Saturday, February 2, 2013

Around the World by Matt Phelan

Image from
Candlewick Press, 2011

This graphic novel begins with an enticing two page introduction to the basic plotline of Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in 80 Days, which inspired adventurers in the late 1800’s. The rest of the book is divided into three sections. First is the story of miner-turned-cyclist Thomas Stevens, the first man to ride a bicycle around the world. Next, Phelan presents the adventures of determined newspaper reporter, Nellie Bly who circumvented the globe in just 72 days. The last section features the bittersweet story of Joshua Slocum, who made his trip in a small wooden sail boat with just his books and his memories to keep him company.

This is a fast read (I read it in an hour) and presents a great deal of information in an attractive format. Although it's clear from the start that all the travelers make it around the world, this book focuses on all the reasons why they did decided to embark on these journeys. The loose watercolor illustrations use a muted color palate reminiscent of hand-colored photographs. Each triumph is celebrated, but Phelan does not shy away from the obstacles encountered or individual character flaws. The first two chapters have a lighthearted style, while Slocum’s story, with heartbreaking flashbacks, provides a somber contrast. The back matter includes an author’s note and a bibliography for further reading, including the first person accounts of all three travelers. This is a great recommendation for a child who has just a few hours to write a book report. 

Check out the book trailer for a look at Phelan’s illustrations.

*Start an Adventurer’s Club. Read more books that feature global adventures:
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (this link allows you to download the eBook through the Gutenberg Project)
Around the World in 100 Days by Gary Blackwood
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

*Have a scavenger hunt with passports that kids can get stamped when they visit each country. Bring in photographs that feature people, geography, and foods from each country.

* Create an Adventurer’s Hall of Fame with biographies and facts about real-life adventurers. Include the length of their trip (in days and miles); the city/country they began/ended in; other regions, countries, and cities visited; items they traveled with; and any notable incidents.

*Chart each traveler’s journey on a world map, include Phileas Fogg’s route.Where do the routes intersect? Who's trip was the longest or the shortest? Have kids plan their own route and explain their reasoning.

*More middle grade books written and/or illustrated by Matt Phelan:
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, Illustrated by Matt Phelan
Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron, Illustrated by Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

Age 9+ / Grade 4+


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