Age: Middle Grade
Genre: Graphic novel; historical adventures
A friend purchased a copy of Around the World for me because she remembered how much I enjoyed another of Matt Phelan’s works, The Dust in the Barn. I am glad to say that I enjoyed Around the World just as much. It is actually three different stories told in one graphic novel. The stories follow Thomas Stevens (a cyclist or “wheelman”), Joshua Slocum (a mariner), and Nellie Bly (a news reporter) on their individual journeys around the world. Each trip was a real adventure and took place in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Travel was very different in those days since people didn’t yet fly in airplanes. For example, to cross an ocean, you had to take a boat – a long and sometimes perilous mode of travel. If you were working against the clock, as was the case with Nellie Bly, waiting for boats to even leave harbor sometimes added not just hours but days to your travel. Stevens wasn’t going for any type of speed record during his trip around the world, but he was the first to do so on the newly-invented bicycle. Slocum sailed his way around the continents, struggling with the perils of the sea as well as loneliness. Phelan does an excellent job of showing what made each individual’s trip unique and exciting. He is a very talented illustrator and tries to make every panel meaningful for the story. I especially enjoy the expressions he gives his characters as they display a lot of emotion. This book was more light-hearted than The Dust in the Barn due to the different subject matter, and young readers should enjoy the adventures of the three people portrayed.
Phelan, Matt. Around the World. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2011.