Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys

Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys
by Matt Phelan
Candlewick, 2011. 235 pgs. Graphic non-fiction.

Matt Phelan does Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg three better in his graphic retellings of the globe-circling exploits of Thomas Stevens, wheelman (1884); Nellie Bly, girl reporter (1889), and Joshua Slocum, mariner (1895). Former miner Stevens went around the world on a bicycle, for crying out loud, and not one of today's rugged, close to the ground dirt bikes or racing bikes, but one of those bicycles with the giant front wheel. Give me shelter. What an achievement. Nellie Bly wanted to beat the fictional Phileas Fogg's 80 day round trip by circling the globe in 74 days--she made it in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds. Phelan's most tender and nuanced work is saved for the story of Joshua Slocum, a New England and Canadian ship's captain who sailed a small sloop/oyster boat named the Spray around the world, the first to make such a voyage alone. In Phelan's mystical retelling, Slocum either remembers or sees in vision his first wife, who died in a previous voyage in Buenos Aires. After more than three years Slocum returns home to not much fanfare and with a reputation of an eccentric. After awhile he set sail once more, and was never seen again. Phelan's spare text perfectly accompanies his deft and evocative drawings. Around the World is a fine book for youngsters about the extraordinary courage, resilience, and stubborness of people then and now, who decide to do something and then figure out a way to do it. A beautiful book.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

Hadn't seen this one but am intrigued. Have awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award over at my blog if someone wants to accept!