Impressive feats of endurance, adventure, and perseverance are no longer rare. But there was once a time when people tended to live more quiet lives, and those that embarked on unusual endeavors set themselves apart. The nation and the world would follow these intrepid souls, rooting for their success. People would eagerly await their newspaper for the latest reports. I have found an interesting and moving book that tells the story of three such remarkable people.
A recent discovery of mine from the kids’ graphic novel section of our local public library is Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys by Matt Phelan. While this book does qualify for this section of the library, it isn’t fiction. The beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of three different people who traveled around the world. I had only heard of one of them, so it was quite educational for me to boot.
Told through subtle and moving illustrations and not heavy on words, the emotions of what the travelers likely went through are well expressed through images, facial expressions, colors, and wordless panels. In case you are new to these stories, I will leave out most of the details so you can discover them for yourself.
The Journey of Thomas Stevens: Wheelman, 1884
All about a man riding an old, large-wheeled bicycle as he travels around the world, the story of Thomas Stevens gives us a glimpse of how the world learned about the bicycle during its early days. Most of us know the iconic high-wheeler bicycle. Most of us have wondered how one would get up on it, and then stay on it, peddling along, perched high atop a very large wheel. Thomas learned how to do so, and made it around the world on this unusual new form of conveyance. But he is gone so long that by the time he gets home, the bicycle has become much more widely adopted. This story is based on Thomas Stevens’s actual account of his journey, Around the World on a Bicycle.
The Journey of Nellie Bly: Girl Reporter, 1889
Nellie Bly was the one traveler that I had heard of, but I knew little about her travels. She proposed a journey around the world to beat the record of eighty days. Eventually talking the New York World newspaper into supporting such a trip, she set off, traveling alone. This was unusual in those days, to say the least. Her journey was quite different from that of Thomas Stevens, and though it wasn’t an easy one, had to be somewhat less arduous than his. But she was brave and determined, and made it all on her own. She, too, wrote her adventures down in a book, Nellie Bly’s Book: Around the World in Seventy-two Days.
The Journey of Joshua Slocum: Mariner, 1895
This tale is the most emotional of all. Joshua, a gentleman who had been through a lot in his life already, traveled around the world by sailboat, leaving his wife behind. This story contains flashbacks to earlier parts of his life, times of joy and of sadness. You could tell that this journey was one of purpose. Reading it and seeing the illustrations feels like you are merely experiencing snapshots of his life and adventure. It leaves you with an impression, but not a complete picture of his trip. Differently colored panels indicate whether they are from the main timeline, or are a glimpse into the past. It also contains many direct quotations from his own writing, from the book Sailing Alone Around the World.
Each of the three stories ends with an Epilogue, telling what happened next to the intrepid travelers. Each had written down their adventures, and we can all now share in the experience. All three are now on my must-read list.
Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys costs about $16.50. It is a great introduction to old fashioned world travel adventure for kids or adults.