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Around the World by Matt Phelan

January 8, 2016


What Am I Reading: Around the World by Matt Phelan
Published: Candlewick, 2011
IllustrationsMatt Phelan
Read This: While traveling, preferably circumnavigating the globe.

I actually picked this book out from the library at school yesterday. I had a little time to wait while a class finished up a lesson, so I started to flip through this charming graphic novel.
Upon first opening the book, it’s easy to see why Phelan won the 2012 Eisner Award for Best Reality Based Work. The illustrations are lovely. They feel delicate while conveying everything that they need to.
The book itself is divided into three narratives, each based on one person who made an unusual circumnavigation of the globe.
stevensThe first story is that of Thomas Stevens, who was a miner left the mines to ride a bicycle around the world in 1884. He rode a big-wheel bicycle, which were notoriously unstable, but managed his trek across the globe in just under three years. He wrote a book, Around the World On a Bicycle, detailing his trip.
Phelan frames the story as that of a man who wants more out of life than to live and die down a mineshaft. The story is at times funny and always very sweet and kind to its subject.bly

The second section covers the exciting race against time undertaken by the famous female reporter, Nellie Bly. Nellie set out to race against the famous story by Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days. She determined to do it in less time. And she did, setting the record at just over seventy-two days with nothing but one carpet bag as luggage.
Nellie’s journey was a sensation and catapulted her paper into massive circulation. Bly herself received little more than a pat on the back when she returned, but wrote a bestselling book about her adventure. slocum

The last person in the book is Joshua Slocum who circumnavigated the globe on a small sailboat named the Spray. He was the first person to single-handedly sail around the globe. Slocum was over fifty when he set out on his adventure, but was a very experienced sea captain. He chose to use dead reckoning for his journey and carried very few navigational tools beyond a cheap tin clock. Phelan speculates a bit about his motivations, but links much of Slocum’s desire to be alone to the death of his first wife, Virginia. Her ghost is present in several of the panels. Although, there is also an incident where Slocum is poisoned by some cheese and hallucinates the ghost of Christopher Columbus steering his ship safely through a storm.
Slocum took the Spray out on a final trip in 1909 and was never seen again.

The book is a lovely chronicle of three unusual people who did extraordinary things. As I said before, the art is beautiful and it’s a very quick read overall. If you’ve got a little time, I highly recommend picking it up.


Reading Challenges:
PopSugar Challenge 2/40
House Reads 1/50

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