MMGM: A Race Around the World; the True Story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland

Picture books that will be enjoyed and adored by middle grade readers are worth their weight in gold.  Non-fiction picture books doubly so.

Hear me out. How much do you remember from the history textbook you were assigned as a child? Or, to be more specific, how much do you remember that wasn't then reinforced by personal experience, family stories, or beautiful, wonderful books? For me, the answer is... pathetically little. I tolerated history as a kid, working my way through textbook after textbook, memorizing names and dates for my tests and papers, and then forgetting. Then, in my high school years, I collapsed into tears at our kitchen table one night, because I simply couldn't remember and grasp some facts and figures about the Vietnam War. My dad grabbed my textbook, glanced at it, and tossed it aside. He told me of men and women he knew who had fought in Vietnam. He told me funny stories, horrific stories... stories that connected that conflict with other worldwide happenings...threads of connection between his family history, his own experience, and the words in my textbook. Suddenly, it made sense. Suddenly, I cared.

Historical fiction and non-fiction have the ability to make readers understand and care. Which is why I stock my homeschool shelves with very few history textbooks and more beautiful picture books and novels and biographies than will fit comfortably. My children can't understand why I didn't always love history. How could you do anything but love such tremendous stories?

When it comes to bringing history to life on the page, Caroline Starr Rose is a master. You middle grade aficionados already know and love her sparse and beautiful historical novels in verse and her rip-roaring adventure story, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine. But don't discount her picture books when it comes to your middle grade readers.

A Race Around the World; the True Story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland is not only a picture book biography, but an intriguing adventure story that can be enjoyed by young readers right up to adults. Caroline's word-perfect writing (everyone knows it's harder to tell a story in a few words than in many words) is brilliantly paired with vivid and interesting illustrations by Alexandra Bye. Together, they tell the story of the two women journalists--one remembered by history textbooks and one nearly forgotten--who took up the challenge to beat the fictional Phileas Fogg in his 80-day trip around the world.

When our copy of this book arrived, I practically had to pry it out of the hands of my children before I had a chance to read it. (Okay, literally, I had to wait until they all fell asleep, because no one wanted to give it up before then!) Although the frustrated reader in me was quickly silenced by the proud mama, I dove into the story as soon as I had a chance. And, like so many times before, the skeletal details I'd learned years ago in a history book fleshed themselves out and jumped up and danced.

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, visit Greg's blog!


  1. I agree with your take on Historical Fiction. I will have to find a copy of Caroline's book to read and share. (I also moved your link to the main page at MMGM.)

  2. I follow Caroline's blog so I knew about this wonderful book. Happy to hear your kids all loved it so much that you had to wait until they were asleep to read it yourself!

  3. "Suddenly, I cared."

    To really botch Linus' monologue, "That's what studying history is all about, Charlie Brown."



    p.s. Did I ever pick up that textbook that I tossed aside?

  4. This sounds like a really fun read. I will check it out. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. I've had the exact experience with learning history in school. I discovered how much I enjoyed stories about people, not just the facts about how many died in some war, not understanding why the war was even fought. I didn't know Caroline had this new book out--must take a look.


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