Phelan, Matt. Around the World. Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2011.
Age Range: 9-12
Matt Phelan’s graphic novel Around the World tells the stories of three intrepid travelers who took up the challenge set forth by Jules Verne when his novel Around the World in Eighty Days captured the imaginations of readers everywhere.
Thomas Stevens was the first of the three to make the journey all the way around the world, learning to ride the newfangled bicycle and decided to change his fate from the dark one of a coal miner to the golden glow of celebrity. Next, “girl reporter” Nellie Bly sought to complete the eighty-day challenge, racing around the world and writing stories about her travels for her newspaper. Joshua Slocum was a retired sea captain who decided to come back to complete the first solo around-the-world ocean voyage.
Phelan captures the spirit of each character through their words and appearances, as well as by using a different dominant color for each story (sort of like filters on Instagram) which relay the undertones of each story. For example, Nellie Bly’s story is illustrated using warm colors that indicate the heat of her feisty personality. The soft watercolors used in the images add to the vintage feel and the air of dreaminess that surrounds these people attempting the around-the-world voyage.
This book offers a glimpse into a time during which the around-the-world fad was raging at full force, and gives readers access to history in a different format that may prove more accessible to many readers than a standard history text.