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You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons: The World on One Cartoon a Day    by Mo Willems order for
You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons
by Mo Willems
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Mo Willems, now a well known children's writer (think Sesame Street and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!), backpacked around the world in 1990 after graduation. His adventures are recorded in this engaging graphic novel. An amusing Foreword by Dave Barry tells us of his own first (TWA) travel experience, stopping at 'every cathedral on the planet Earth' and reminds us that what sticks with you is 'the quirky, the unexpected, the weird, the scary' - all of which are to be found in Willems' drawings.

In his Introduction, Mo Willems speaks of 'the odd quietude of touring solo' and of bumping into 'the same people over distances of thousands of miles' (I had the same experience using the Lonely Planet Guide to South East Asia, and enjoyed his distinction between a Traveler and a Tourist). He tells us that 'Doodling every day' made it real, and that he 'merely skimmed the world, bouncing off places as far and as long as I could.' His cartoon diary, which lets us experience trip highlights along with his younger self, will bring back memories for anyone who's traveled rough. I think I recognize the guitarist in 'soused Aussie sings', shudder over recollections of 'the multi-headed beast of train ticket bureaucracy' and of third-class boat travel, and remember well the joy of 'letters from the american express office'.

This graphic travel book brought back memories for me of Goreme, Manali, Varanasi, Kathmandu, Chiang Mai, the Cameron Highlands, Singapore, Bali, Shanghai, and Kyoto, and introduced me to a few places I haven't been to yet. The comics made me smile, laugh, and wince - and gave me very itchy feet. Whether you recall a similar trip with nostalgia, or are planning one in the future, enjoy it vicariously with Mo Willems' You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons. It's great fun and it's real.

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