A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland

Today’s feature for Perfect Picture Book Friday, A RACE AROUND THE WORLD: THE TRUE STORY OF NELLIE BLY & ELIZABETH BISLAND, is due out in October. Today you’ll get a sneak peak, and next week, author Caroline Starr Rose will share part of her writing process in a “Behind the Scenes” post.

But first—the winner of Ho’onani: Hula Warrior….. Congratulations to Maria Marshall!

RaceAroundtheWorld_CVRTitle: A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland

Written by: Caroline Starr Rose

Illustrated by: Alexandra Bye

Whitman, 2019

Suitable for ages: 5-7

Themes/topics: travel, contests, women in history

The world was awhirl in 1889. Telegraph messages whizzed over wires. Express trains and steamships flew at top speeds. Big cities boasted electrical lights and a talking device called the telephone.

How long would it take to circle this newly speeding world? One travel writer girdled the globe in only a year and a half. An all-star baseball team knocked out the trip in six quick months. Author Jules Verne’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg went around the world in eighty days, a trip so amazing it could take place only in the pages of a storybook.

A reporter named Nellie Bly believed she could be even faster.

In 1889, New York reporter Nellie Bly—inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days—began a circumnavigation she hoped to complete in less time. Her trip was sponsored by her employer, The World. Just hours after her ship set out across the Atlantic, another New York publication put writer Elizabeth Bisland on a westbound train. Bisland was headed around the world in the opposite direction, thinking she could beat Bly’s time. Only one woman could win the race, but both completed their journeys in record time.

Activities and Resources:
Geography: Plan your own trip around the world. What would you like to see? Where would you like to visit? Map out your trip. Choose at least five places you’d like to stop, and take at least five types of transportation.

Characters: Compare and contrast Nellie and Elizabeth using a Venn diagram. What character traits helped each woman the most? Which character is most like you? Why?

Conflict: Make a T chart. Under each woman’s name, list the conflicts and problems she faced on her trip. (internal and external) What do you think was most difficult for each character?
Writing: Imagine you faced one of those conflicts on a trip in 1889. Write a journal entry about it, how you felt, and how you were able to get past it.
Setting: How would your solution to the problem be different today?

Literature: Nellie’s idea to race around the world was inspired by a book she’d read, Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Have you read a book that inspires you to do something? Share your inspiration.

Why I like this book:
A Race Around the World offers a great opportunity to use maps and explore geography, as well as learning what life was like in 1889. As a writer in search of stories, I’m always interested in intersecting lives. As with Ben and Noah in An Inconvenient Alphabet, it’s fascinating to see two different characters’ approaches to problems and life. This story is different in that the characters don’t know each other. Though they had a lot in common, they took separate paths. So how do you tie that together? That’s a challenge for a writer, and invites some experimentation with story structure. Don’t miss Caroline Starr Rose’s guest post next week when she’ll share how she mapped out the story, merging two narratives into one!


A review copy of the book was provided by the author.

Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

Visit the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge on Kid Lit Frenzy on Wednesdays for more great nonfiction books for kids!

9 thoughts on “A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland

  1. In a weird coincidence, I just picked up a copy of Joan Blos’ book “Nellie Bly’s Monkey” (1996) at the library the other day as a mentor text for a different story. Can’t wait to hear more from Caroline next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember watching the movie and reading the book, Around The World In 80 Days, years ago (and I won’t say how many…) This book about two intrepid women that each race around the world has me intrigued. I’m curious how the author, Caroline Starr Rose, handles this. Also, I love the activities you added! Planning my own ‘around the world’ adventure appeals to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooooh, ooohhh, this sounds awesome in so many ways. I love your suggested activities. And I want to take a close look at this dual narrative, as I have one of my own that I’ve been querying for awhile. Never know what you may learn. Thanks, Beth! Just suggested this to the San Francisco Public Library. They didn’t have it on order.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Around the World in 80 Days was one of my favorite books growing up. As a world traveler, I know I will love this story. Especially that it is two women! Great activities, Beth.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ooh, I can’t wait for that interview! I love “Around the World in 80 Days” [Book & movie – Jackie Chan is hilarious]. I have this one on hold and am excited to read it. I asked my library to order it. Thanks for highlighting it!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.