Booklist starred (September 15, 2011 (Vol. 108, No. 2))
Grades 4-7. Chronicling the true trip-around-the-world adventures of three nineteenth-century adventurers gives Phelan the opportunity to once again examine the Great American Narrative, as he did so effectively in his beautifully mythological The Storm in the Barn (Booklist Top of the List, 2009). While examining Thomas Stevens’ bicycle journey, feminist-ahead-of-her-time reporter Nellie Bly’s race to beat Phileas Fogg’s imaginary record, and Joshua Slocum’s solitary globe circumnavigation on a sailboat, Phelan does not fail to explore their inner journeys as well. Though any one of the tales (particularly Bly’s) could well have supported an entire book, juxtaposing the three allows Phelan to cast a wider psychological net, and the stories encompass such national ideals as dogged can-do spirit, exploration, enterprise, and commercialism, while never straying from the characters’ personal worlds or out of age-appropriate territory. In addition to tight research and a gift for evoking both an era and the personalities that lived in it, the stories are greatly abetted by the magic of Phelan’s art: washes of light and dark that set the tone and effortless, uncomplicated (yet highly distinctive) faces that are the very essence of determination and adventure.