I have this list of children's books I'm working through with my daughters. It's a magical list full of time travel wardrobes and talking bears, walking forests and masked marauding French revolutionaries. People ask me all the time, "What's a good book for my kid?" And I say... "What do you want your children to love?"
A lot of these books are old, really old. There's one about a treasure map and a black dot that kills, another about the call of the northern wild, another of King Solomon's mines and still another about a lost world that time forgot.
There's shipwrecks and the French Foreign Legion, kidnappings and families living in trees. Such a marvelous world these old adventure stories lay in wait for my young daughter's minds.
Of course, not all the books have to be about adventure. One such book I will proudly read to my young girls is Nellie Bly's Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.
Back in 1890, Nellie Bly was an intrepid journalist in New York, muckraker, travel writer, and pioneer of women's issues. She was fearless, full of wit, grace, and goodwill, and found admiration everywhere she went winning hearts and inspiring others with her style and sensibility.
She is perhaps best known for taking up the Jules Verne challenge of attempting to travel around the world in less than eighty days after the fictitious record set by character Phileas Fogg, which is another of the great children's books you will ever find.
So... Ms. Bly, the great green-eyed beauty (serious google time, her adorable nose alone will knock your socks off) sets out by steamer ship with but one handbag and a passport, all alone across the Atlantic, with nothing but her wits and the kindness of strangers to guide her.
During the next two and a half months she becomes one of the most famous women in the world.
“Lovers were not plentiful on the Oriental, there were so few passengers. The "Spanish minister" had an eye for beauty and a heart for romance, though he led a most quiet life on shipboard, and was the very essence of gallantry.” -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days
But that doesn't concern me, fame is nothing, and I can't name that many "famous" people I'd wish to have more than a cup of coffee with...
No, what truly stands out with Bly is her sheer literary grace and a writing style that simultaneously delights, informs, endears, and comforts. She is a throwback to a different age of womanhood. The time of a "Lady." And believe me, ladies are in short supply these days. I pray my daughters will grow up to be such intrepid travelers as well, but with a little bit of Nellie Bly always in their blood.