphic novels award
Thomas Stevens rode a high-wheel bicycle from San Francisco to Boston, and then continued around the world with or without roads. Just look at the spread above and you can get a sense of Stevens' crazy determination, starting in San Francisco of the Gold Rush era and venturing first across the US and then across the world.
Journalist Nellie Bly set out in 1889 persuading the editors at the New York World to sponsor her journey around the world, as she attempted to beat the record of Verne’s protagonist, Phileas Fogg. She not only had to beat Fogg's fictional record, she also had to overcome her editors' doubts that a woman could really accomplish this on her own. Bly was stubborn and determined, as well as courageous.
And finally Phelan shares the story of seaman Joshua Slocum who sailed around the world by himself, the first person to do so alone.
As we read these stories, we are fascinated by these adventures, but we also find ourselves asking, "Why? Why did these people decide to go around the world? And what kept them going?"
Phelan shares not only these adventurers’ public travels, but he also explores their internal journeys. As he writes in an author’s note, he focuses not just on what these real-life characters did, but why they undertook these challenges, what motivated them, what emotional baggage they brought along on their journeys.
The stories are brought to life by Phelan’s illustrations: washes of color set the tone, emotions and reactions are masterfully conveyed in the distinct characters, and the layout and design of the panels visually moves the action along.
Kids in 4th and 5th grade have loved this book. They are swept into the lives of these nineteenth century adventurers by the visual appeal of Phelan’s artwork, but they have been held by his masterful storytelling. Around the World has received four starred review, and is featured on the Kirkus Best Children’s Books of 2011, and has been included in 100 Scopenotes and Mr. Schu's list of Top 20 Books of 2011.
Around the World is copyright © 2011 by Matt Phelan, and published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. Images reproduced with permission of Matt Phelan.
The review copy was originally sent by the publisher, Candlewick Press, and I have bought several copies since. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.
Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.