A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the true story of a 62-year-old woman who became the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Whether her daredevil feat should be commended as courageous or questioned as insane is something the reader will have to decide. The story, though, is fascinating. So is the sensitive sepia-toned artwork by Chris Van Allsburg. The text is developed enough to makes this a good read-aloud for younger kids but still meaty enough for the mid-grade reader.
What's the story?
This is the amazing true life story of a 62-year-old charm school teacher who became the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Readers learn what spurred Annie Edson Taylor into such action, how she prepared for her feat, and what became of her after she took the plunge. Annie hoped that by doing something no one had done before, she would garner the fame that would lead to her fortune. Amazingly, she designed her own barrel, arranged the whole spectacle, and lived to make a name for herself: Queen of the Falls.
Is it any good?
Chris Van Allsberg has chosen a fun subject: It's always exciting to read about eccentric people who are single-mindedly courageous, even when their feats border on the insane. When that daredevil is a 62-year-old woman who thought up the idea of riding over Niagara Falls, the story is even more fascinating, especially when accompanied by Chris Van Allsberg's amazing artwork. His sepia-toned sketches add emotion to Annie's story, bringing it to life more so than his words. Though readers may wonder why Annie came up with the idea for her daredevil feat, they are sure to be drawn into her unique story. The terrified look on her face as she begins her journey toward the brink of the fall will captivate any reader's attention.
Chris Van Allsberg's amazing sepia-toned sketches express all the sights, sounds, and emotions of the story. As readers look at the falls, they can hear the thundering sounds and realize the terror of what Annie is about to undertake. The drawings of Annie backing into the barrel looking more like a schoolmarm than a daredevil, or of the terrified look on her face as she begins her journey, tell a part of the story that words cannot express. That Allsberg actually modeled Annie on his daughter's teacher, and had her act out the scenes that he drew, accounts for some of the realism he captures.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the author chose Annie Edson Taylor's story to tell. What do you think caught his attention? Do you think she was brave or fool-hardy?
How does the artwork add to the story? Allsberg actually modeled Annie on his daughter's teacher, and had her act out the scenes that he drew. How do you think that helped him?
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