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Matt Phelan – Around the World

March 12, 2013

15. Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys by Matt Phelan (2011)

Length: 238 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction, Young Adult

Started/Finished: 25 February 2013

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Random browsing.

Traveling around
the world was harder before
we had GPS.

Summary: After the publication of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, readers everywhere were inspired by the idea of racing around the globe. This graphic novels tells three stories of people who not only dreamt about the possibilities of circumnavigation, but actually went out and did it. First is Thomas Stevens, a coal miner and cycling enthusiast who rode a bicycle (one of the early ones with the big front wheel) around the world in 1884. Next is Nellie Bly, a reporter who set out in 1889 to travel around the world in less time than it took Verne’s protagonists, as a publicity stunt in an era when no respectable woman would be seen traveling alone. And finally, Joshua Slocum, who in 1895 sailed away from his New England home aboard his sailboat Spray, and did not return until he’d sailed around the world.

Review: I picked this book of the library shelf on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. To start with, the art was absolutely lovely. It’s not a style I would typically gravitate towards, with sketchy pencil lines filled in with watercolor-esque washes of muted color, but the I thought overall effect fit both the time period and the tone of the stories remarkably well. The stories themselves are, on the surface, quite straightforward, and almost deceptively simple. The narration and dialogue boxes are relatively sparse throughout most of the book. This may be an attempt to make this book appeal to younger audiences, and it’s certainly appropriate for mid-grade readers. But by letting the art carry a lot of the story forward, Phelan is putting the emotions and motivations of his characters on full display, making what might seem like simple stories into deeply resonant pieces. I noticed this most in Slocum’s story, since he has to face not only the terrors of the wide open ocean, but also has to face the ghosts of his own past. This is probably why this book gets shelved as fiction in my library, even though it’s about real people and is factually accurate. But all three stories are told really effectively, making this a graphic novel worth picking up no matter where it’s shelved. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended for readers of all ages – it’s accessible to kids but there’s enough here to satisfy adults as well – particularly readers who are fans of Verne’s original, who like adventure or exploration stories, or who watch The Amazing Race.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Great Kid Books, Lindy Reads and Reviews, Waking Brain Cells
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: 1872. The Reform Club. London. The polite conversation in this, one of London’s best clubs, concerned the strange case of the recent brazen robbery of the Bank of England.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2013 9:11 am

    I actually like that loose kind of drawing. This book looks great!


  1. Around the World by Matt Phelan | The Lemon-Squash Book Club

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