Women’s History Month Kid Lit Review of “Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists’ Breakneck Race Around the World” by Kate Hannigan

In 1889, two women journalists set out to beat the elapsed time of Jules Verne’s (fictional) 80-day trip around the world. Nellie Bly, age 25, and Elizabeth Bisland, 28, working for the New York World and Cosmopolitan Magazine respectively, left New York in opposite directions to make the trip. Nellie Bly did not actually know another woman was racing her until she learned of it in Hong Kong.

The story recounts highlights from the trips of each woman, comparing and contrasting their experiences. The two women were dazzled by what they saw.

From Asia, Nellie Bly wrote, “If I loved and married, I would say to my mate: ‘Come, I know where Eden is’ . . . and desert the land of my birth for Japan.” In the Arabian desert, Elizabeth Bisland marveled, “I may never see this again, this world, where . . . the light of night and of day have a new meaning; where one is drenched and steeped in color and perfume . . .”

Nellie made it first, after “seventy-two days, six hours, and eleven minutes.” Elizabeth encountered weather problems on the ocean, “and finally drifted into New York’s harbor nearly one week later.” But she cheered for Nellie Bly.

The author contends that the true winner was “Everyone! Because Nellie and Elizabeth made the wide world suddenly feel smaller. And they showed that women – whether outgoing or introverted, rough-edged or refined – could be just as curious, capable, and courageous as any man.”

Elizabeth Bisland on a ship’s deck during her around-the-world race, via New York Public Library Archives

The book includes brief and enthusiastic quotations from periodicals at the time. It ends with an Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, photos, and timelines relating to other women investigative journalists.

Illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon reflect the historical research she put into the story.

Evaluation: Readers aged 7 and over will enjoy the breathless pace of the narration as the women race each other to set a record, and to show the world that women can do it all.

Rating: 4.5/5

Published by Calkins Creek, 2022


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3 Responses to Women’s History Month Kid Lit Review of “Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists’ Breakneck Race Around the World” by Kate Hannigan

  1. harvee says:

    Fantastic story. Wish I could take a trip like that, lol. Have a good week.


  2. sagustocox says:

    I would love to travel! This sounds exciting.

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