The Children's Book Compass

Around the World in a Graphic Novel

Posted on: November 10, 2011

Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys by Matt Phelan.  (2011).  235 pages.   Candlewick Press.   Grades 4-8.  Graphic Novel.


Phelan’s graphic novel fictionalizes the around the world journeys of three real people: Thomas Stevens, Joshua Slocum and Nellie Bly.  At the end of the nineteenth century people were inspired by Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days.  The three adventurers in this book decided to circumvent the globe based on the public interest in the feat.  The world travels of Stevens, Slocum and Bly were very different.  Stevens, a miner, made the journey in 1884, on bicycle with a 50-inch wheel.  Bly, a reporter for the newspaper, The World, raced a rival reporter around the world in 1889 on ocean liners and trains.  Bly won!  “Her journey lasted seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds.”  In 1895, Slocum decided to sail around the world on a thirty-six-foot sloop.  He became the first person to sail around the world alone.  Phelan emphasizes why Stevens, Slocum and Bly undertook their journeys.  He writes in his Author’s Note, “The public journeys (a straightforward presentation of events) began to shift to the private journeys (my interpretation of these events).  My journey for Around the World started down one path but reached a different and surprising destination. …  Isn’t that how all good journeys should end?”   Phelan’s varies the colors and frames of the story as it unfolds in the pictures.  The pace of the illustrations and the narrative keeps the reader engaged in the adventures.  A list of books that Phelan found “inspiring, invaluable and engrossing” will allow children to discover more about the adventurers.


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