Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

It can't be done Nellie Bly

It can't be done Nellie Bly

Nancy Butcher
For ages 7 to 10
Peachtree Publishers, 2003   ISBN: 1561452890

Nellie Bly was not the type of person to take "No!" for an answer. Even when her editors at her newspaper in New York City said that a woman could not possibly go on a trip around the world, she bided her time and waited them out. Sure enough the editors finally decided that they did want someone to make the journey. Nellie made sure that she was that someone.

It all began when Nellie got the idea of breaking the famous, fictional record of Phileas Fogg, the character invented by the novelist Jules Verne. In his book "Around the World in Eighty Days" Jules Verne has Fogg manage to travel around the world in a mere eighty days, which at that time seemed to be a feat that could not possibly be achieved. Nellie's editors felt that a woman could not make such a journey alone, especially as she would have an enormous amount of luggage as befitted a "lady."

Nellie however broke all the rules. She decided to travel without a chaperone and furthermore she left New York with only one small bag and managed to make the entire trip with just one dress which she had especially made. These were not the only rules she broke. On board the Augusta Victoria Nellie found herself feeling horribly seasick. Instead of feeling miserable and sorry for herself, Nellie continued to be determined that she would be going around the world seasick or not and her determination won over her queasy stomach. It wasn't long before her will was the winner and the battle was won. Nellie didn't have any real problems with seasickness again.

Nellie's tale is one of trying to beat the clock and trying to make the schedule work. It also is one of meeting interesting people, overcoming all sorts of setbacks and difficulties, trying to outrun a rival from Cosmopolitan Magazine, and always having to get around the restrictions placed upon her because she was a woman.

It is especially interesting to read about Nellie's meeting with Jules Verne whom she met during her trip around the world. It clearly meant a great deal to Nellie and it had a great significance to the adventure as a whole. After all, without Jules Verne there would have been no Phileas Fogg and no "Around the World in Eighty Days." Verne was eager for Nellie to beat Fogg's record and drew her route on a map which already had Fogg's route plotted out on it. It was a great honor for Nellie. Jules Verne did not think that Nellie would be able to beat Fogg's record by much. One wonders what he thought when he heard that Nellie arrived in New York City seventy-two days after she began her epic journey. He must have been astonished!

In a cheery and easy-going style, Nancy Butcher brings the indomitable spirit of

Nellie Bly to life once more. Humorous anecdotes show us how Nellie never let the very much male-dominated world of her times get her down. The author uses the little details to show us how brave, funny, and true to herself Nellie was. Refreshing and lively, this is a wonderful description of a great adventure story. At the back of the book the reader will find further information about how Nellie got her name, the story of Phileas Fogg, and a description of what happened to Nellie's rival Elizabeth Bisland.