If you want to do it, you can do it. The question is: Do you want to do it?
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the public, inspired by Jules Verne's AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, was thirsty for adventure. Many adored the idea of travelling around the world. Three indomitable spirits stepped up and made their individual, fascinating journeys.
THOMAS STEVENS, WHEELMAN, 1884
A young American miner, who was resolved to accomplish more in his life, made the decision to ride a bicycle across the United States. Stevens, despite having no experience in riding one, invested in a Columbia Standard bicycle (those vintage ones with an enormous front wheel and a much smaller back one). He set off from San Francisco. And rode, and fell, and got back up again. Stevens kept a journal and recorded his journey. When he completed it, he made another decision -- to ride around the world! Was that possible: a humble miner without much funding crossing the globe on a two-wheel invention?
NELLIE BLY, GIRL REPORTER, 1889
She proposed the trip to her editor at New York World. Phileas Fogg (protagonist of Verne's novel) made the journey in 80 days. Nellie said she'd do it in 74. Her proposal was only accepted a year later. Off she went, buying a dress that would stand constant wear for three months, a second dress, an ulster (a Victorian coat), and a bag. That was all she had. No luggage. On Thursday, November 14, 1889, at 9:40am, Nellie Bly boarded the ocean liner Augusta Victoria and began her journey. She travelled by steam ships and by train, always writing about her journey and cabling back whenever she could. Soon, her papers ran contests and the world was fixated on where she'd turn up next. Would it be Hong Kong? Or Singapore (she did show up here, as it turned out, and even bought a monkey as companion). Obstacles. Of course, there were several ~ sea sickness, gentlemen scoffing at her audacious claim to travel around the world, delayed ships, fog, another fierce competitor who challenged to finish her journey earlier than Nellie. But there were also folks rooting for her. Did Nellie keep her promise? Did she travel around the world in 74 days?
JOSHUA SLOCUM, MARINER, 1895
Here, I'll confess here: His story is the primary reason why I've saved shelf space for this book. (The copy I have beside me now is from the library. I'll buy one to keep this Christmas.) Stevens and Bly's journeys made me smile and I felt like I'd gone on their adventures with them, bruised thighs and sick gut and all. With Captain Slocum however, it was different. He set off on a rickety sailing boat he'd rebuilt without a commander or a crew or even a dog for company. His second wife declined going on the trip with him. Utterly alone. And I think he much preferred it this way. His journey dug into his past with his first wife. (I won't spoil it for you. Go read it for yourself.) The author-illustrator, Matt Phelan, did an admirable job telling his story. Most parts which involved Slocum's first wife were done with very little text, but the pictures, the frames, they showed so much ~ vast like the oceans embarked and crossed.
I'm not sure how, or rather who, to recommend this graphic novel to. Young children who love picture books? They might not enjoy this as much. Middle-graders looking for adventure? Maybe. But these three stories are separate stories, not a full adventure or thriller, and they don't carry much text (which isn't a problem for me but I know there are teachers and parents who'd prefer their kids read more words to power up their vocabulary. There are plenty of novels for this purpose. This graphic novel isn't produced for that.) So I'll recommend this to you, the wishful travellers, the would-be-might-be world travellers, the ones who aren't afraid to make solitary trips, and the ones who appreciate boldness and unwavering will.
* On another personal note, my major flat reconstruction is finally over! I'm very much enjoying the space in my home office (surrounded by walls the colours of the sea) and thoroughly glad to be back at work. Hope everyone has been well. I'll drop by your blogs very soon.
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Want to know what children's stories can inspire & lead to?
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Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.