cover image Nellie Bly's Monkey

Nellie Bly's Monkey

Joan W. Blos. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12677-3

Newbery Medalist Blos (A Gathering of Days; Old Henry) recounts reporter Nellie Bly's celebrated 1889 voyage around the world from an inventive if not entirely successful perspective. The narrator is McGinty, the fez-wearing monkey that Bly purchased in Singapore. In brief chapters, the observant creature dryly describes what the two do and see in their remaining ports of call, including Hong Kong, Yokohama and San Francisco. The news that another female American reporter is also circling the globe in an attempt to beat Bly's time adds tension to the account. However, a tone of forced formality, presumably aimed at echoing the style of the period, may be off-putting to kids (in Ohio and Pennsylvania, McGinty notes, ""steel mills reminded my mistress of the factory workers and mill hands of whom she had often written""). Most of the charm here radiates from Stock's (A Very Important Day) illustrations, every stroke suggestive of her subjects' personalities. Detailed, full-page watercolors evoke the diverse settings of the text, while line art conjures up telling vignettes (e.g., a brass band greeting Bly at an unnamed train station). Ages 5-up. (Mar.)